As we take stock and reflect on HR trends from 2017, we’re reminded of the exciting developments around automation, artificial intelligence, diversity, gender parity and contractual talent. We’ve also seen previously “radical” concepts such as flexibility, personalization and transparency become official policies in many organizations around the world today.
Rapidly escalating shifts due to digitalization and globalization are radically changing workplace attitudes, culture and processes. This year, it will be key for HR professionals to understand and build on these new perspectives. Here are five key themes that will shape the workforce in 2018.
1. Know your business, customers and competition
Tomorrow’s workplace will be more resource-competitive as business challenges, consumer expectations and workforce culture become more complex and ever-changing. Talent mobility is sure to increase as technological disruptions redefine work and diversify opportunities. Organizations will continue to rely on HR professionals’ training and instincts when dealing with shifting behaviors in the workforce, but the volatile nature of the digital revolution will require HR pros to expand their level of awareness and involvement well beyond their comfort zone.
They’ll need a solid understanding of how their businesses work, especially how they cultivate relationships with customers and respond to changes in the socio-economic climate. Developing an ear for trends in consumer habits and expectations, politics, and trade and industry from a local to global scope will also help them increase their efficacy.
And they’ll need to look at employees as their customers. Gaining a business perspective on customer needs and satisfaction can inspire new approaches for addressing employee well-being in the workplace. The future and relevance of HR will rely on professionals taking a proactive involvement in business challenges that can ultimately affect revenue and sustainable growth.
2. Be more tech savvy
Many employees are active consumers of new technologies, so they’re aware of the new solutions that can make work easier and more interesting. Knowing the significant effect that tools and processes have on employees’ productivity and sense of fulfilment at work, it behooves HR to be a strong advocate for digital transformation in the workplace. The true value and strength of HR is in engaging people and developing their potential. Moreover, digitalizing routine tasks will help HR reclaim that objective.
Many HR groups may find themselves stuck using human resource management systems simply as transactional hubs. There’s nothing wrong with using them for this, but it would be unfortunate to remain content with simple process automation. Most employees now want the same intuitive and customizable capabilities they get from their personal digital tools.
There are HR technologies that can already replicate the personalized interfaces of social media apps. Using them, employees can customize, track and even ‘share’ their tasks, benefits, rewards, trainings and goals with their managers, colleagues or the entire organization. HR helplines can be replaced with interactive chat programs, where features like remote desktop sharing and control, video chats and group meetings can add a more human touch to technology.
3. Make data more interactive
Hands down, one of this era’s major innovations that HR must immediately welcome is the digitalization of data. What used to be represented as static and limited information on cumbersome spreadsheets, now can be brought to life through intelligent dashboard technologies. HR can upload and convert their mountains of data into movable and highly customizable objects that they can interact and play around with. This allows HR pros to easily unlock new and interesting insights, as well as discover fresh knowledge and context that weren’t immediately apparent before – such as trends concerning human behavior.
Digitally mature companies heavily leverage data analytics to find links between business metrics and workforce concerns – such as gender parity, diversity and unfair practices. When HR is able to feed useful, crucial data-driven evidence to the C-suite, leaders will have a strategic tool that enables them to take timely and proactive actions.
4. Engage digital talent
Today, around 80% of the global workforce comprises digital talent – an employee demographic that’s not only at ease with digital technology, but also strongly prefers flexibility, personalization and transparency. Their influence in these paradigm shifts helped create greater value and awareness for the employee experience and inspired improvements in the culture and policies of many organizations.
These professionals are actively looking for environments where they can be agile and work on their own terms, which is why many of them join enterprises that have an almost flat organization and a democratic setup. Digital talent see risk and failure as part of the productivity mindset, and thus, need to be allowed the flexibility to continuously evolve. They also want work to be more than just a daily grind: They want to make an impact and work for a meaningful cause.
This mindset can be challenging for conventional organizations to grasp. They’ve long been operating as well-oiled machines, with a strong focus on preset priorities, goals and processes. But an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can do much more harm than good and has rendered many traditional business models irrelevant in the digitalization age. It’s also a major reason why they can have such difficulty attracting and retaining digital talent.
Instead of agonizing over whether a 30% or 40% pay premium would put you ahead of the competition, evaluate why and how new talent would want to join your organization in the first place. How can you ensure they can be productive and engaged for the long term?
5. Support diversity and wellbeing
Diversity goes beyond recognizing differences in gender identity. It’s also about appreciating the unique opinions and experiences of various types of people. This includes each person’s individual sense of health – not just physical, but also social, financial and mental.
For a majority of employers in Asia Pacific, traditional benefits around healthcare and financial security remain the most popular provisions. However, less than 50% of employees agree that these meet their actual needs.
This takes us back to our first point about knowing the employee experience. Organizations need to look no further than their own workforce to better design their benefit plans and make them truly effective and beneficial. Generic offerings don’t work because they overlook the diverse needs within a workforce. Over 75% of companies that offer personalized, flexible benefits report that employees are more motivated to use them. Sixty-three percent said it’s also helped improve talent attraction and retention.
Some organizations are testing innovative ideas to spice up their rewards initiatives. Injecting a healthy dose of competitiveness can also help build a sense of community around a common goal. Team fitness challenges, healthy lifestyle awards, volunteer days, self-defense workshops, ridesharing incentives and bring-your-family days are fresh takes on driving wholesome behaviors among employees, without breaking the bank.
2018 is uncharted territory – stay on course with these two values
We can say with utmost certainty that technology will continue changing throughout 2018, as will how we live and work every day. The best response to these situations is to practice two core values, which digital talent expertly exhibit: Be agile and cognizant of the changes around us at all times.
Staying attuned to the employee perspective is in itself a huge undertaking. For HR professionals to remain focused, it’s crucial to take every action that keeps our function moving from a supporting role to a strategic one – and not turning back.