The role of HR professionals in businesses has changed significantly during the past decade and the modern workplace has radically transformed. Where we work, how we work and why we work are no longer the same as they were ten, or even five years ago.
As the workforce, the economy and technology have changed, so too has the role of the HR department. No longer are they considered as a purely administrative department, but they’re now being recognised as a strategic function that is critical to success.
Time moves very fast in HR. With frequent changes to legislation, updates to technology and changing attitudes of employees; 12 months isn’t a very long time at all.
As we write this post, the working world has been turned on its head. The outbreak of COVID-19 is a global event that no one could have seen coming 12 or even 6 months’ ago. If you told any HR manager that by April 2020, most of (if not all) of their workforce would be working 100% remotely and the country would be on a government-enforced lockdown, they’d likely have laughed you out the room!
It just goes to show just how fast the world of HR can change and how agile teams need to be to ride the next wave of change.
As a discipline, HR is always evolving and the next 12 months will see some significant shifts in the profession, in employees and in what teams will focus on. In this article, we take a look at some of the changes and developments that will impact where the world of HR will be one year from now.
Technology and analytics will be the norm
There is no question that technology will continue to play a crucial role in ensuring HR’s success well into the future. As the world of HR continues to evolve, technology will become more important than ever in the next 12 months.
As working styles change, technology will make sure you remain connected to remote employees, teams can collaborate on projects and it will make your life as an HR professional so much easier when managing and supporting your people.
With HR technology in place, monotonous, low-value tasks can be automated so you can focus on more strategic work. Technology will automate common HR tasks like benefits management or handling common questions or requests.
As the importance of data in HR decision-making continues to grow, one of the biggest advantages of using HR software is the deep level of analysis that is possible with these tools. From identifying trends in employee engagement levels to predicting patterns in attrition; AI will enable you to understand your employees better and provide more personal experiences at work.
The analytics capabilities of HR software will continue to develop over the next 12 months (and beyond!) to allow for more detailed insights on everything from employee retention figures to the success of your health and wellbeing initiatives. Savvy HR leaders will then use this data as the basis for change, improvement and in the development of their modern people strategies.
Employee experience will be king
In the next year or so, the need for an employee experience that not only delights, but encourages, and helps employees to strive for greatness will become critical. With unemployment at an all-time low, the demand for talented workers far outweighs supply – so your business must do everything it can to attract, and retain top talent.
In conjunction with your employee engagement efforts, employee experience encompasses the physical, technological and cultural environment of a business. Recent research by KPMG found that businesses that invest in employee experience have “more than 4x the average profit and more than 2x the average revenue.” Citing the need for a ‘consumer grade’ employee experience, KPMG also found that employee experience can directly impact customer experience.
A good employee experience takes into account the physical environment they work in, the tools and technologies provided for them to do their job and the values you embody as a business. Think about the physical office environment, your culture and the tools and technology you provide workers: is the furniture comfortable? Is the office bright and airy or dark and imposing? Are your HR processes dated? What is your culture like? What is your overall leadership style? Do employees feel listened to? Is your tech up to scratch or are employees still requesting annual leave on a scruffy wall calendar?
HR for Gen Z
As the next generation enters the workplace, HR leaders will need to recognise that their needs will vary greatly to those of the previous generation.
As the first fully digital generation, these technology natives seek out careers in companies that are as digitally savvy as they are. Coupled with an inherent desire for a work/life balance that supports flexible working, Gen Z-ers crave face-to-face communication more than their millennial predecessors. They’re accustomed to video calls, fast-paced chats and communicating across platforms with their peers. It will become increasingly important that your methods of communicating with staff mirror this.
Research carried out by Peakon has found that the single thing that the Gen Z (those born after 1996) cohort value the most in an employer is their social conscience. This new generation of workers is so passionate about social causes and that they will accept jobs based on whether their personal values align with yours.
The state of your workplace will also play a key role in attracting Gen Z employees. They’ve grown up in an era where table tennis tables, snooze pods, barista coffee, pizza Wednesdays and beer Fridays are hugely valued at work. Though it is not enough to just check a box and introduce free healthy breakfasts and a game console or two, think about how your workplace fosters collaboration, connection and community amongst your employees.
Health and wellbeing will remain a priority
Research conducted here at Natural HR found that over three-quarters of businesses are prioritising employee health and wellbeing as an HR initiative in 2020. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the two leading causes of absenteeism due to work-related ill health are stress, depression or anxiety, and musculoskeletal disorders.
As we look ahead, it is safe to assume that there will be a renewed focus for HR leaders to prioritise workplace wellness and for good reason. In light of the Be Kind movement on social media, we’re more aware of the damaging impact mental ill health can have than ever before. We spend a third of our lives at work, so it is only right that coming to work isn’t detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
Happier employees are more engaged employees and will be less likely to leave as a result. Taking a proactive approach to employee wellbeing and mental health means your workers will feel valued and cared for.