The COVID pandemic has pushed organisations to reinvent their business models in order to survive in a rapidly-changing world. This period of swift and abrupt transformation has also forced us to rethink the traditional role of HR, requiring CHROs to lead a smooth transition while motivating the workforce to adapt to new formats.As these changes gradually become entrenched, the HR function must expand beyond business continuity to focus on the future of work. We must take a proactive approach and anticipate the risks that will emerge with this evolution.
COVID-19 has also taught us a valuable lesson about risk management in HR, which includes preparing for the future of work and how it will impact employee management, performance, and evaluation. When we think of this future, we must consider every aspect that will impact work, starting with the very definition of a workplace. The emergence of remote working and a fluid workforce has changed how workplaces have traditionally been perceived, and has accorded businesses more agility when it comes to staffing.
At the same time, this hybrid workforce also raises myriad challenges, including integration with existing employees, the role of leaders and middle managers, career roles and progression, and finally, the cost economics to ensure optimal value for the enterprise. Then, there are challenges associated with attracting and retaining the right talent, given that the definition of talent itself is changing, as business needs undergo rapid evolution. The increasing diversity in the workforce requires another shift, in ensuring a sub-culture that promotes pluralism instead of discontent.
The risks associated with these changes require us to look past the usual solutions to ensure that HR systems also stay agile in responding to these rapid shifts in organisational culture. We need dynamic risk mitigation in HR policies, that goes beyond token team activities or welfare schemes. The radical shift in how work will be conducted in the future necessitates reinventing and reimagining the role of the HR.
Here are the five core competencies that an HR must develop:
Understand the industry
In today’s hyper-connected world, HR managers must learn to map risks and opportunities in terms of the industry they are operating in and not confine themselves to their organisation alone. This panoramic view is necessary to track industry trends and disruptions that have the potential to affect the organisation by impacting core HR functions, such as recruitment, training, and skill development. Hence, HR managers must strengthen their industry network, keep up-to-date with the latest developments and assess how they can intervene to strengthen their organisations.
Take the charge
Today, many see HR as just one of the functional arms of the company management. However, their role is much broader when it comes to shaping the human potential of the organisation. As the bridge between the upper management and the employees, their role extends to all sides of the organisational hierarchy. Therefore, they must have an active voice when it comes to shaping management thinking, especially in critical areas like recruitment, talent management, creating a human-centric culture, reskilling for the future, and enabling change. But to bring this transition and ensure impact, they must have the courage to call out any discrepancies or mismanagement, and be prepared to back it up with meaningful, data-driven risk assessment.
Contrary to perceptions, HRs do not always have the authority to take executive decisions, however, they do have the influence to motivate others. Today, businesses are moving towards a fluid workforce, comprising freelancers, gig workers, and consultants. In a such a situation, HRs have to work harder in honing their influence and leveraging it to bring change. This influence must extend beyond the organisation to involve external stakeholders, such as the state authorities, trade unions, and the local community. When applied correctly, influence facilitates the implementation of strategies and ensure sustainable impact. To build influence, they need to establish a rapport with different stakeholders, nurture their network, and elicit their trust. They must see to it that personal goals are aligned with organisational objectives.
Be open to ambiguity
COVID has taught us the importance of staying flexible and open to change. This extends to the standard rulebook. If we want to see workplaces become more dynamic and employee-centric, we have to bring agility to HR policies that have been set decades ago. We must revisit policies that are not compatible with the changing workforce and workplace culture. Given that we are in a period of transition, a certain amount of ambiguity can also help us in introducing new policies and bring about a gradual change in the organisational culture.
The agility we want to see in our organisations has to start with HR. As we are going through this transition phase, we also have the opportunity to revisit, re-evaluate, and experiment with different approaches. As organisations consider more efficient business models, we also need to define our priorities vis-a-vis the workforce. At the same time, we must make sure that any experiment is relevant, impactful and cognisant of the risks involved. It must be backed up with a robust risk management plan that identifies possible risks, analyses their impact, and lays out an effective risk mitigation strategy.
Today HR leaders are in a position to lead the transformation in business, and the economy at large. To effectively discharge this role, they must start by questioning conventional practices and their relevance in contemporary times. In other words, they have to start with redefining their own role, reimagine a more impactful future, build its framework, and gather the courage to leap into the future, taking their organisations forward with them.