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HR trends in 2022 and beyond

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By Emmanuel Zvada

COVID-19 has upended the priorities of most HR professionals as they struggle with adapting to the new normal. From trying to bring in more resilience to their performance management system, organisations are also coming up with new strategies, hence new human resources (HR) trends.

HR has a critical role to play in this new environment. HR leaders must redefine obsolete models, and employ new technologies to survive. The future of HR looks agile, digital and fast and that is undeniable.

The role of HR continues to change the way business dynamics change and so is the overall people structure. Based on the various interactions I have had with HR and business professionals, I have come to conclude that the role of HR will change faster than ever and only those who are either strategists or digitally savvy will survive.

In order to respond to the changing employment landscape, HR needs to upskill, embrace new technologies and disruptive innovations.

HR need to become experts in agility, and I don’t just mean agile ways of “working” I mean agile ways of “operating” and “thinking” too. HR must rethink the capabilities and operating models required in the future for it to survive.

The hybrid workplace

Workplace has drastically changed over the years, especially in the past few months. A hybrid workplace is a working model that combines both office and virtual work which is being implemented and will be here to stay in some organisations.

In other words, you will have employees working from home, office, or both. Your team may also have employees working from a co-working space.

In this arrangement, employees can perform their tasks from the office, while occasionally doing some of their work from outside the office (mostly their homes).

In a typical hybrid workplace, some or all employees have the freedom to choose where and when they work from, dividing their time between working from home and working from the office. In a hybrid set-up, results matter most than anything else.

The rise of digital communication tools

Organisations must introduce digital workplace strategies capable of improving collaboration and communication, and enabling employees to work together effectively, regardless of location or device.

In fact, today’s workplaces are going digital and remote working has quickly become the new norm. Technological advancement allows the company to improve its internal processes. Self-service technology has to be accessible for employees and line managers.

With remote working more widespread than ever, it is inevitable that new communication methods such as WhatsApp, Zoom, etc, result in faster decisions, more streamlined processes, and instant approvals and are superseding email in many cases as preferred tools for employee communication.

New breed of talent being introduced, generation Z

Generation Z has emerged as a population increasingly worthy of attention, especially now as its older members enter young adulthood.

Generation Z, more or less, comprises those who grew up deeply connected to technology, practically from the moment they became self-aware. Generation Z’s characteristics are interesting and specific; and it is known for being ever-present messaging on the internet, on social networks, and on mobile systems.

This generation tends to care about trends, but is also quick to research on topical issues. Some organisations have already started employing the new cohort of young professionals which is generation Z.

It is funny this generation was born into an online world and is now entering the workforce and compelling other generations to adapt to it, not vice versa.

Virtual learning

Online learning has shown significant growth over the last decade, as the internet and education combine to provide people with the opportunity to gain new skills. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, online learning has become more centric in people’s lives. COVID-19 has been a catalyst for learning trends around the world, potentially transforming the face-to-face learning.

During the 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 from various countries at the same time.

AI on the rise

Virtual reality is rising in prominence. Artificial intelligence (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 humans, that’s false AI will only relieve pressure for HR to concentrate on its strategic role. 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, on boarding, learning, and development, allowing HR teams to focus more on creative and strategic work.

HR analytics and dashboard needed more than ever

HR analytics enables HR professionals to make data-driven decisions to attract, manage, and retain employees, which improves return on investment. 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. 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.

Increasing efficiency

One can argue the disadvantages of the extensive use of technology, but it cannot be denied that technology is the best way to increase efficiency. Technology has, without doubt, brought the positive change that we need in HR. However, it must still be highlighted that technological advancements are nowhere near human decision-making abilities. Organisations that combine effective HR management processes with effective HR technology are likely to be more productive and more profitable than those that do not. Of course, the challenge for HR executives is to manage this technology to maximise the benefits while minimising the pitfalls along the way.

HR becoming more human

HR must not lose the human element. In an automated age, this will allow 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 are available 24/7 and service-oriented HR professionals in the call centre can relieve pressure on the HR department as a result by becoming more digital, HR can become more human.

No one foresaw the world-changing events of this year, but one thing is clear, technology has been affected just as much as every other part of our lives.

As Peter Drucker rightfully said: the best way to predict the future is to create it, this is the right time to embrace the future.

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