It’s time for HR function to evolve at a faster pace


Human Resources (HR) is a company’s backbone, and this is never truer than during challenging times like these. I might sound biased in favour of HR, but truly the COVID-19 crisis has given HR teams a unique opportunity to demonstrate what they are best at. HR teams are helping businesses make strategic decisions and decisions concerning employees. It is now time for HR professionals to re-assert their leadership to build new ways of working that create sustainability for organisations and their workers at the same time leveraging on technology to enhance performance and productivity of organisations.

The need for a digital transformation from operating in a traditional way of doing things is undeniable. The sooner the shift, the higher the chances of survival. In order to respond to the changing employment landscape, HR needs to collaborate and upskill, embracing new technologies and disruptive innovations. Having data and systems in organisations will free HR managers to focus on their people while providing them with the insights they need to be effective. Truly this is the right time for HR to evolve.

HR leaders and teams have a critical role to play in this new environment with all the evolving technologies, demographic and societal trends we are experiencing, and which look set to continue. HR leaders are harnessing the resources and insights to redefine obsolete models, and implement technologies such as analytics, digital labour and artificial intelligence.

Nevertheless, many HR leaders are a bit discombobulated and overwhelmed by so many new additions, thus facing the risk of extinction. They are either struggling to adapt to this digital era or ignoring change altogether, the coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally shifting how we live and do business.

Artificial intelligence on the rise

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to technology used to do a task that requires some level of intelligence to accomplish. In other words, they are tools trained to do what a human can do. Technology can be used to cement and reinforce internal structures of the workforce and ensure employees feel secure and supported during the shift to a digital workplace.

AI is reinventing human resources in a way not seen before by automating recruitment, onboarding learning and development, allowing HR teams to focus more on creative and strategic work.
AI is being used in HR to automate repetitive, low-value tasks thus increasing the focus on more strategic work.

Many fear that the rise of AI will lead to machines and robots replacing human workers and view this progression in technology as a threat rather than a tool to better ourselves. Artificial intelligence at the workplace allows a company and its employees to reach maximum efficiency levels, leaving more time for projects and networking.

Data analytics transforming HR (HR analytics)

HR analytics is an approach that leverages on statistical modelling and advanced analytics practices to analyse employee data sets and extract actionable insights to improve decision-making and resource allocation. Using analytics, data-driven decisions can be made by HR professionals to attract and retain top talent. Post-COVID-19 HR practices will provide endless possibilities to use analytics in identifying trends and patterns on employee absenteeism, leave frequency, employee turnover rate, engagement level, among others.

Data analytics will play a prominent role in increasing workforce productivity and engagement as well as improving workforce planning and talent development. Retention, recruitment, engagement, diversity and workforce planning including other jobs can be done by analytics, in fact the sky is the limit for what people analytics can do to help enterprise talent teams. With data based on surveys and employee information alone, your HR team can start to make more informed people decisions and address top concerns.

New digital communication tools

The coronavirus crisis has forced business leaders to completely rethink their approach to IT resourcing, with the majority under pressure to quickly adapt to remote working and digital collaboration in a very short space of time.

By embracing IT as an enabler of workplace change, forward-thinking businesses will be able to move forward swiftly, empowering a new generation of staff through flexible and productive working practices. With remote working more widespread than ever, it is inevitable that new communication methods such as WhatsApp, zoom, etc, necessitates faster decisions, more streamlined processes, and instant approvals and are superseding the email in many cases as the preferred tools for employee communication.

Collaborative social learning tools

Collaborative social learning was already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaborative learning is an e-learning approach where learners are able to interact with other students as well as instructors. In essence, learners work together in order to expand their knowledge of a particular subject or skill. During this pandemic, we are seeing a rise in collaborative learning where consulting firms are now delivering training, virtual learning and offering online coaching over the internet.

Distance is no longer a barrier since a trainer can handle many people from various countries in a short period of time. Companies are implementing cloud-based, hands-on learning environments that motivate learners and increase the speed of knowledge absorption while making it easy for instructors to facilitate training.
HR becoming more human

Embracing of artificial intelligence and machine learning applications in human capital management is the only way that HR practitioners can become more human at workplaces. The automation of tasks through AI technology allows for the freeing of HR professionals to focus on uniquely human abilities such as critical thinking, creativity and empathy. While they are involved with the more human tasks, technology at the moment can handle the more ordinary tasks. Technology can help a lot in dealing with HR issues. A real user-friendly employee portal, chatbots that is available 24/7 and service-oriented HR professionals in the call centre can relieve pressure on the HR department by becoming more digital, HR can become more human.

The coronavirus is becoming the accelerator of one of the greatest workplace transformations of our lifetime. How we work, exercise, shop, learn, communicate, and of course, where we work, will change forever. Companies that are agile enough to make quick adjustments to the upsurge in digital demands are the ones that will survive and thrive even after the pandemic.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a global award-winning HR practitioner for 2020, HR disrupter and trusted coach. He writes in his personal capacity.