Trust, ‘human sustainability’ remain key to boosting performance, Deloitte says

If companies want to improve their business and human performance, they must focus on a “human sustainability” approach that prioritizes outcomes among workers, customers and society at large, according to a Feb. 6 report from Deloitte.

Although 89% of executives responding to a survey said their organization advances human sustainability in some way, only 41% of workers agreed. 

“While organizations grapple with a myriad of challenges, a fundamental shift they should embrace is putting humans back at the center of work — after all, it is humans, more than any physical assets, that drive business performance,” Art Mazor, global human capital practice leader and principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP, said in a statement.

“To achieve this, leaders should focus less on how much people benefit their organization and more on how much their organization benefits people,” he said.

In the survey of 14,000 business and HR leaders in 95 countries, most leaders seemed to understand that a focus on human performance is important for a thriving organization. However, they need to close the gap between knowing the issues and doing enough to make progress, Deloitte experts said.

In fact, only 43% of workers said their organizations have left them better off than when they started. Workers pointed to top challenges such as increasing work stress and concerns about new technology replacing their jobs.

As part of this, companies need to define new metrics for human performance, Deloitte said. Traditional metrics — such as hours worked or time on tasks — may be inadequate to capture human performance as jobs roles continue to shift. As new opportunities for data use increase, companies will also need to consider what information should be transparent to workers.

For instance, 53% of survey respondents said their organization is in the early phases of identifying better ways to measure worker performance and value, and 8% said their organizations are leading in this area.

Trust and transparency will play a major role, Deloitte noted. When workers are confident about their organization using data responsibly, they’re more likely to trust the business. However, only 37% said they’re confident their organization is using data in a highly responsible way.

“Leaders have an overwhelming amount of workforce data at their fingertips, but this newly available data transparency can be both a gold mine and a land mine,” Simona Spelman, U.S. human capital national leader and principal for Deloitte Consulting LLP, said in a statement.

“For workers, it’s especially important to understand what data can be collected, why it’s being collected and who has access to it,” she said. “This is crucial for fostering trust.”

Employers seem to be pulling back on employee experience initiatives, which could lead to an “EX winter,” according to a Forrester report. However, companies need to buck the trend by genuinely engaging with employees instead of relying on checklists that fake it, a Forrester expert said.

When trying to improve productivity, employers should focus more on worker consistency rather than personal investment, according to an MIT Sloan study. In an era of high burnout, the researchers found, inconsistency makes it more difficult to develop efficiencies that can improve performance overall.

Ongoing talent concerns will force companies to emphasize reskilling, retention and AI to fuel growth, according to a report from The Josh Bersin Co. However, new tools will only do so much, the company said — strong technologies must be paired with new models of leadership and more integrated HR.