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Averbook: Respond to pandemics with change now, action now

Jason Averbook, Mercer
Jason Averbook
Jason is a renowned Senior Partner and the Global Leader of Digital HR Strategy at Mercer | Leapgen, with a career that spans over two decades in the HR and technology sectors. He is a leading figure in Mercer's global Generative AI strategy and services, spearheading innovative solutions in the HR technology landscape. Jason is also an accomplished author, having penned two books that delve into the future of HR and HR technology, further solidifying his position as a thought leader in the field. From 2018 to 2023, Jason co-founded and served as CEO of Leapgen, a company committed to shaping the future workplace. Now, under the expanded partnership of Mercer | Leapgen, Jason continues to challenge executive mindsets, advocating for a shift from executing technology projects to embodying a digital function. This new alliance amplifies his influence, extending his reach to a global market. In addition to his corporate roles, Jason serves as an adjunct professor at universities worldwide, imparting his knowledge and insights on HR technology and digitization. His leadership portfolio also includes senior roles at industry giants such as PeopleSoft and Ceridian Corporation. Jason's expertise lies in transforming HR organizations into strategic partners, having collaborated with industry-leading companies to achieve this. Jason's insights into the future of HR and work have earned him global recognition, and he is frequently quoted by top-tier media outlets such as BusinessWeek, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. He is consistently ranked among the top three thought leaders in his field.

The survey for the week of June 8 addresses adapting to digital during and after COVID-19. Click here to answer this survey. Results and responses will be published soon.

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Last week’s LeapPulse survey had the opportunity and responsibility to gauge the community on its feelings, response and impact on the future of the social unrest and protests happening in the United States and around the world. We, as an HR community, have been thrown into the position today of dealing with two pandemics, a new one that was born in 2020 and one that we as a society have been dealing with for many decades. Each has huge impacts on the #nowofwork today and into the future.

Related: What does the social unrest mean for HR leaders?

More than 300 responses to this pulse check of the community were collected between June 1-5.

Finding 1: A much higher number of respondents abandoned the survey upon Question #1 than in previous surveys. When they knew the survey was about social justice and related protests, more respondents chose not to respond or declined to analyze the issue at hand. This is alarming; we need more people to speak and be heard about an issue that requires our attention.

Finding 2: Of those who completed the survey, over 80% of respondents believed social unrest and nationwide protests supporting social equality had considerable impact on work. This is important to demonstrate issues relevant in our world at large are being heard in the workplace and among business leadership.

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Finding 3: Only 28% of the survey respondents were confident protests and significant social unrest would serve as a wake-up call for societal change; 41% said we have raised some awareness and things would go back to the way they were.  Over 30% were still unsure of what change would occur.

Finding 4: Our response has been interesting at work; over 56% wrote an outreach to their employee base, and 40% had workforce discussions on equality in the workplace.  Shockingly, less than 10% reported individual check-ins with employees to ask how they were doing during the week.

Finding 5: When asked what organizations would do in response to demand for social change, the number one response was more training and education on Diversity and Inclusion, followed closely by holding leadership more accountable for D&I goals and objectives.

Finding 6: 74% of those responding said that D&I was already part of their organization’s core values and cultural priorities.

A few key actions to take away from these LeapPulse findings:

Action 1: Leaders in HR and business in general cannot turn a blind eye to needed change and transformation in the areas of diversity, inclusion and social justice. Instead of turning away, we must get involved, jump in and create the #NowofWork and #NowofLife together.  It is important to have conversations and make sure people are heard. We need to listen to the workforce and respond with action plans for today, not yesterday.

Action 2: Action plans with measurable goals and objectives that we communicate frequently back to the workforce is what is needed now. Talk is easy; reporting objectives to a Board of Directors is OK, but truly reporting to the workforce on a frequent basis similar to how we would report financial results is an action we need to adopt now. This will become a big part of our employment brands moving forward; we can’t afford to get this wrong or let this opportunity for change pass us by.

Action 3: As leaders of the People function, we need to do a better job ensuring our managers are listening to their workforce. The concept of “pulsing” the workforce is not about finding their opinion, then not acting on it. Asking the workforce how they are feeling and listening to their current state is important for the ecosystem of manager/employee balance; it helps stay in check. If we are still using old, archaic systems and processes to check in with the workforce on a yearly basis or even a bit more frequently, we’re due for an upgrade in the Now of Work.

The HR profession is on the front lines, dealing with two very impactful and career- and function-changing moments at the same time. People are asking for change left and right. They are demanding change from the top and the bottom. Our response must be one of action, not just words. Our response must be one of transformation, not simply transition. Our response must be one that is NOW and immediate, not something we’ll get to in the FUTURE. The time for true change is NOW.


To take this week’s survey on digital adaptation before and after coronavirus, click here. Results and responses will be published soon.