Five big forces hitting HR. Can they help you bounce back?

How is HR changing during 2021?

The primary forces impacting HR are the pandemic, which can be subdivided into twin pressures of needing to improve commercial performance and needing to nurture a workforce that has undergone a massive shift in their outlook and attitude to life, work and the future. The second force is the tidal wave of technology bringing seismic shifts to HR in the form of data, analytics and automation.

As Deloitte outline in their Workforce Strategies for Post Covid Recovery report, HR teams have primarily focused on responding to the pandemic. The challenge now is to recover, and then move on to thrive in a post-pandemic environment.

This challenge is undeniably a marathon, not a sprint, and there may be some back-tracking if subsequent Covid waves cause further lockdowns or containment measures. As we will discuss in this article, organisations should consider how to bake flexibility into their practices so that future shocks will be easier to absorb.

This topic is one we’ve covered in depth in our 6-part series about business recovery - Leadership in a Changed World.

For now, let’s explore five trends that are shaping the future of HR, and consider how they might impact your organisation as you emerge from the pandemic.

Big data is here and demands to be used

Organisations are increasingly turning to Big Data to address commercial challenges, and now they are increasingly seeing the value of data and analytics to improve a range of HR functions, including recruitment, health and wellbeing monitoring, training optimisation, reporting, performance management, and employee retention.

Harnessing this data may be a simple task if your HR processes are centralised with one or two core systems, but many organisations will rely on a blend of dedicated systems, spreadsheets and paper records, which may make analytics and interpretation harder to achieve.

HR dashboard software or HR analytics software may be required to pull together the different strands of data and turn them into actionable insights. Additionally, you may need to augment your HR team with professionals who understand how to manage data, utilise HR tools, and convert insights into actions.

Tate’s HR recruitment consultants understand the challenges you face right now, and can help you find the right talent to grow your business. We rely on a blend of technology-enabled innovation and close customer relationships to efficiently bring our clients the right people at the right time.

future of HR

Your colleagues’ priorities may have changed

Covid changed everything, including what we value. That’s not to say that successive lockdowns made everyone want to move to the country and join a commune; for every person planning a re-wilding, there is one planning to work more and party less.

Covid has shaken up our priorities, but there is not a common thread uniting the changes. Some people want more security, some want more freedom. Others are seeking thrills while some search for predictability. Some people found time to think during lockdown, while others only had time to panic.

“I didn't want work to be such an integral part of my identity anymore.” – Natasha, London (Refinery 29)

The only common denominator is that priorities have changed. We can’t define what this means for your colleagues and your organisation. The best place to start might be with a process of questioning colleagues about how they feel, what matters most, and how they see their future.

“I have definitely thrown myself into work more, picking up more side hustles to bolster my financial security.” – Jessica, Southend (Refinery 29)

Once you understand your team’s current priorities, you can ensure your organisation continues to fulfil their needs and support their ambitions. Leaders play a critical role in this process, because they have the clearest view of their teams and the greatest opportunities to gather these insights and respond to evolving needs. This is something we recently explored in our article on leadership post-covid.

Learning from home

In addition to working out the practicalities of working from a home office, your colleagues need to acquire new skills and tackle entirely new working challenges, including how you develop your colleagues when they are working remotely and potentially overwhelmed.

It could be as simple as:

  1. Identify the skills that matter right now.
  2. Focus on quality training that achieves meaningful impact.
  3. Seek ways to weave learning and development into everyday tasks and processes.

For many organisations, this process will demand a ruthless re-evaluation of learning assets and processes. Do your courses, content and applications offer a positive experience to all learners? Or is some of your material outdated, irrelevant, or inconvenient to use?

Could you make better use of flexible learning approaches like lessons by email, mobile-friendly content, or turning videos into podcasts? Peer support and development groups can also encourage the formation of social bonds, while sharing knowledge organically.

five forces human resources

Supporting colleagues from a distance

How do you feel about colleagues who prefer to work from home? Do you think more or less of colleagues, depending on where they prefer to work?

These questions are worth pondering, because most organisations are currently facing up to an immense restructuring of their talent. Not only are some teams downsizing while others expand, but huge swathes of corporate policies are rendered redundant by the shift to homeworking. How do you support people and manage performance when two-thirds of your colleagues are out of sight?

40% of the 215 supervisors and managers in our study expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely – Harvard Business Review

What worked before the pandemic may not work now. This may be deeply inconvenient for many managers who have established and proven methods for getting the job done. And they may resent colleagues who disrupt these habits and make their job more difficult by shunning the office and preferring to work from home long-term.

Your post-pandemic HR plan may need to accommodate biased attitudes towards home workers, as well the practicalities of supporting colleagues in a time of historic stress. Personnel Today proposes offering employee benefits that address these needs: “As lockdown eases and a hybrid working model comes into full effect for many, the chief people officer must invest in practical ways the entire business can support its diverse workforce as part of its benefits scheme.”

Office for National Statistics data shows that 25.9% of people worked from home in 2020 – rising to 46.4% in London.

Being prepared to adapt again

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that agility is a valuable business asset, and a powerful quality that can help organisations survive tough times. McKinsey research into 25 leading businesses found that the agile business units all fared better than the units that had yet to complete their agile transformation.

But what does this mean in practice? Organisations that can adapt quickly usually have a few common traits, including:

  • Documented processes and procedures
  • Consistent approaches to doing business
  • Organised management structures and chain of command
  • Proven methods for managing employee performance
  • Decision making infused by data and analytics
  • A singular vision of the businesses purpose – one that is shared by all colleagues

Nobody knows what the future holds. Perhaps Covid is fading away, or perhaps we’ll have further flare-ups. But we can all be certain that the future holds more surprises, and the organisation that can adapt to change stands a better chance of surviving and thriving.

If your recruitment needs are varied or complex, our Managed Service Solution may help you achieve your talent goals more rapidly. Under this service, you can access all our specialist brands through a single technology platform so you can easily control costs, monitor performance and eliminate risk.

What matters most to your HR team?

The pandemic has been a disaster, of course, but if we look closely, there are some potential positives to draw from this moment.

For example, many of us have reassessed what matters to us, and how we want to spend our time. And many organisations have been through a similar re-evaluation. We’ve been forced to take stock, to prune back unessential processes, and to consider what kind of future we want to build.

This might mean taking a more flexible approach to acquiring and retaining talent. This could take the shape of blended hiring practices, and considering permanent staffing, temp staffing, temporary to permanent, and short term contracts. Being flexible could help you bolster your workforce swiftly so you can capitalise on the opportunities presented as we emerge from lockdown.

If your organisation needs support in building the right team for your next chapter, get in touch. Our specialist HR recruitment team can help you pinpoint the most qualified candidates for permanent, temporary and contract positions in a wide range of industries.

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