Like all else in life, HR too goes through an evolution. And like all else, some elements change, and some are timeless. The need for humans to communicate will remain forever. But what changed was the mode of communication. From pigeons to letters to telephone and then e-mail.
Similarly, let’s look at what’s changing in HR, and what is timeless and will continue.
New or Recent Trends:
- Work from Home
At the risk of re-stating the obvious, Work from Home (WFH) seems like the biggest trend HR will be managing for the next few years. We have been talking about it throughout 2020 when the pandemic forcefully imposed it upon us. It has partly been a blessing in disguise, accelerating a trend which otherwise may have taken years to reach its current speed of adoption. Of course, there are pros and cons to each trend, and WFH has its own challenges like social isolation and employees feeling “out of sight, out of mind”. Disconnection from colleagues and lack of face to face interaction can take its toll in terms of mental health, eventually impacting performance. So, HR has its work cut out in terms of coming up with sustainable workforce models, leveraging WFH for cost reduction and productivity, while coming up with creative solutions to reduce its adverse impact.
- Digital transformation of HR
The previous decade saw some progress on this front, which will continue for the next couple of years. Automating operational processes, using Artificial Intelligence, social media and online gaming for recruitment, digital Learning Management platforms and performance management systems are some examples of how digital transformation is sweeping across all areas of HR. While undertaking a digital transformation journey the HR team needs to understand the multiple objectives behind it – releasing bandwidth for business partnering, improving process speed and efficiency, better decision making etc. It is wise to prioritize areas of maximum impact to start the journey. Create a detailed plan, get the team onboard, hold regular reviews, and execute the transformation. A lot of diligence and perseverance is needed from the HR team to reap the benefits of digitization.
- HR Analytics
Many organizations have moved from merely maintaining employee databases to calculating important HR metrics. The most common one is descriptive analytics, which looks at data and helps in understanding the existing state of the process/practice. Metrics like time to fill a position, attrition rate, training feedback, hours of training per employee etc. are descriptive analytics. The next stage is predictive analytics, which helps in looking ahead at what could happen. It takes past data and tries to forecast outcomes. For example, will an employee quit within the next year? More than 2 managerial changes within 12 months maybe a predictive factor for a resignation. Or, will a potential hire perform well? A certain education history or experience set may be a predictive factor for high performance. The third one is prescriptive analytics. It helps answers questions like “If an employee is at high risk of attrition as identified by predictive analytics, then what action can be prescribed to hold him back”?
Analytics help in making better decisions which are based on data. They augment human judgment and hopefully lead to better outcomes. If done well, predictive and prescriptive analytics have immense potential to add value to the business. Unfortunately, many HR teams are overwhelmed with numbers, getting caught in analysis – paralysis. It’s important to cut through the noise, focus and look at the story the data is telling you. Look at cause and effect, and try to see the linkages. Based on this deeper understanding, identify the action that needs to be driven.
- Performance Management
Adopting bell curves to dismissing bell curves! Numerical ratings to no ratings, and back to numerical ratings!
The performance management process has undergone a spiral evolution process. Going back and forth around the same truth, though looking at it from a higher angle every time in order to better it. Performance management is a primary deliverable from HR. The challenge is that there is no exact science around it. A certain degree of subjectivity does remain as it is a human judgment centric process. HR will need to continue working on putting systems in place for meaningful performance and feedback discussions. It will need to create processes around talent reviews so that the best talent is identified, developed with learning resources, and given opportunities to transform into performance. It will need to continue equipping leaders with the knowledge and skills for motivating, coaching, managing performance etc.
This is not an easy task and remains a daily challenge for HR, as well as business leaders. We have to keep at it to ensure that the organization receives the highest possible performance from its workforce.
- Leadership Development
Leadership development is another critical expectation of HR. It has been in the past, and it will remain critical in the coming future. Leaders have high leverage on performance, and most organizations are short on their supply. Great leaders are a rare commodity, and HR needs to partner effectively with the business to ensure a steady leadership pipeline. From hiring people with leadership potential to providing developmental resources like training, coaching, learning experiences etc. to polish up this potential, leadership development will always be a priority for HR.
- Employee Engagement & Welfare
From Baby boomers to Millenials, the need to have a highly engaged workforce has remained constant. What has changed is the methods of achieving this engagement. From meaningful work to paternity leave. From gyms, cafeterias, mental health counselling to the latest initiative – support for employees facing domestic violence, employee engagement and welfare has come a long way in the 21st century.
HR teams need to have a good grasp on how life is changing for their workforce. They need to know the constraints, challenges and aspirations of the workforce. Joint families, nuclear families, single-parent families, LGBTQ families, all these have had implications for the workforce. Agile organizations keep adapting their practices to suit the reality of the times. HR teams also need to keep themselves informed about worldwide trends in this area, as well as continuously innovate to create a better working experience for their workforce.
|Author – Gulshan Walia, HR Consultant & Coach at Infinitzus Consulting
Gulshan Walia is a Human Capital consultant and coach. Her areas of expertise include coaching, leadership development, behavioural training workshops, HR processes, performance management, strategic HR, organization development, career planning, and high potential development. More details about her work can be viewed at www.infinitzusconsulting.com.