In the face of uncertainty, how can the HR function intelligently respond to the crisis and help adapt resilient workplace practices? In this article, we deep-dive into human interaction, connectedness and innovation.
Traditionally, the focus of HR was largely administrative, day-to-day functioning and inward-facing. Today, it has become a more dynamic, complex and strategic function encompassing everything from workplace productivity, to providing support, people management and strengthening company culture.
Connecting it to the larger business objective, making the HR function act as a strategic partner as well. Over the years, it has evolved into a complex, intricate, forward-thinking personnel/ people function. However, the transition has been far from easy, and there is still a long way to go for the HR unit.
While the HR function was in the midst of figuring out new changes, COVID-19 resulted in posing new questions around managing remote work, measuring productivity, retention and employee wellbeing, etc. bringing employee dimension to the fore.
So, what now? How can companies manage their employees and themselves in this new normal? How can the HR function evolve and adapt further to help employees stay connected and help achieve productivity/ profitability during this highly uncertain time? How can HR become a business-enabler and strategic-thinker? What is the role of HR in revolutionising workplace culture?
In these uncertain times, as we try to figure out the meaning and future of work, the workplace and the workforce, we need to understand ways in which the HR function can intelligently respond to the ongoing crisis and adapt resilient workplace practices.
The pandemic and its effects on the way we work
It goes without saying; the COVID-19 pandemic has completely ensnared businesses, agitating industries and functions in its wake. It has pushed companies to adopt mechanisms/ tools to improve employee engagement, increase innovation and improve quality.
Right from remote working, to now partially-reopening workplaces, companies have started to incorporate technology, or are on the road to incorporating technology into their HR function to create seamless work, workplace and workforce experiences.
The current pandemic has also made companies think about employee wellbeing in a new light and how they can leverage tools to inform strategic decision-making.
In recent years, we have witnessed the HR function grow leaps and bounds – with companies introducing chatbots and AI, people analytics, visualisation tools and self-service technologies as well as incorporating flexible work, PoSH and diversity policies, etc. It is important to identify solutions which might work for companies based on their own needs.
Technology in HR trends to watch out for
The gig economy and remote work
Gig-working is here to stay. Gig work has significantly shaken up the workplace, and has had a positive impact on a lot of companies. Similarly, remote work has also become a powerful force, and its adoption (especially, in recent months) has further ignited faith in the gig economy.
In such a scenario, it becomes important for HR to change the way it has been operating thus far. What has worked in the traditional structure, might not be relevant in the post COVID-19 world.
Digital trust is paramount, and with companies having data driven and data-backed answers related to their people/ organisation, it could help them re-configure and reset for this new way of work, not temporarily but permanently.
Implementing people analytics
Today, more and more companies are using data to drive HR-decision making. Speaking of data, how can companies leverage their data sources (employee surveys, salary history, recruitment data etc.) to make the right decisions?
The adoption of people analytics has been increasing in the recent past as companies become more inclined towards taking data-driven decisions. People analytics enables companies to take everything into account – hiring, retention, attrition, headcount, employee demographics, salaries, performance etc. and to provide actionable insights pertaining to the current HR processes.
In order to adopt people analytics into their everyday HR function, companies can approach solution providers which bring to them customisable solutions such as;
- manage auditing
- error handling
- track efficiency in real-time to provide visibility into costs
- gain insights across the entire hire-to-retire cycle
- help make more informed (data-driven) decisions
The power of predictive and prescriptive analytics in HR
Predictive analytics (using analytics to look into the future) and prescriptive analytics wherein the focus is on doing something about the predictions and providing recommendations on what to do in the future, based on past and current capabilities and priorities.
It helps business leaders make important evidence-based decisions. It can help look into poor and high performers, finding the right talent, addressing learning and development needs, candidate joining prediction, cost of hire, identify the best culture-fit, among other aspects.
It helps optimise evidence so one doesn’t lose out on opportunities – analytics can help fill up gaps in terms of quality and quantity.
There has been a sudden change in recruitment ever since the pandemic started; companies have shifted to a virtual selection and recruitment process. Video interviews, online assessments and questionnaires and the use of AI tools to find better matches has gained prominence, helping companies overcome a host of short-term and long-term challenges.
