Egon Zehnder recently hosted a group of Human Resources executives from leading semiconductor companies for a lively conversation and exchange of insights. The discussion centered on several challenges facing the sector and trends that will impact the future of human capital leadership. It was a dynamic session that touched on many themes, of which three stood out: COVID-19 and its implications, diversity and inclusion, and the impact of ongoing geopolitical tensions. The insights and observations discussed on the call are summarized below.
COVID-19 & Its Implications
2020 is a year that has been defined by the coronavirus, and COVID was naturally top of mind for all of the participants. The pandemic has changed the way that we work, perhaps forever, and will have long-ranging effects on the workforce. Participants discussed how their companies are helping to mitigate the challenges facing employees that work from home. In particular, we talked about working parents and what measures can be taken to support women in the workforce who are often primary caregivers and face the difficult task of prioritizing work and family in a time without child care and on-site schooling. The strategies discussed include providing company-sponsored elder and child care, connecting employees with children of other employees for tutoring, and moving employees to part-time or time off to accommodate caregiving needs. Although participants acknowledged that they had not yet seen COVID impact their attrition rates, they discussed ways to maintain relationships and connectivity with employees who may need to take temporary leave from their companies, to more easily re-hire them when circumstances allow in the future.
Although the future after COVID is still unclear, it is likely that the workplace will forever be altered by the virus. Participants discussed returning to the office and how their employees are balancing the desire for an office environment vs. the flexibility to continue to work from home. Ensuring collaboration among creative teams such as engineering and marketing was a key point of discussion, with the point made that the coronavirus has in some cases paradoxically fostered closer relationships between teams, as working from home has “leveled the playing field.” Some participants shared ideas of how to continue this environment of collaboration in a hybrid setting, including designating certain days for teams to go into the office for in-person brainstorming and taking advantage of underutilized space in offices to encourage safe interaction. Participants talked about the difficulties of effectively leveraging a global workforce, especially while each region and country undergoes its own challenges with the coronavirus.
Diversity & Inclusion
In a discussion facilitated by Cynthia Soledad, Egon Zehnder’s Diversity and Inclusion practice leader, participants spoke about the energy they feel in their companies on the topic. The conversation about D&I addressed how to engage the entire talent pool, from interns and Gen Z employees to senior leaders and board members. It included not only the importance of hiring, but retaining a diverse pool of talent. Several participants reported having explicit metrics and incentives to invest in and further D&I progress at their companies. It was also discussed that while US companies put the main focus of D&I on gender and racial diversity in the workforce, the current focus of a major Asia-based company was to develop respect and collaboration between a workforce of increasing cultural diversity.
Our discussion touched upon the current geopolitical climate, primarily tensions between the West and China. Participants expressed a viewpoint that the supply chain impact resulting from these tensions is an important and ongoing consideration in their ecosystems and investments. The overall consensus of the attendees was that with China as a major market for their companies, substantial investment in China-based employees and in working with Chinese customers would inevitably continue. However, due to the uncertain and dynamic situation, a thoughtful approach to investing and growing in the ecosystem is the way forward.
Egon Zehnder‘s Take
As a trusted advisor to the world’s leading semiconductor companies, we were encouraged to see a high level of engagement and camaraderie during the event that illustrate how collaboration can blossom in areas of common interest, even in the most competitive of industries. Event participants represented 18 leading companies in the sector from across US, Asia, and Europe. The topics of dealing with the COVID pandemic, furthering diversity and inclusion, and thoughtfully navigating through geopolitical tensions were identified to be at the top of the HR leader’s agenda through a pre-event poll. In what has surely been one of the most trying and eventful years in history, we were heartened by the mutual support shown and insights shared.