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Glimpse into the future of workplace

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By Emmanuel Zvada

What is the future of human resources (HR) — and, indeed, does HR have a future? These are questions we debate as HR practitioners daily. The future of HR rests entirely on the shoulders of the HR professional. In order for HR to become more credible, forward-thinking and a part of the overriding strategic direction of any business of any size HR has to prove its worth. The future of HR looks agile, digital and fast. HR needs to take the lead in ensuring it is at the heart of enabling organisational success.

Agility from all ends is key

The future and even the present needs experts in agility, and I don’t just mean agile ways of “working”, I mean agile ways of “operating” and agile people too. We must help leaders identify future market, customer and talent trends and enable them to capitalise on them. This is more than adapting their strategic thinking, it is constantly evolving their organisation and processes, and critically their ways of working, leading, managing and rewarding people. The future is “agile working”, and the HR ball is in the court.

Agility from all ends can radically change the HR function, but practitioners seem not to be moving at that pace. The need for transformation into agility is key, the sooner the shift happens, the higher the chances of survival.

Leadership and performance coaching is the way

We are facing increasing pressure to do the right thing for our people. HR will play a greater role in influencing leaders and coaching performances from its unique position. More businesses need to take the people a bit as seriously as the other drivers of performance. We, as a profession, need to think what we can do to drive business performance as a whole, not just in our own discipline. Truly, this is the right time for HR to evolve. In order to respond to the changing employment landscape, HR needs to upskill, and also take performance and leadership coaching seriously.

Data analytics v productivity

Data analytics plays a prominent role in increasing workforce productivity and engagement as well as improving 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 talent teams. With data from surveys and employee information alone, your HR team can start to make more informed people decisions and address top concerns. It’s all about data. Expanding HR’s analytical capabilities to improve decision-making and facilitate the discovery of human capital insights is key. The goal is to move from data being purely descriptive to being prescriptive, where it tells a story that enables you to make better data-driven decisions.

Artificial intelligence on the rise

HR has 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 resources and insights to redefine obsolete models, and implement technologies such as analytics, digital labour and artificial intelligence (AI). Our workplaces have to adopt technology and adapt so they can give these generations information in real time. Some organisations are investing much more in this technology than others, but I think it has to be on the agenda of all HR teams.

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 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 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

Use of digital communication tools on the rise

The workplace is in for tremendous changes over the next five years. At the speed that technology evolves, you need to be prepared to handle the changes ahead. Self-service technology has to be accessible for employees and line managers. 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, facilitate faster decisions, more streamlined processes, and instant approvals and are superseding email in many cases as 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 leaners are able to interact with their peers, 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 one trainer can handle many people in various countries at the same 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.

Flexible working arrangements

Gone are the days when everyone was expected to be in the office from 9am to 5pm Flexible approaches to where you work enable employees to optimise their own and their employer’s time by working remotely to beat traffic, connecting on the road between meetings or even working from home. Employees don’t necessarily need walls around them to have a meeting, nor do they always need to be working from their desk or cubicle to get the job done right. Informal workspaces provide a more relaxed way to interact and collaborate with team members or just get a change of scenery to be inspired or work differently.

The future of HR looks agile, digital and fast. HR needs to take the lead, ensuring we are at the heart of enabling organisational success. We need to become experts in agility, and I don’t just mean agile ways of “working” I mean agile ways of “operating”.

HR must rethink the capabilities and operating models required in the future.

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