2020 will be remembered as a year of dramatic shifts and unprecedented disruptions for many business leaders. For HR, the pandemic put an unexpected spotlight on the virtual workplace and remote work. It has also created a new challenge in the areas of crisis management and adaptive culture, as well as on redefining the workforce experience.
Various HR surveys predicted there will be many changes made in the workplace due to COVID-19 disruption, including better use of technology, a more automated workplace, and massive adaptation of hybrid workplace models, as well as remote work. More than 180 HR thought leaders from 145 Asian Enterprises agree that trends around these themes will continue to shape the talent and tech needs in future. There are at least four trends that will dominate the HR technology landscape, such as follows:
HR leaders also believe there is a new need in the terms of employee engagement and development. HR must ensure the “new” remote team stays engaged and in touch while away from the physical office.
While trends help shape the future, predicting HR trends is a dangerous game. Prediction might leave many rooms for uncertainty and organisations might find themselves in the midst of it while the pace of change continues to accelerate. Business and HR leaders must continuously think their way out of this uncertainty by surviving, adapting, and thriving. Leaders have to also realise that the business environment today focuses on people – and, in the years to come, it will focus on technology, not offices or travel.
In a webinar conducted by Cornerstone on 18 February 2021, thought leader Mike Bollinger believed that HR professionals must make new shifts in order to survive and thrive over the coming 12 months. The opportunity is to thrive, said Mike, HR and leaders need to focus on people from all perspectives.
Learning from the past, businesses might find it difficult to bounce back and continue their normal operations during a state of emergency like natural disasters or recession. Mike cited 40 percent of businesses do not reopen following the disruption. 25 percent of those who reopen failed within the first year, while 90 percent of small businesses failed within 2 years of a disaster. COVID-19 pandemic might give the same, if not a harder, challenge for businesses.
The scarcity of talents also continues to be an issue. The number of individuals who look for jobs is plenty, yet the skills needed are scarce. The talent shortage is predicted to reach 85 million people by 2030, more than double the entire population of Australia and New Zealand. Leaders and HR should be able to plan and recognise this problem and come out of the setbacks.
With that in mind, what shifts should HR make in order to thrive and raise? Here are Mike’s suggestions:
Continuity planning is in the sense of stability and absence of disruption. There is classic planning as proposed by Mike which include: plan and prevention, responding, and returning to normal. These three plans should be executed from people perspective and resourcing perspective.
From people perspectives, leaders and HR could start from the following questions:
Meanwhile, from a resources perspective, the leading questions could be:
Leaders and HR should set clear and specific expectations, thus employees do not get lost along the way. Explain the big pictures to connect everyone. In a few lines, HR should update messages regularly to keep everyone informed, stand down once the challenge is over, conduct a post-incident review and update communication plans/policies, then evaluate skills inventory for a new business environment.
The Cornerstone research lab has been conducting research on people’s skills. From an overall big picture perspective, skill ability is changing. Top skills that will be needed to face future challenges will be around problem-solving, creative thinking, communication, and initiative skills. Some business leaders talked about expanding the use of contractors and reducing the workforce. Others talked about extending the workforce and modifying the value change. What Mike suggested here is: every business has different purposes but the core skill is changing all the time and employers should be mindful of that.
HR today is not only a people person but also a data custodian. HR should take part in ensuring employees’ data is protected and that employees are aware of the danger of cybercriminals. In short, how to protect data is something that should be discussed in every part of an industry’s department. However, ensuring security while working at home is one of the most complex aspects, said Mike. Employees will need extra training in order to ensure that they keep themselves and their organisation safe.
That being said, HR leaders must balance the fear with knowledge, assess security/privacy knowledge from the first day, and consider the idea that targeted training might be less expensive. “Ultimately, the security of a system is only as good as the least informed employee, so make sure that the humans you manage are as security-focused as the systems they use. HR is the new partner and data custodian,” Mike added. The fundamentals haven’t changed but there are a lot of opportunities to focus on.