7 key future of HR insights from Brian Kropp of Gartner

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To kickoff our HR edition of our New World of Work video Q&A series, our CMO Harish Peri sat down with Brian Kropp, Group Vice President and Chief of HR Research at Gartner.

They honed in on fresh insights from Gartner's ReimagineHR Conference and other essential aspects of the new way we work, plan, and lead - all of which HR leaders should be aware of when preparing for 2021.

These are 7 important HR insights that we hope will shed some light on how companies can make the workplace experience better for their employees in the post-pandemic world. (Check out the video below for the full conversation).

7 key HR insights as we head into 2021

1. Adopting a more humane and resilient approach to HR that sees the employee as a person, not just a worker that comes into the office.

When working in an office and working from home became almost synonymous during the pandemic, managers and leaders across organizations worldwide got to see a more holistic image of the people who work there.

This new perspective led to an increased understanding of employees' needs, motivations, and expectations and a greater interest in helping them bounce back and thrive in this new environment.

And as compared to how companies were making profit-driven decisions concerning their workforce during the global economic crisis of 2008-2009, this shift is a step in the right direction, as Brian notes:

"Now, what we're seeing is companies say, 'Well, we have to be successful as a company obviously, but how do we make our employees as successful as possible as well, and really treat our employees like stakeholders in the process, not just like workers in the process.' So that's been a big fundamental shift." 

As it relates to creating a more humane organization, employers should focus on building deeper and stronger connections with their employees, helping them live better lives from all points of view if they want to adapt successfully to this new world of work.

 

2. Creating a seamless digital experience across multiple platforms will be the deciding factor for employee retention.

Nowadays, employees expect to work wherever they want, while still having the same data access, interactions, and communications they'd have while working in the office. 

And today's increasingly remote working environment doesn't only provide employers with a vast talent pool to choose from, but it also allows employees to move from a company to another much more freely than before.

Therefore, investing in the right technologies is essential in keeping employees engaged and motivated.

"If you're not building seamless experiences, the employees that you've got now [might take advantage of their] options. It's easier for them to shift to another company because they no longer have to move where they live to go to work for a different company. They can keep living where they live and just start working differently. And that reality is good."


3. Implementing technology that enables new, meaningful ways for employees to collaborate.

One of the most significant downsides of the new hybrid model of working is that the emotional and social connections built through in-person interactions are more difficult to reproduce through a video meeting on Zoom, for example. 

Nevertheless, companies fall into the trap of virtualizing all those experiences that were once part of the employee experience in the office. The reality is that most of the time, that doesn't work. 

We need to ditch the use of virtual sticky notes on virtual whiteboards and develop new, more effective ways to collaborate, designing with virtual interactions in mind from the start.

"We should not simply virtualize the processes we were doing before, but instead create new processes, new workflows, new ways to build connections that work in a virtual environment - that are designed for a virtual environment. If we don't do this, our virtual experiences will always be clunky." 


4. Taking on the opportunity to decide the office's new role.

All of the changes to the working world that we've seen this year have opened our eyes to the fact that we do have the technology to work from other places.

What holds us back is the old mindset that simply considers the office as 'the place where people go to work.'

Now that we can choose where we want to work, companies are left to determine the fate of their office space. Rather than rushing to get rid of it, the better course of action would be to ask ourselves what role we want our offices to take on.

"The job that our office had in the past was the place where the company could scale, and put in place the tools and resources that people needed to do their work. But it doesn't really have that job anymore - it now has a whole set of other possible jobs, including being the place where we create these social connections, the place where we build our culture, the place where we actually collaborate. And the place where, if we want to be more aspirational, we invite customers in and co-create with our customers to identify solutions for them."

Having that conversation first will uncover numerous opportunities to use that space in new ways we wouldn't have thought of before, while also supporting our communities and the next generation of employees. 

 

5. Shifting managers' attention from monitoring employees and measuring performance to facilitating interconnectivity across teams.

This transition is occurring because managers have come to rely on technology to manage people. This trend has accelerated due to the pandemic, with employers investing in new monitoring technologies for their remote workers.

In addition, much of managers' tasks are now automated. For example, we now have artificial intelligence-based tools that can audit expense reports, provide performance feedback where needed, and build accurate, personalized work schedules.

If we were to extend this business process automation scenario, we'd find that up to 70% of a manager's tasks could be replaced by technology in the near future. So the manager's job will have to evolve to focus instead on facilitating connections between employees, and between employees and leadership in the context of the organization, regardless of whether they're working remotely or not.

"We believe the role of the manager will shift from measuring and monitoring the performance of their employees, and tracking the work of their employees, to being much more of a connector for their employees - socially, emotionally, to the broader organization, and to their broader careers. Managers will have to become a conduit to everything else, and not simply be a manager-evaluator coach of performance."

A new level of control and awareness will be required, however, to avoid potential negative consequences of this shift.  These include micromanagement behaviors created through constant check-ins, and discriminatory practices affecting employees who choose to continue to work from home. 

 

6. Making workforce planning more agile, as location is no longer a job constraint and skill demand is harder to predict in the long term.

The process of workforce planning will depend on two things. First, identifying the skills an organization is going to need in coming years, then finding where those skills emerge in the context of a highly remote world of work.

Gartner's recent comprehensive analysis of the evolution of job postings shows that the number of skills required on a resume has increased by almost 40% in the last five years. Surprisingly enough, half of those skills are no longer found in a job description today, which dramatically decreases our ability to predict which skills will be in demand 10 or even 5 years from now.

Consequently, workforce planning will focus on shorter time horizons, which will, in turn, lead to shorter workforce build timelines.

And in the current heavily remote working world, employers will have to look for the best skill set concentrations in terms of quality versus cost, instead of aiming for the lowest cost geographical hub. 

"You have to shorten your time horizon decision. That has all sorts of implications for your buy/build decision-making process. Because if you can't predict what you're going to need, you don't invest in a ton of resources in building stuff, so you're going to have to buy more. You're going to have to think about shorter build horizons, and you're going to have to think about skill adjacencies." 


7. Building organizational resilience will require a reevaluation of all systems and processes within companies.

One important thing that the pandemic taught us is that most employees are highly resilient, even in some of the most unexpected situations.

However, their resilience has been greatly depleted by their attempt to follow all rules, systems, and processes that companies put in place to ensure a high efficiency level.

That's not to say that there shouldn't be any rules at all, but organizations should focus on those that support their employees, their culture, and their workplace  instead of just sticking to rules for the sake of tradition.

By doing that, companies will gain more flexibility, which will allow them to quickly recover in the face of adversity and restore their employees' resiliency.

"I would do everything I possibly could to put more credits back in that personal resiliency bank account that they have, and I would look hard at my organization and say, 'What are we doing that just makes it hard for our employees to get stuff done?'"

Reimagining the workplace of the future

In closing, determining the components of the new workplace and employee experience in 2021 and beyond will require companies to answer key questions, such as:

  • How do we better understand our employees' needs and support them, their families, and their communities in the most humane ways possible?
  • How can technology foster collaboration and innovation outside of the office? 
  • Which new roles will our office spaces take on?
  • How will managers' roles evolve in this new environment, and how do we facilitate this transition?
  • How do we rebuild the individual resiliency that our employees once had, and how do we build organizational resiliency?
  • How do we hire and retain talent in a much more digitized and remote world?

As we move forward in building the future of work together, we'll need to collaborate and share knowledge across organizations, industries, and roles to ensure that our people truly do come first.

 

Interested in learning more about our changing world of work? Check out more conversations with industry leaders below.

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