With the face of the workplace changing in a way never seen before in history, HR has evolved dramatically - the Covid-19 pandemic and virtual working have pushed changes that no one expected to happen so immediately. With all these changes, it’ll be interesting to see how HR will adapt, shape the future of work, and find solace in new business-enhancing specialisms.
I began my IR & Personnel journey two decades ago. Have been witness to changing business dynamics that required time to time changes in people’s strategy and approach. Also witnessed the expectations that the organizations had from the HR function. The role of HR and the positioning in an organizational context kept changing.
When I started, my role was as an IR Officer and was required to manage the workers in plants. The staff term was then used for employees who were working in administrative blocks. I remember my prime role was to maintain good and effective relations with workers. Used to participate and celebrate festivities with my workers. I was also required to monitor shop floor attendance every time there was a shift change, my responsibility was to ensure there is no shortfall of numbers else production will be impacted. Many times, I will stop workers/ ask them to stay back for extra work, send my teams to workers’ colonies to get the workers to manage the shift. All policies/ processes and any new intervention was the responsibility of the Corporate HR function. Corporate functions used to be small teams then.
Time changed, moved into a services company. My role was now HRD, remember being designated as Executive HRD. The comparison changed, you are a Corporate employee and you are a Regional office employee. 8 Regional Office needed to frontend sales and customer services. The Corporate Office had all core business functions. Corporates functions used to be power centers with every function holding their turf. Getting corporate office employees to agree on a common agenda was way challenging and it took a longer time. Powerful and Successful Regional Heads were the blue-eyed boys of the business. High level of motivation, togetherness and drive was visible in these regional teams.
Time changed a bit, now it was Corporate Teams, Regional Teams and 5 State Teams. The new concept of Regional Teams was introduced to manage the sheer business volume and geography. State teams were responsible for delivering the numbers. Regional Team members were experts who needed to work with Corporate and State Teams. They were experts who will be responsible for driving business in the region and their respective state functional leads. Their role was to drive central policies, ensure and create awareness, involved in audits/ reviews and will ensure all support is organized for state teams. They were also responsible for regional approvals/ recommendations. Regional teams being one more level, met with challenges and continued to be questioned on their relevance and value addition, lost their stay.
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Between Corporate & State teams, what to delegate and what to retain continues to be a challenge. Autonomy and empowerment continue to be questioned frequently by State Teams. Driving volume is the responsibility of State Heads and someone driving, and exceeding was allowed to have/ participate in the final call. The corporate function continues to drive new policies and processes and State teams are expected to implement them.
The Role of HR continues to change the way business dynamics changes and so is the overall people structure. Pandemic and virtual working have pushed changes that no one expected to happen so immediately. Most working professionals are experiencing such change for the first time in their lives and careers.
Based on the various interactions I have had with HR and business professionals I have arrived a few of them impacting us and that we are expected to change faster than ever. Have summarized few pointers as bellow; they may not be all but some of the crucial ones that the HR fraternity has been grappling with and has been acting upon –
1. HR has two roles, one of a Specialist and the other of a Generalist.
The challenge that I see is that it will have its first impact on the generalist role and let me tell you why. There is a huge amount of automation that has been witnessed in the last few years and this lockdown has focused on pushing it further. Also, we have seen the self-service model evolve every day.1.The day to day work challenges are mostly addressed and all data and information required by the employee are available in self-service portals. The point of connection with the HR function is lesser as compared earlier. With work from home, this has pushed every employee to spend time in these HRIS or other people related system learnings and become proficient. You are now expected to know your HRIS well.
2. Employee benefits, the companies providing these services have considerably improved over the years.
They are now proficient in handling issues and are well connected through their partners across geographies. Their focus on technology gives them an edge to provide real-time employee information and support. They provide an implant and help desks to support employees. These portals are now part of single sign-on access in most organisations.
3. Learning & Development moves out of the rooms to virtual mode.
As we move to virtual the expertise (variety/ abundance) is suddenly a big opportunity. Connecting employees virtually from anywhere any time opens a different dimension. Simulation-based training experience is the future of training. The major difference between simulation-based programs is that it enhances better experiences and is sharp and real. We have every learning solution available on virtual platforms today and customizable as per organisation needs.
4. Talent Management practices and employees are connected with their managers more than ever.
The managers play a more important role today as they are expected to build trust both personally and professionally along with driving performance and engagement. Retaining and developing talent becomes essential for them. If a manager is going to be responsible for every decision pertaining to people, 4.he is expected to become effective HR Managers as well. All tools currently in control of HR shift hands to the people managers and they will have a much bigger and larger say.
5. HR has been a custodian of policies and practices, rules and regulations, culture and environment.
In a sense, HR is expected to do policing and writing the dos and don’ts. Trust plays an important role and it now shifts in the hands of employees. Keeping in mind the virtual and multi-location and geography connect, all things driving policies and processes will undergo change. Keeping the organisation interest in mind and the people’s expectation has to be clearly drawn.
6. Emphasis will be on delivering results and not how the results are delivered.
Working hours will not matter but the timelines will. Goal Setting, KRA settings and mid-year/ annual review will be revisited. Most organisations are now reviewing their existing PMS in light of continuing lockdown/ new way of working.
7. Gig working is introducing us to a new breed of talent.
They come and deliver the required outcome and they move on. These are a set of specialist and temp workforce who will be hired for a specific set of work. For them, commitment to anything other than work/ money will have no meaning. Every organisation will have a plan to manage this Gig workforce. HR will have to adapt and plan differently for the changing workforce.
8. The millennials believe in practicality and they get attached to an element of a common vision.
Creating a common vision and ensuring that they clearly understand the same will play an important role as we have more young people joining our workforce.As we focus on moving power over to employees and empowering them, the focus has to be on employee coaching that will ensure that the organisation’s interests are met and protected. Click To Tweet
9. To continue to attract the women workforce, radical thinking and support systems need to be created.
Attracting and retaining talent will be a challenge as they go through the pull and pushes of managing work and home. I believe with work from home becoming a common feature, this will open up new avenues and opportunities.
With all these changes emerging I see the HR structures become leaner. I also see new HR entrepreneurs with a shared services model coming-up. They will provide entire HR services under one roof i.e. hiring to retiring. They provide end to end services and expertise to unlimited clients across industries. In a true sense, they manage outsourcing.
By being leaner, I believe very few HR resources in an organisation and they work closely with CEOs/CXOs and help with the critical contribution in running the businesses. They help bring clarity and manage the change in the businesses as true HR Business Partners.
This brings to fore another important question, what is needed as future capabilities for HR. HR professionals have to be Coaches, Mentors and Counsellors and help employees perform in the new evolving environments. They will have to facilitate collaboration between individuals and teams that are separated by time zones, distance, geographies and different cultures. HR has to move from compliance mindsets to build the future organisation by inculcating trust and confidence.
As we focus on moving power to the hands of employees and empowering them, the focus has to be on employee coaching that will ensure that the organization interests are met and protected. HR will have to enhance the manager capabilities so that the managers can handle people processes with maturity and enable in creating an environment of trust.
HR has adapted and evolved with changing times and so will they again. Believe it, we have to enhance more finesse and sharpness.