Throughout 2018 we’ve collaborated with some of our industry’s finest thought leaders to host events, publish books, write articles and create videos exploring the ever-changing world of HR. During these projects, a certain number of trends have emerged above others inexorably. While there’s always an element of speculation, all signs point towards these five challenges taking centre stage for HR in 2019.
The B-word has dominated our screens, sound waves and newspapers in the last year. Only one thing’s for certain; the fiasco will continue throughout 2019. At the time of writing this blog, unless a people’s vote is cast, the UK is headed inexorably towards a no deal Brexit. According to The Bank of England, such a conclusion could mean ‘economic collapse’. A second vote would throw up a set of challenges of its own. Whatever outcome, HR needs to be prepared.
The socio-political climate of uncertainty, polarity and hostility will continue to overshadow all else. Looking at labour trends, people from 27 EU states filling a range of working roles in the UK are sensing the hostility and uncertainty as real and leaving UK organisations. This creates gaps and serious challenges for HR professionals being asked to source and fill vacancies while keeping a lid on the payroll at time of economic challenge. Trend one is therefore attuning a responsive approach to political uncertainty. Summed up in one word: pivots.
This recruitment drive will accelerate executives’ expectations of automation – not as an answer for five years’ time, but for now. Sourcing, designing and installing new automation technologies is bloody hard, and has been a mainstay on the Gartner Hype Cycle (the legendary methodology of plotting the conception and implementation of new technologies, from ‘inflated expectations’ through the ‘trough of disillusionment’).
Aside from the technological challenges, automation – as always – comes with a raft of ethical concerns. Few HR and recruitment professionals are equipped to handle the rising tide of digitisation, meaning much learning is required in the year ahead. Trend two is adopting more automated technologies to replace lost labour and bring ever more economical ways to process business transactions and functions. In one word: digitisation.
In line with digitisation, HR will need to ask itself some big questions – not just around how it operates as a function, but also how their organisations operate as a whole. While the idea of Agile HR isn't particularly new – in fact, it's a trend two years' running – the level of uncertainty we’re today faced with demands a more versatile and nimble approach to change management than ever before.
On top of that, executives will put pressure on HR to reorganise the modus operandi of organisations – in many cases, this will mean restructuring. Designing for agility is no longer some blue-sky initiative, it's a real-life necessity. Trend three is therefore more attention to the flow, energies, deployment and allocation of the assets of the organisation. In one word: fluidity.
These profound changes inevitably take their toll on people. Cognitive loading, as it’s known in psychology, is the way in which people process new information and tasks. When people are confronted with a constant state of complexity, new demands or shifts in requirements – and have to put in extra hours and effort to keep up – work can become less fulfilling.
When in a constant state of alertness, we become fearful, less capable, less socialised and more withdrawn from others. Trend three is simply about looking after people more, and catering to the fact they’re processing an awful lot beyond their conventional challenges. In one word: wellbeing.
The theme of change management will extend to the very roots of organisations; the employee journey. Customer experience has been the topic de jour for businesses for years, now finally the executive conversation is turning to towards the employee experience. Remaining competitive in today’s working landscape means delivering competitive employee experiences. This is particularly true for industries in which Brexit has hit hardest, such as retail, hospitality and construction to name a few.
Companies that take a considered approach to the employee experience will succeed in attracting the right talent, helping them to perform better and making them want to stick around for longer. By redesigning elements of the employee journey – from first interview to career development – businesses can develop more motivated and successful teams.
After all, great customer experiences start with great employee experiences. Trend three is the drive towards empowering people to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives outside of work as well as inside. This means recognising that workforces are made up of people, personalising each experience and promoting wellness. In a word: employee experience.
Brexit, digitisation, Agile, wellbeing and employee experience could all serve as ripe clickbait for any online publisher. But that’s because they really are the disorder of the day – and therefore should be the order of focus for HR professionals.
This is no oracle. Every practitioner will of course have their very own unique set of challenges (how’s the team bedding in to the new Berlin office?), but figuring out where these trends apply to their organisations, and then stewarding, designing and delivering solutions will be key – if not imperative – to success.
Let's leave it on a word to the wise from Perry:
“Buckle up, HR, and fix your mask before helping others fix theirs. We might some serious inhalation to get through this next year.”
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