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Emerging trends likely to shape human resources post-COVID-19

Opinion & Analysis
guest column:Emmanuel Zvada Looking back to the year 2019, it is clear that a lot of people including those in the human resources (HR) industry had no clue what we were in for this year and last year. No one ever predicted that we would actually be in the second year with this COVID-19 pandemic. […]

guest column:Emmanuel Zvada

Looking back to the year 2019, it is clear that a lot of people including those in the human resources (HR) industry had no clue what we were in for this year and last year. No one ever predicted that we would actually be in the second year with this COVID-19 pandemic. As we ease into the second month of 2021, it is now a good time to reflect on how far we have come but also how far we still have to go. HR has handled various challenges during this pandemic but it’s not enough. It is now the right time for the HR department to take a fresh look at the near term and future trends carefully if it wishes to remain an essential company function in future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global economies and almost all businesses, and HR has been at the heart of it in many originations. With organisations now on the cusp of recovery, the role of HR is becoming even more important, spanning from coming up with strategies, having policies and practices in place that cater for the new normal, etc.

The rapid change in both technology and workforce demographics has seen HR professionals adapt and modernise their approaches at workplaces.

It is vital that HR evolves and transforms across every element of the HR lifecycle to meet a new set of organisational needs.

This article will discuss emerging HR trends likely to shape HR post-pandemic.

Separation of critical skills and roles You all agree with me that before COVID-19, critical roles were viewed as those that have critical skills, or the capabilities an organisation needed to meet its strategic goals. The true definition of critical was actually seen during this pandemic. Now because of the pandemic, employers are realising that there is another category of critical roles, roles that are critical to the success of essential workflows.

It’s a clear indication that if you want to build a strong workforce post-pandemic, you have to encourage employees to develop more critical skills that possibly open up multiple opportunities for them. It is also a good time for organisations and policymakers to determine who is essential and critical as they are needed even after the pandemic.

Mental health support will become the new norm Many employees do not feel comfortable to speak about poor mental health, this is unlikely to change following the pandemic. We do not yet know exactly what the mental health impacts of COVID-19 will be.

There are many factors to consider including the impact of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation.

Some employees will be fearful of contracting the virus, others will be anxious about family and friends.

Many will have suffered bereavements during the pandemic, often without the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals.

Employers will need to adopt a range of measures to support employees experiencing poor mental health as a result of COVID-19 and its effects on society and the economy. Measures will range from supporting employees to regain an effective work-life balance and address fears about returning to work, right through to support for severe mental health conditions.

HR Leaders becoming culture champions A culture champion is someone who is responsible for changing, integrating and implementing the new organisational culture.

Due to COVID-19, organisations globally have abandoned their fundamental working premise and also how they used to do their things, hence there is need for culture re-orientation and obviously it is HR that needs to do that.

If an HR department takes a leading role in championing the new or adjusted workplace culture, this will lead to organisational excellence and success.

By playing its role as a culture champion, change agent, and business advocate, HR will need to increasingly find ways to support business leaders in restructuring during and after the pandemic, take workforce rationalisation measures while managing risks associated with such interventions so as to increase productivity.

Investment in workplace technology systems Digital transformation tools, once seen as a nice-to-have investment, are now essential. HR professionals can also expect to see a shift in how they recruit, hire, and retain employees. Many processes have already been digitised to improve speed and efficiency.

Automation, AI-enabled learning, messaging, and cloud-based systems are some of the digitally-driven enhancements that are becoming prevalent.

Dependence on human labour is being rebalanced with a mix of people and technology.

Just as companies will continue experimenting with more informal ways of team-building and socialisation, we may also see more formalised online connections in most countries worldwide.

Employees can now attend conferences online and have access to networking opportunities online.

New agile leaders likely to take leading role in organisations Leadership agility is the ability to lead effectively when rapid change and uncertainty are the norm and when success requires consideration of multiple views and priorities.

It requires a process of using enhanced awareness and intentionality to increase effectiveness under real-time conditions: stepping back from whatever one is focused on.

Being an agile leader can be a great advantage especially in times where many organisations are entering a new life post-pandemic.

Companies around the globe are looking for a new type of leader, one that is capable of adapting to the economic and social changes taking place.

This trend towards young and more diverse leaders who are able to run businesses the digital way will actually be the new way.

Reskilling your employees Adapting employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working is crucial in building operating-model resilience in organisations. COVID-19 and remote working have dramatically changed the skillsets for both employees and leaders.

If your organisation has laid the foundation for reskilling, you can retrain your current employees to take on those new roles.

That can keep your company viable during times of major change — without the additional time and expense of hiring brand-new employees.

When you reskill or upskill your people to take on new tasks or roles, you can save time and money in the short term.

The move towards agile organisations The ongoing COVID-19 socio-economic crisis is forcing business leaders worldwide to take quick action to respond to the pandemic and its effects on their businesses.

In fact, if HR learns how to work in an agile fashion it can help organisations in 2021 and in the future to achieve that level of resilience that is now so important in an everchanging world.

Agility puts people at the centre of everything that happens and HR has to play a key role in driving this disruption more than ever as agility has to continue.

Post-COVID-19, there is no doubt that HR will be influenced by new trends that may transform the sector.

HR professionals need to keep an eye on the latest trends and adopt them quickly to keep their organisations competitive.

Employers can utilise these trends to plan for the future, use HR help for formulating, implementing corporate strategies and improve employee engagement which will certainly help in business growth.