Recent study by Gartner revealed that the pandemic has dramatically impacted what HR leaders will focus on in the coming months.
With the slow development of COVID-19 vaccine and the pandemic showing little sign of abating any time soon, HR professionals are most concerned about ensuring that their workforce has the skills to succeed in the new world of work. According to the survey, 68 percent of respondents believe employees’ critical skills and competencies need serious tending during the coming year. Other critical priorities include organisational design and change management (64 percent), developing the current and future leadership bench (44 percent), the future of work (32 percent) and employee experience (28 percent).
COVID-19 has worsened the reskilling challenge, the survey found. Traditional ways of predicting skills needs are not working. Employees need skills to do their job and many of those skills are new. Many employees are not learning the right new skills, for their personal development or the benefit of the organisation they are working at.
In response to this, what is needed is a dynamic approach to reskilling and redeploying talent in which all impacted stakeholders work together to sense shifting skill needs and find new ways to develop skills at the time of need.
Organisations cannot respond as quickly as conditions require. Work design, focused for years on efficiency, has left many organisations with rigid structures, workflows, role design and networks that do not meet today’s needs or flex with fast-changing conditions. Employees suffer the effects in various forms of work “friction.”
HR needs to redesign work to enable employees to be more responsive. Future-forward work design is what’s needed to ensure employees can be responsive – that is, in sync with customer needs, in a position to anticipate changes in those needs, and adapt their approach and activities accordingly. It is up to HR leaders to adapt work design strategies to unlock responsiveness at scale across the workforce and build organisational resilience.
Only 44 percent of employees say they trust their organisation’s leaders and managers to navigate a crisis well. Confidence and trust in leadership is also undermined by the lack of diversity. Gartner TalentNeuro data illustrates the lack of diversity among the leadership of U.S. companies, showing that only 10 percent of senior-level corporate positions are held by a woman from a racial or ethnic minority and only 18 percent by a man from a minority segment.
New imperative needed in this priority is to prioritise diversity networking. Networking is a great way to provide support for employees, but networks often lack diversity in role, skill level and experience – and have limited involvement from senior leaders. Intentionally creating growth-focused diversity networks supports underrepresented talent and yields benefits for individual employees, leadership and the organisation.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the future of work. The question for HR leaders is how much these trends have and will alter pre-pandemic strategic goals and plans, and what immediate action and longer-term adjustments must be made as a result.
To start, HR leaders can identify future work trends relevant to the business. One global manufacturer, for example, screens for relevance, impact and opportunity. Whatever the methodology, this type of exercise is critical to strategic planning and scenario planning for the HR function.
Amid the shift to remote work and hybrid workforce models, HR must preserve company culture and ensure employee experience keeps up with employees’ expectations and needs. One key consideration: The value proposition of the office vs. other work locations.
This can be tackled by having a hybrid workforce. Hybrid workforce models are not only about selecting one location over another. They provide an opportunity for employers, managers and employees to share ownership of location decisions around a common expectation that employees can switch locations dynamically depending on what makes the most sense to drive the highest levels of productivity and engagement. To improve employee experience, organisations have to support and enable this approach throughout the employee life cycle.