The only thing certain in business, as in life, is constant change. What separates the businesses that will thrive in times of adversity and change? In one word—talent—but specifically, how leaders retain their best performers and attract people that are going to drive them on towards growth.

Now in its fourth edition, Page Executive’s Eight Executive Trends for 2019 explores the challenges facing top level executives globally, and this year, they are measurably different, with diversity increasing in boardrooms across the world.

Discussions around mental health are now taking place in public. Seniority may be linked to depression. Executives are at twice the risk of suffering from mental health issues. Companies are opening up their cultures to the world, becoming more transparent, and seeing economic benefits behind such an open approach.

There is also a drive to find the purpose behind business, and what meaningful employment represents for workers. Millennials in management positions are changing the world of work to match their beliefs, with their expectations less about money and more about experiences. They care about their employer’s purpose.

We are witnessing one of the most significant technological revolutions for a generation—the rise of AI and automation. Many fears and speculation abound about what this might mean for businesses and workers, but machines are actually helping people become more human at work, by freeing them from repetitive tasks and forcing us to sharpen our soft-skills.

Organizations are responding with the best weapon in their arsenal: human-ness. Many companies are making great efforts to make themselves more human: more empathetic, more purpose-led, more considerate, more representative of human diversity, more open and more understanding of holistic health.

For instance, US-based shoe and clothing e-retailer, Zappos, flattened their hierarchy when they instituted Holacracy in their organization. Their aim was to empower creative collaboration to support new initiatives across all roles, while reaping the cost-saving benefits of needing fewer employees, since all roles expanded.

When it comes to battling the stigma behind mental illness, here is an example of the ‘human approach’ adopted by Barclays. Barclays launched ‘This is Me’, where employees shared elements of their personal life, touching upon mental health issues like depression, personality disorders and anxiety. The campaign was so successful in educating people, that other companies launched their own versions globally.

Such initiatives represent a historic shift. And it is exposing and unearthing a host of new issues and challenges and questions for HR departments and boardroom decision-makers. This is the theme of our time. Not the rise of AI. But the response to that—the re-assertion of Human Resource.

If you enjoyed reading this, access all articles in the 8 Executive Trends report here.

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