Here are the top news stories in talent and organization from this week.

Skilled labor shortage in Europe’s financial hub

Zurich-based multinational financial services giant Credit Suisse published a study that encompassed 1,900 small- and medium-sized enterprises across Switzerland, in which one in four companies reported suffering from a shortage of skilled labor, according to 4-traders. “The two global megatrends of digitalization and the aging population will decisively shape the labor market and therefore the skilled labor situation in the years to come,” says Oliver Adler, Chief Economist at Credit Suisse. The study found the shortage also varies by geography, with companies based in larger cities citing less recruitment issues, as well as areas such as Lake Geneva, where a higher number of cross-border commuters help fill vacancies. The survey revealed that most companies (80 percent) turn their efforts to more training, while 53 percent look to apprenticeship programs to close the gap. 

Women entrepreneurs optimistic about the future

Another major survey released in the last week comes from Bank of America in the form of an annual study of small business owners in the U.S. EON reports the results of the 2017 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight show “significant strides for women in the workforce” over the next 20 years. Some key highlights of the survey include: Sixty-one percent of women believe their wages will be equal or greater than those of men; Sixty-six percent believe there will be more women-owned small business compared to those owned by men; Sixty-eight percent believe women will match or exceed men in executive leadership or C-suite role representation. “Women entrepreneurs have articulated an inspiring vision for the small business community over the next 20 years – one of equal pay, leadership opportunities and greater support for those with families,” said Sharon Miller, managing director, head of Small Business, Bank of America. “Within the context of a growing economy, this bodes incredibly well for the future of women in business.”

Customer-centricity begins at the top 

When it comes to making an organization truly customer-centric, the effectiveness “depends on how well the senior executive team embraces the [customer experience] effort,” writes Nancy Porte for customerTHINK. Senior executives need to “walk to talk” in order to get employees enthusiastic about enhancing the customer experience; their cheerleading efforts need to have “substance and relevance,” based on data and analytics; and they should create a litmus test of customer-experience success for employees. “Across the board, these are next-generation senior executives look for ways to make the customer’s life easier,” Porte writes. “They try to break down organizational siloes that impede that goal. And they rely on customer insights to help them develop new strategies.”

Culture of learning, a must for attracting & retaining talent

“When it comes to learning and development, there is no such thing as “too much,”” argues WilsonHCG’s Casey Ogden: “The fact of the matter is: engaged employees equal loyal employees. Engaged employees make great referral sources, culture and brand ambassadors and, above all, top performers who advance your bottom line.” Here are Ogden’s three tips for a successful learning & development program: 1) Build and communicate your robust training program to set the right mindset for both new employees coming into the organization, as well as illustrating to tenured employees the opportunities for growth, 2) Build a culture of learning that fosters engagement through multiple platforms that offer incentives, 3) Accelerate performance through peer mentorship programs, individual performance plans and succession planning.

Don’t rely too much on “gut feelings” when hiring

When hiring a candidate for a new position, relying on a gut-feeling “telling this person is right, will be a good fit,” may not always yield the best results, writes Nicole Drakopoulou, in this Chemistry Group blog post. She cites two studies–one that showed hiring managers were twice as likely to hire a man over a woman to perform jobs involving arithmetic tasks, despite the fact that both candidates performed equally as well on the task; and another found that applicants with an accent who had ethnic sounding names were viewed less positively by interviewers than ethnic-sounding-named applicants without an accent. “What do we need to be doing more or less of to level the playing field and make decisions based on rigor, science, objectively gathered information?” Drakopoulou asks, and closes on an optimistic vision of a future, where data-driven solutions will improve over time to “mitigate and apprehend the biases we all carry with us.”

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