There are always new priorities for HR, and their evolution tends to be anchored in the social, political and economic events going on around us which shape the needs of the workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly informed many of the HR trends that are emerging and brought the employee experience into sharp focus.
Here are some of the areas on which we think that HR and people professionals will be concentrating their efforts over the next year and onwards.
Post Pandemic mop-up
If the pandemic taught us anything it was to expect the unexpected. Agility has become the panacea for many organisations so that in the event of a disruption, there are systems and processes in place ready to respond to a crisis.
One of the main challenges will be how HR leaders will effectively manage hybrid and remote workers on a permanent basis as more and more people opt for this new working style to maintain a better work/life balance. In fact, according to Gartner, this will be a priority for 42% of HR leaders.
However, presenteeism is also something that HR will battle with as they develop their hybrid working policies. HR is going to have to flip its view of productivity by rethinking how it measures it. Leaders need to shift their mindsets to see impact and results as the yardstick by which to assess productivity instead of the time spent in the office. Changing the approach to this can help retention efforts, build a more robust and trusting workplace culture and bolster the employer brand.
Mental health will be a priority
There is no doubt that the most significant effect of the recent turbulence, from the pandemic and the Ukraine War as well as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, has caused a great deal of stress for many people. Add to this the growing incidences of ‘eco anxiety’ in the workplace where people become increasingly anxious about the climate emergency and it’s clear that mental health is a challenge that employers can no longer shy away from.
According to The Mental Health Organisation, more than one in six people experience mental health problems in the workplace with full-time female workers almost twice as likely to have some form of mental health issue than men. What’s more, mental health in the workplace is costing businesses as much as £8 billion a year. This will see employers putting a greater emphasis on mental health support provision, offering private medical insurance and putting improved wellbeing strategies in place to help their people weather the difficult times.
An emphasis on Future Mapping
Against the backdrop of economic turbulence, ensuring your business is properly equipped to deal with disruption is going to be key. However, despite this being a growing priority, 43% of HR leaders say they do not have an explicit future of work strategy.
One way organisations are managing this is by sourcing the skills needed in order to future-proof their workforce – one that is becoming increasingly dominated by Gen Z. However, the growing trend of older generations returning to the workplace thanks to lack of money in retirement is also boosting the internal skills talent pool. In fact, this anti-resignation could see up to five generations of people working within the same company and bringing a mix of skills together to service the needs of a progressive organisation. The challenge will be managing this diverse workforce and that requires robust leadership.
One consideration for example is the working model preference of each generation. This considers the type of employee benefits that they demand, as well as salary and employee expectations. All of this will mean managers need to work flexibly to accommodate these differing needs, in order to maintain an equilibrium within the workplace.
Additionally, in order to maintain a talent pipeline, aligning the recruitment of new hires with business outcomes will be the focus for many. Decisions are going to be data-led and facilitated with a more robust HR tech strategy to make the process more seamless for candidates.
The human-centric leader
As the workplace dynamic alters to accommodate these new approaches to work, the multigenerational demographic and the push for sustainability to be at the forefront of organisations, successful leaders will need to be more human-centric.
This type of leadership requires empathy, adaptivity and authenticity, essentially, a person-to-person approach which aligns with employees’ desire to be seen as a whole person, rather than a number in the headcount of an organisation. In fact, the Gartner study found that 82% of employees say that it is an important consideration for them. If leaders can achieve a balance between leading and treating employees as ambassadors and colleagues, it will help build a workplace of the future, offsetting some of the disruptions experienced over the last few years.
Employee Experience is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g
The employee experience has been placed front and centre of any business worth its salt as job seekers look to ensure companies have everything on their tick-list. According to Gartner, this new expectation of employees for businesses to satisfy their demands cannot be underplayed. Figures show that over half (52%) of people said that organisations which offer flexible working would significantly affect their decision to stay or leave.
The new employee expectations are also a huge factor in retention and recruitment and even onboarding. This includes organisations offering a generous and relevant employee benefits package, internal mobility options, training, a healthy company culture, a robust DEI policy, flexible working policies, a commitment to sustainability and a wider CSR strategy, and increased - or at the very least, improved - wellbeing initiatives.
Increasing use of Artificial Intelligence AI
Conversational AI is something that will certainly be creeping into the HR tech requirements in 2023. Chatbot systems and chat GPT for example are able to help recruiters market, screen and even hire candidates without a single human interaction. McDonalds, for example has been using its AI for hiring process for the last couple of years and has reduced time to hire rates by 60%. These new AI-driven tools at HR’s disposal will be able to impact things such as service delivery, case management and recruitment as well as offering potential assistance in areas like coaching and L&D. Automation and analytics and HR data will certainly feature in the arsenal of tools to help HR improve the organisational design with the business.
While there are many things that are likely to inform how HR develops its approaches to the better management of its people and the improvement of the employee experience as a whole, these six areas are the most likely to be prominent. And while there is overlap across these trends, a holistic approach to people management will always be preferable to a singular focus.
The next 12 months will be pivotal for many organisations as they start to rework their people strategies for a very new, and very different working landscape.