Anna Tavis is clinical professor and academic director of Human Capital Management Department at NYU School of Professional Studies, Senior Fellow with the Conference Board, and an Academic in Residence with Executive Networks. Tavis has been named to Thinkers50 Radar for 2020. Her latest book: Humans at Work. The Art and Practice of Creating a Hybrid Workplace was published in March 2022. She is a frequent presenter at international conferences on topics including the future of work, people analytics and technology, and employee experience.
What has been shaping work and the workplace in the hybrid era?
The aftermath of the pandemic, dramatic climate change, and political instability around the world are resulting in major disruptions in the way work is being done. A set of new solutions is emerging to counteract these trends, including accelerated technological innovation, unprecedented scientific advances, and the emergence of the younger generation of workers with the most purposeful intentions. The way we look for answers to the most daunting issues is also changing. Organisations are betting on adaptation, agility and experimentation to find answers to the most pressing questions in the hybrid era of work.
How do you see the larger transition to hybrid work models? What are companies prioritising?
The shift to hybrid work is just beginning. The transition is raising many questions about the hybrid format itself and the larger impact it will have on culture, productivity and collaboration. There is no one-size-fits-all. Every organisation needs to get on the experimental path and decide what type of hybrid model will fit their business, their employees and their customers. In the beginning, the decisions centred on splitting the time between the office and home. The future hybrid is not about the schedule but about the choice—choosing between location arrangements, technologies, and, ultimately, about the “work to be done.” The “hybridization” of work has just started, and the new options will continue to multiply. Every company needs to be prepared to experiment, innovate and change as they continue to learn about what kind of hybrid works for them best.
As hybridization of work accelerates, what are the top areas HR leaders should focus on in 2022?
The HR leaders' first priority needs to be a focus on upskilling the HR function itself. With technology and data dominating every field, HR professionals need to be analytically literate and technologically agile. The future of the workforce is at the intersection of data, technology, and humanity. Given “the black box” of technology, HR needs to understand what is in it, and the impact it may have on humans and insist on making human-centred decisions. HR should be able to leverage tech in a way that helps humans flourish.
What has changed about ‘talent”—their preferences and the mass resignation after two years of covid disruption?
The most notable change that came about in the pandemic was that the word “talent” is no longer HR’s currency. It became obsolete fast. Organisations are now about people, not “talent” alone. Employee experience is replacing traditional HR practices, and the entire HR tool kit is being redesigned to serve the entire employee population, not just the top 10%.
So, what does HR transformation mean to you, today?
HR transformation is a test for HR to determine whether HR can adjust, adapt and continue to provide people solutions to the current needs of the business and the working people. HR needs to be agile, learn fast and be bold. I am excited about the prospect of HR stepping up to the enterprise leadership role and helping organisations make people-centred decisions along the way.
What are some of the biggest challenges that HR leaders must prepare for?
The biggest challenges for HR are threefold:
The unpredictability of the future - HR needs to balance continuity with change.
The growing employee’s decision power - HR needs to stay alert to the fluctuations in the workforce.
The complexity and power of technology - HR needs to step up and be at the table in the technology adoption decisions.