I know! The world is already overpopulated with HR gurus telling us what’s up next and what we should be doing. But it’s not just HR; every business function is eagerly scanning the horizon. I guess it’s a sign of the times. When everything is so uncertain and unpredictable, we all become futurists, obsessed with looking for clues that hint at what’s around the corner.
Our clients look to us to keep them ahead of the curve. There is always change. What’s noticeable, in the current climate, is the speed at which it is happening. And not just around innovations in technology. From flexible working and building employer brands to diversity and inclusion, HR is in the thick of it. The fact that there are so many HR trends articles out there is testimony to what an increasingly important driver the function is becoming.
This article won’t tell you what you should be doing. Every organisation has its unique set of challenges. As such, we are advocates for specific solutions to fit particular contexts. No, this is more a reflection on some of the fundamental shifts in thinking that are shaping the future of HR.
As a ‘trendwatcher’, Tom Haak at the HR Trend Institute always has something interesting to say. Top of his predictions for 2019 was personalisation. It’s the big driver in marketing and consumer engagement, why not in HR? After all, HR is the people function, it should be personal. Acknowledging that it will need to take a paradigm shift in thinking from the traditional, standardised, one-size-fits-all, top-down model, he sees the necessity of ‘making the shift to an approach where the individual needs, wishes and capabilities of candidates and employees are the starting point’, rather than the organisation’s. [i]
Easier said than done, especially the larger a business gets, but in a market where the talent pool is shrinking and competition to attract and retain the best people is fierce, it is inevitable. Expectations are becoming higher. People want to work in organisations where they are valued, nurtured and developed. They also ‘want to work for organisations that inspire trust and reflect their values.’ [ii] The goal is to create an environment where people flourish. This can only be fully achieved when we start treating people as individuals, with different needs and motivations. Personalisation is the way to go!
Culture and Values
Which brings us onto the subject that is in the top three on every trends list: Employee Engagement. There are a plethora of articles quoting the, frankly, shocking stat from Gallup’s annual State of the Global Workforce report, that 70% of employees are not engaged at work. It’s no wonder it’s at the top of every HR leader’s to-do list. Do you know how your people feel? If you don’t, it’s important to find out as there’s nowhere to hide in today’s digital world. With organisations like Glassdoor making the workplace increasingly transparent the employer brand is rising to the top of the agenda. How your organisation is perceived has a direct impact on your ability to attract the right talent.
As an HR leader you are developing your company’s brand as much as the Head of Marketing. For better or worse, you’re responsible for creating the culture that your people will shout about. Google regularly tops Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work and was in the Top 10 of Glassdoor’s recent 50 Best Places to Work list. One of the initiatives credited with driving this success is Google’s Career Guru coaching programme, a career development programme where employees receive one-to-one support from experienced Google alumni. (There’s not room to discuss it here, but the article referenced below, by a former career coach at Google, gives a good overview of how it works and its benefits to the business. It is well worth a read for some practical advice on how to implement such a programme.) [iii]
Top of the Glassdoor list was Bain & Company. This employee’s testimony speaks volumes about what people are looking for from their employers and the kind of culture in which they flourish: “Bain really lives and breathes its values. I feel both challenged yet supported every single day, and truly feel that I am making an impact. I have pivoted multiple times within Bain and I can 100% say that Bain supports people to build their own individualized career journey.” Although described as a ‘Con’, what is also interesting to note is that the same employee makes the connection between culture and productivity, saying: “Bainies work very hard, but this goes hand in hand with the desire to deliver outstanding results.”
Every trend report, in recent years, has been banging on about it. We, therefore, can’t ignore it. It is transforming every facet of our lives, mostly for the better. Employees want the same integrated technological experience at work as they do at home. We’re all for automated processes that make the function more efficient, but technology is not without its issues. Notably, last year, Amazon was forced to pull its AI hiring tool (its facial recognition tool is pretty controversial, too) because of its bias towards male candidates. That’s not to say tools like this should be ignored. They are, after all, ‘intelligent’ and can be fine-tuned. [iv]
Beyond the digitalising of processes, however, it is the enterprise-wide roll out of technology that, depending on your sector, will have the biggest impact on HR in the future. PWC are forecasting that, over the next 20 years, nearly half of jobs in financial services, for example, will be computerised. ‘So when we talk about the workforce we could just as easily be referring to a robot as a human. Are your people ready to work alongside AI as part of a hybrid workforce?’ [v] It’s not just our people who need to ready themselves, the HR function needs to adjust, too. Maybe even change its name…
HR is in the thick of it!
These are exciting times to be working in HR. ‘The workplace is transforming fast and who better to shepherd organisations through this than the professionals who understand people?’[vi] Progressive organisations are becoming increasingly people-centric, working from the ground up and looking to give employees a genuinely personal experience. Where people flourish business thrives. Our role is to create the culture where that can happen. Building employee trust by living out those values is crucial in building a successful employer brand that will attract and retain the best talent. At the end of the day, it is fundamentally simple; treat people well!
[i] Tom Haak, 10 Inspiring HR Trends for 2019, blog post, November 2018: https://hrtrendinstitute.com/2018/11/26/10-inspiring-hr-trends-for-2019/
[ii] PWC Global, The Power to Perform: Human Capital 2020 and beyond, Insights: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/publications/hc-2020.html
[iv] Samantha MacLaren, Keeping bias out of your hiring tools with these 3 steps, LinkedIn Talent Blog, April 9 2019: https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/artificial-intelligence/2019/keep-bias-out-of-ai-hiring-tools-with-3-steps
[v] PWC Global, The Power to Perform: Human Capital 2020 and beyond, Insights: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/publications/hc-2020.html
[vi] Isabel Naidoo, HR must help organisations navigate change, HR Magazine, May 2019: http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/hr-must-help-organisations-navigate-change