Bensely Zachariah, Global CHRO, Fulcrum Digital Inc.
As organisations shift to hybrid work, technology can help companies manage new workforce challenges while taking care of the well-being of their employees. For that, business leaders will need to rethink their technology investments and reset growth.
One of the questions that leaders across the world are confronted with today, is the return to work. Companies must be prepared to ride the waves of change ahead, whether that’s shifting from remote work to hybrid to remote again, or frequently changing in-person protocols to adhere to new safety guidelines. The hybrid work model has become the ‘new normal’ in the way work is done. As organisations shift to hybrid work, forward-thinking executives will think, too, about shifting their technology investments.
Technology is the oil that the hybrid model glides on
Technology can help companies manage these new workforce challenges while taking care of the well-being of their staff. Gartner’s Future of Work analysis shows that 16 percent of employers are using technologies more frequently to monitor their employees through methods such as virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chats. While some companies track productivity, others monitor employee engagement and well-being to better understand employee experience. As organisations are increasing their investments in technology, one thing is crucial – to ensure their systems are agile and configurable so they can easily grow and change with their evolving needs. These systems can do much more than improve efficiency and reduce manual work. There are key touchpoints that can be leveraged to improve the overall work experience. Compared with three years ago, the share of companies that have automated various human resource functions has increased. However, some key areas like strategic workforce and succession planning, continue to be people-driven.
Revamping the ROI outlook while choosing HR tech
In order to make a digital transformation program successful, there is an increasing recognition that systems and processes impacting people would also require to be addressed. However, arriving at the ROI in HR tech is not so simple. The traditional approach to investing in HR tech has been to consider factors such as reduction in processing time for various tasks such as payroll, compliance, leave and attendance management, and others. Thus the rationale is often built around productivity enhancement which is important but is still subject to debate on the quantum of risk versus reward as well as the timeframe when the outcomes are possible to be achieved. As we look to the future of business, leaders recognise the value of a more thorough and detailed analysis of their organisational data. HR tech is becoming more personalised and this will help businesses become flexible and adaptable, creating platforms that fit their circumstances much more neatly than a ‘cookie cutter’ piece of tech. While there are different forms of tech being brought into the workplace, some places are even using the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant to offer a basic question and answer service. In a true digital transformation, the adoption of emerging technologies is just one part. The bigger goal is developing a workforce and culture that hone the types of relationships, behaviours, and skills that speed innovation and bolster experience and the bottom line.
“In a true digital transformation, the adoption of emerging technologies is just one part. The bigger goal is developing a workforce and culture that hone the types of relationships, behaviours, and skills that speed innovation and bolster experience and the bottom line.”
Intelligent remote working
Hybrid work is the future. According to McKinsey & Company research, nine out of ten organisations will combine remote and onsite work. However, a hybrid work model needs more than a desktop in the office, a laptop at home, and an internet connection in between. AI can be used to improve hiring remote workers, but it can also be used to improve remote working itself. Remote AI will help remote workers save a lot of time by automating administrative tasks they would normally need to complete manually. In the coming years, artificial intelligence will enable a more efficient remote workforce and significantly increase the work-life balance for employees.
Smarter training & development
MASIE Center, an international learning LAB, states that employees finish only 15 percent of the learning programs that were assigned to them. Despite this fact, organisations spend billions of dollars on employee development programs annually. AI-equipped learning programs can solve this issue through:
- Automation of all the processes that save time
- Personalising the learning and reinforcement processes that boost engagement
- Personalising the learning and reinforcement processes, that improve completion rates
- Automation of analytics that measures learning effectiveness and others
Furthermore, personalised training and development programs can be executed through AI. For example, when a fresher is about to go for his/her first client meeting, AI can offer a quick synopsis of the client’s ‘about us’ page, along with some key points on ‘how to make a positive first impression’.
“MASIE Center, an international learning LAB, states that employees finish only 15 percent of the learning programs that were assigned to them. Despite this fact, organisations spend billions of dollars on employee development programs annually. AI-equipped learning programs can solve this issue.”
Data security is the need of the hour
A digital workplace program should not just be an IT initiative. It requires collaboration and input from various functions, including HR, IT, operations, real estate, and facilities management. Hybrid work, as well as remote work, increases the surface area for cyber-attacks. Enterprises who may have thought they could survive a year of temporary remote work with scant security tools will discover hybrid work commands the same kinds of risks. Businesses are already in the process of adapting. According to the 2021 State of IT report, businesses are investing more in cybersecurity. For instance, in 2019, 64 percent invested in employee security training tools; in 2021, 73 percent have invested in it or plan to invest. Security budgets will likely continue to increase as hybrid work grows, increasing the surface area for cyberattacks. As such, smart executives will proactively invest in security (rather than wait to react to a security issue). Network security, considering the variety of connections, will be especially important.
What used to be a slow-moving corporate technology space a decade ago is now a $148 billion market of HR cloud solutions to address the needs for the future of work. It’s not the technology alone that provides meaningful and engaging work experiences—HR cloud was never meant to be the full answer. But technology does provide the foundation to modernise HR for ways that people want to work and for what the business needs.