At the end of 2019, just 9 percent of CHROs polled by Gartner felt their organizations were prepared for the future of work. COVID-19, of course, reduced that number even further.
Living through 2020 and approaching 2021 has shown HR leaders the need to concentrate on key factors to ensure they are prepared for future uncertainties. It is not just the pandemic exerting its effect; it is also the onward march of digitalization, accelerated further by COVID-19, which has exposed the lack of critical skills.
Professionals working in HR careers must prioritize the critical needs of organizations to tackle their current and future challenges. Digitalization has revealed skill gaps and tested leadership, along with uncovering the need for abilities to restructure businesses and manage change.
What must HR leaders do?
HR leaders understand and accept the world is unlikely to return to the old normal anytime soon, if at all. Reimagining approaches to and styles of work is a great way to build a future-ready workplace and culture. They must exhibit a strong element of empathy in their roles, along with expending energy and time on areas likely to be the most beneficial for an organization. These include helping leaders manage remote teams over the long run, keeping the culture intact with a widely dispersed workforce, and engaging workers while tightly leashing costs.
What are the top priorities for HR?
Here are the most important focus areas for HR:
- Developing competencies and critical skills: The pandemic has changed the nature of work, and 71 percent of learning and development leaders believe these changes have led to over 40 percent of their workers needing new skills. Managing the changes in skill requirements requires identification of areas whose skill needs have changed, breaking projects and roles into individual outcomes and skills, and facilitating intra-organizational movement by involving employees in gauging skill requirements. For success in their HR careers, HR professionals must consider equipping themselves with eto be able to better discharge these responsibilities.
- Elevating the employee experience: The workforce is now highly distributed, courtesy of the pandemic. Given how some employees are at the workplace while others are partially or fully remote, this will help engage them and boost their work performance. Key issues for HR leaders to address include employee commitment to their colleagues, helping employees build up the capabilities essential to be successful in disruptive times, and shoring up their belief that the organization values them and cares for their wellbeing.
- Prepare for the future of work: Look at what the future of work could be like, and study its likely impact on the organization. Three years is likely to be too long a horizon, with a quarterly plan being more useful and purposeful. It is important to comprehend the permanent changes effected at the workplace by COVID-19.
- Enabling effective arrangements for flexible, remote work: Several organizations have announced plans to continue remote work for an extended period, possibly never visiting or returning to a physical workplace. Logistics and organizational culture with people not working in physical proximity to each other require much attention in these times.
- Changes in organizational design: There is a need to move away from the practice of senior leaders cascading initiatives to employees. An open-source approach, by involving employees directly, is more productive, boosting the likelihood of successful change by as much as 24 percent. Leaders and managers must engage in two-way dialogue, accepting the toughness of the current situation, and lending an ear to employee reactions.
- Support to leadership: Resilience is a top requirement from leaders, who in turn need institutional, personal, and team support. HR needs to facilitate partnerships between leaders and help them overcome skill gaps through combining with other leaders whose skills are complementary. Remote work implies a 3.5-times-more likelihood of remote employees collaborating with at least five teams, and leaders must take charge of ambiguous situations, securing essential resources for their team members, and connecting their direct reports and teams with each other to procure more resources and develop the requisite skillsets.
To ensure success in these endeavors, HR professionals would do well to take up the best HR and talent management certifications. These are indelible proof of the holder possessing the latest skills and know-how in the HR field and are helpful in landing higher roles and responsibilities.