Such as optimising the cost per hire, which tends to be a costly affair if you map the per hour cost of all the stakeholders involved against a particular requisition. The use of newer technologies such as chatbots, AI-tools and HRMS technologies help remove unconscious bias, shortlist and sort candidates and promote culture-fit hiring.
By letting technology bundle mundane and monotonous tasks, HR professionals can focus more on strategic initiatives. One other trend which is catching prominence with recruiters is identifying the best skill sets and traits of the best performers, this helps in hiring culture fits and the next star performer for teams.
Furthermore, there are tools which help identify ‘joining prediction’ to maintain an objective view of the talent pipeline.
As people continue to work from their homes, collaboration, information-sharing and fostering relationships has become more important than ever before. In this new working environment, technologies which enable monitoring, supervision and feedback along with gamification can play a big role.
Managing the workforce and enable companies to drive accurate results, enhance productivity, train and engage employees, improve reportage and productivity measurements. People analytics can positively impact the biggest concern organisations face today – employee churn.
With training the predictive model to spot deviant behaviour, organisations can save huge dollars which goes up in finding, hiring and training an incoming/ joining employee. Companies are analysing historical data to identify parameters leading to churn of employees and ramping up their practices to counter or minimise such incidents.
Understanding aspects such as the cost for HR per hire, absenteeism, healthcare costs per employee, revenue per employee, etc. can help an organisation identify its HR metrics and, in turn, measure employee productivity.
Identifying their own HR metrics can help organisations track employee performance. It even helps focus resources on what is most important, and helps identify when something is awry.
Employee productivity, satisfaction and engagement are co-related streams and these contribute to the Happiness Quotient (HQ). It is difficult to define it and there is no one-size-fits-all framework for these attributes.
For some employees’ perks are enough, while for others flexibility matters, some might want recognition, growth, etc. – the list is endless. Analysis of behavioural data can lead to finding those peaks as well as lows of your workforce and curate an optimum strategy for your business.
Innovative and interactive HR policies
Equipping the team with the right tools can result in upgrading individual and collective performance, eventually resulting in a streamlined workforce.
For teams separated by the current remote-work scenario, it boils down to closing the gap on social distance at work by introducing communication tools, productivity tracking applications and time management software’s.
Additionally, an employee’s development needs have also come to the fore; today, companies need to invest in people’s individual development and wellbeing on the job through informal and formal learning.
Retention and attrition have also become critical challenges for companies; skill development, inclusivity and diversity policies, learning and development, and accessibility to opportunities are all driving forces to maintain employee retention.
Once HR policies are implemented, their success can be measured using analytics by examining correlations between initiatives and strategic objectives. Workforce data and HR metrics can also be used to gain actionable insights and determine effectiveness of HR initiatives and policies.
Encourage autonomy, employee wellbeing and loyalty
While supporting creativity and innovation, it’s also important to encourage autonomy in the workplace – sometimes all it requires is getting out of the way of your employees and avoid micromanagement. Additionally, with so many instances of employee fatigue and burnout, employee wellbeing has gained an increased focus for businesses.
By implementing training and practicing mindfulness at work with the help of applications can help realign/ de-stress employees. Employee engagement and loyalty is, at the end of the day, brought together by a mix of a few things – collaborative work, recognition among peers, mobile learning, skill development and so on.
Now, with us working remotely, what role can technology play in maintaining employee loyalty? How can we all stay connected to ensure work isn’t hampered? These are some of the questions companies have begun asking themselves.
And, it is when we start asking the right questions that everything begins to fall in place – eventually re-imaging and resetting the HR unit – taking it forward, in the right direction.
It goes without saying human behaviour is complex, and difficult to understand, which is why it is important to continue driving innovation in HR, as well as maintaining a balance between human interaction, connectedness and technology.
By drawing up effective strategies and policies for HR, utilising technology, introducing digital skills, encouraging remote working models and supporting employee wellbeing – going forward – we will be able to establish a stronger, more productive and profitable workplace. Companies need to identify and evaluate their own unique challenges and then adopt technologies which will best address those needs.
About the Author
Tushar Sonal is Marketing Consultant & Lead Blogger at Polestar Solutions. He likes to read and blog about emerging technology trends and how companies are riding the wave of technological disruptions brought by data, to innovate the way they operate, and how to emerge on top.