guest column:Emmanuel Zvada

Is (human resources) HR going to be on the crossroads this coming year? HR is in danger of becoming a general function, but its fate is in its own hands. In order to respond to the changing employment landscape, HR needs to collaborate and upskill, embracing new technologies and disruptive innovations.

The function needs to evolve and develop. Elements of HR and the hiring function are already being replaced by technology, and disruptive innovations are rendering many HR roles obsolete.

We all recognise this: we live in an era of constant innovation and change, and this is no different for HR. Yet trying to keep up with HR innovations and future HR trends in 2020 while managing your day-to-day work can be exhausting. Business today is obviously all about people, meaning that processes, practices and HR trends in 2020 are vastly diverse — as they should be. Latest HR trends and developments within the field have had an impact on the use of the term HR itself. As HR is developing, the term should be in line with the work that is done: the term human resources could imply that people are a resource that can be used just like machinery.

Trends affecting human resources

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The big generation gaps

The generation between 20 and 35 years of age, known as generation Y, or the “Millennials,” will represent half of the workforce by 2020 and three-quarters by 2025. An increasing life expectancy and an ageing population means that people are working beyond ‘normal’ retirement age. However, there is also an influx of smart young talent, pushing the boundaries of working culture. There are many preconceptions about Millennials, who are a heavily stereotyped demographic. Common assumptions include an absence of employee loyalty, a tendency to “job hop”, a sense of entitlement regarding earnings, progression and training, a high degree of technological competency and confidence, and an expectation of employer loyalty and attention.

The two generations will present HR with the following questions; on what points do the old and new generations agree, and on what points do they differ or even completely oppose one another and also a question on where new generations (Y and Z) represent radically different employee profiles, forcing HR to confront the immense challenge of reinventing its vision and strategies in dealing with them.

Shift in employment landscape

In addition to the changes in how we work and who we work with, many also believe that we could see a significant shift in how we are employed. 83% of executives employ temporary workers and 46% believe that over a fifth of their workforce will soon be contingent 23. This trend looks set to continue, ensuring that the 2020 workforce will be increasingly flexible. It has even been suggested that traditional employment could disappear, replaced entirely by self-branded individuals selling their skills.

While this may not come to fruition, there has certainly been a significant rise in contracting, with an increasing number viewing themselves as members of a discipline, as opposed to part of a company. From an organisational perspective this increase in flexibility appears positive, but it comes at a cost. Many non-permanent workers are not sufficiently integrated into a business, often experiencing mistreatment, exclusion and the inappropriate delegation of unfavourable tasks, reducing their productivity. Another issue is the “principle-agent problem”.

The move towards Agile organisations

Traditional organisations are built around a static, siloed, structural hierarchy, whereas agile organisations are characterised as a network of teams operating in rapid learning and decision-making cycles. Agile organisations must truly empower project leaders or “product owners” and give them real decision-making authority, develop them, and redefine their rapport with immediate superiors. This takes a very good calibre of “highly aligned, loosely coupled” managers who are able to make decisions and be driven in less formal settings. It also means that decisions must be made at the lower echelons.

Data analytics transforming HR

Data analytics will continue to be adopted rapidly in the year ahead. Using analytics, data driven decisions can be made by HR professionals to attract and retain top talent. The coming year will provide endless possibilities to use analytics in identifying trends and patterns on employee absenteeism, leave frequency, employee turnover rate, engagement level, among others. Data analytics will play a prominent role in increasing workforce productivity and engagement as well as improving workforce planning and talent development. HR analytics is the application of statistics, modelling, and analysis of employee-related factors to improve business outcomes. HR analytics is also often referred to as people analytics, talent analytics or workforce analytics.

Issue of HR titles to match the culture

You are most likely already familiar with redefining terms such as people operations, happiness officer or people and culture. These changes should be embraced, because they reflect on the new and coming nature of HR. However, be careful not to use trendy terms just for the sake of it! Whatever you choose to name HR in your company, make sure it reflects the work you are doing.

HR has been evolving a lot as a function in the last couple of years. A lot of the future of HR will be decided by the investment of top leaders in some of the most serious challenges HR is facing today. The changes happen slowly so most of them won’t be addressed and solved in the short run.

Integration of HR

It is very crucial to note that HR will become a set very diverse skill. HR will be composed of tech savvy people, data scientists, recruiter experts. Those that are technologically savvy will survive. People that are able to do copywriting, for job descriptions that correspond to the company culture. People that are able to read data and forecast trends. People that are on top of the latest technology and can solve problems or bring additional benefits to the company. People that are connectors, socially active and can attract more talents to the company. HR will be about diversity of skills.

HR becoming more social

Intranet, internal social platforms, internal “WhatsApp”, and many other ways of promoting online collaboration and communication across the company will be part of HR responsibilities, Workplace WhatsApp groups gaining more momentum than any other platform of communicating. HR can use social tools to drive behaviours in office performance by giving extra benefits to high performers of the month or give incentives to employees who are great brand ambassadors. The work experience will be taken live and will bring a stronger social component to organisation

Mental health and work life issues at workplace

Last but not least, a topic gaining attention is mental health. We have seen a disengaged workforce, the search for purpose, people breaking away from the more traditional career paths. Maintaining work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace.

Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. Our desire to succeed professionally can leave us forgetting about our own well-being. However, creating a harmonious work-life balance is critical to improving not only our physical, emotional and mental health, but also our career health.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and an international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity.