HR plays a critical role within any organization. They ensure that an organization has strong communication, cooperation, and satisfaction across different departments and different levels of the managerial hierarchy. In many ways, HR is the glue that allows a diverse body of individuals with unique skill-sets to function as an organization with unified goals. Because of this connective function, any change within the organization must run through HR, and the agility of an organization often relies on HR. Thus, the most effective HR leaders must be highly proactive when it comes to monitoring trends and anticipating future developments. This article will discuss some of the key trends that HR leaders should keep in mind this year.
Four Critical Trends in HR
Trend 1: Hybrid Work is Here to Stay
The Coronavirus Pandemic shattered the traditional workplace as we knew it, ushering in the most pivotal HR challenges and changes in recent history. Chief among these changes was the rise of remote work, allowing organizations to function over communication platforms like Zoom and collaboration platforms like Google Drive without employees physically interacting. The pandemic forced organizations to adopt the infrastructure and employees to adopt the technical skills to work remotely, and these investments remain in place even as we begin to move past the pandemic.
Remote work offers numerous advantages, including access to a talent pool without geographic limitation, massive potential savings on office space, time savings from employee commute, and—for some employee personalities—higher job satisfaction or productivity. That being said, for other personalities, tasks, roles, and organizations, a physical work environment is irreplaceable. This balance between a remote and physical work environment characterizes hybrid work, which is likely to be the new status quo for many organizations.
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Optimizing this hybrid work environment is a challenge that will fall largely on the shoulders of HR leaders. They must communicate across the organization to figure out which tasks, personalities, and roles are best suited to which combinations of work environments. Some of this balance may be intuitive. For example, it would be pretty easy to generalize that programmers would be better suited for remote work than managers, or that routine status meetings would be better conducted remotely than more creative meetings. However, most of this process will come down to trial and error, as HR leaders collaborate across the organization to figure out what works best for each individual department, employee, or task.
Trend 2: Skill Profiles for Jobs are Evolving Faster than Ever
The skill profiles required for employees to remain competitive are becoming increasingly comprehensive and changing faster than ever. Jobs within an organization require more diversity and depth of skills than ever before. For example, jobs across every field now require more technological skills. Understanding how to use certain cloud computing products is becoming crucial for employees to complete, share, and collaborate on their work.
Beyond jobs requiring more skills, these skills are changing at a much faster rate than ever. Recent research indicates that nearly a third of required skill-sets on a job posting will become obsolete within just four years. As organizations become more globalized and technology develops faster, skill-set agility is necessary in order to avoid becoming obsolete when new techniques or tools become available. For example, softwares or platforms that are considered a core skill-set for a job may be necessary to abandon if a new, more advanced version can make that job more efficient in the long run.
HR leaders must communicate with employees to make sure they understand the importance of being versatile and adaptable when it comes to their skill-sets. HR leaders must also communicate with management to make sure policies are in place to incentivize skill development and make employees feel secure during transition periods.
Trend 3: Workforce Health is Diminished
Workforce health is a term that encompasses the job satisfaction of employees, their trust of those within their team, their trust in management, their feelings of belonging/purpose within the organization, and the strength of company culture as a whole. Workforce health has been trending down for a long time for a number of reasons. This is demonstrated, for example, by employee retention declining over the years.
The shock of the pandemic greatly accelerated this trend. Many companies went out of business, many more employees lost their jobs, and the pervasive uncertainty about the roles of employees within organizations fostered cynicism and distrust. Remote work has made it even more difficult to mend the damage to workforce health. It’s human nature to have more trust and care for people you physically interact with. Company culture is an abstract concept—but it’s proven to have a major impact—and that connection between individual and organization is much harder to develop remotely.
This certainly won’t be a simple problem for HR leaders to address. Working out the ideal balance of environments for hybrid work will be impactful, but it will ultimately require more personal and creative solutions. HR leaders must prioritize understanding their workforce and what matters to them. If they can accomplish this, it becomes possible to align these purposes, connect people with common ground, and ultimately forge a healthier workforce.
Trend 4: The Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) refers to organizational policies and the establishment of a culture that promotes equal representation, treatment, and inclusion of individuals from different genders, races, cultures, religions, sexualities, abilities and disabilities, etc. Strong DEI policies within an organization have been proven to have a myriad of positive impacts on performance and morale.
TIP! For a more comprehensive discussion of the importance of DEI in the workplace and strategies for achieving it, be sure to check out our article.
DEI has been a priority among HR leaders for many years and progress has certainly been made in certain respects. That said, DEI still has a long way to go in other respects, especially when it comes to diversifying the leadership of organizations.Organizational leadership tends to be drastically underrepresented in terms of DEI compared to the organizations they lead. This ideological inconsistency can sometimes undermine the impact of DEI throughout the organization.
HR leaders are likely to face pressure to come up with a strategy for applying DEI to the top of an organization. It’s never as easy to hold leadership accountable, but the duty of HR ultimately extends to the top of the organization as well. Strategies for facing this trend will differ depending on the organization and the openness of leadership to change. In any case, HR leaders will likely need to communicate the importance of upholding DEI at every level of an organization rather than just selectively.
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