4 Trends That Will Dominate the HR Industry In 2021

The nature of the COVID-19 disruption catapulted some industries to prominence while quickly debilitated the foundation of others, leaving them reeling for growth

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The catastrophic hit dealt by the coronavirus pandemic was an overwhelmingly challenging and transformative experience in equal parts. The nature of the disruption catapulted some industries to prominence while quickly debilitated the foundation of others, leaving them reeling for growth. Nonetheless, every sector had its share of challenges and lessons that shaped the trends for that industry.

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Organizational leaders felt the urgent need to quickly re-pivot their strategies around these future trends that are shaping their businesses and build future-ready workforce capability, enabling easy navigation of the new world order.

A few trends that will catalyze the future of work, workforce, and people practices:

Trend 1: Accelerated tech adoption

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change- Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin may not be an organizational leader, but his observation about change is everlasting. Digital transformation and the hard-pressed need to shift to virtual space (for businesses to maintain continuity) made organizations squarely aware of the new-age technologies to adopt immediately. The adoption of HR technology skyrocketed to keep processes running smoothly even remotely; everything from payroll automation to reskilling initiatives management to AI in recruitment to chatbots for employee experience and mental wellbeing went virtual and gave way to widespread HR-tech tools implementation.

According to a global CIO survey, cloud adoption is a significant technological initiative for about 79 per cent of the participating organizations. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other Cloud technologies also rank high in their tech adoption roadmap.

The conundrum the future of workforce presents is unprecedented at best. On one hand, we need skilled knowledge workers to help organizations adopt new technologies, on the other hand, the risk of these technologies shrinking the present-day job numbers looms high.

According to a report by Bank of America, Indian firms might slash 3 million jobs by 2022 due to RPA (Robotic Process Automation). The silver lining is while low-skilled job roles would be replaced by automation, advanced in-demand skills would help create millions of new jobs that could eliminate redundancy.

Trend 2: Employee Wellbeing takes the centre stage

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of employee wellbeing and experience, making it one of the top business imperatives in an increasingly remote work environment.

Organizations are investing time and finances to find the best ways to help their employees deal with changing work realities- allowing more flexibility at the workplace to help employees make the best of their personal and professional lives. Leveraging HR tech like chatbots and pulse surveys for employee experience lets employers understand the employee challenges in remote work. Reimbursing internet expenses, providing ergonomic office infrastructure at home, apps for health services, vaccinations, on-call counsellors, insurance covering Coronavirus and a host of other diseases for employees and their families- corporates are leaving no stone unturned to ensure employee wellbeing is meaningful. All such initiatives eliminate employee feelings of anxieties and health-related stress, ensuring they don't have to worry about things that matter most to them.

Trend 3: Focused reskilling- for soft skills, new-age skills, and blended roles

The grim reality about tech adoption that we are forced to face is our workforce isn't ready with modern-age capabilities. Additionally, when going through hundreds of job descriptions for various companies for various roles and on speaking with multitudes of leaders, the thing I have come to realize is the growing need of soft skills in the knowledge workers. These in-demand skills are communication, team collaboration as well as individual contribution, conflict resolution, and working around ambiguities in a volatile virtual world. Another trend worth mentioning is the birth of blended roles. Organizations today demand professionals who not only understand how to work in an increasingly uncertain world, but also perform on a mix of other adjacent skills. For example, a professional with Java skills who can also mine data as a data scientist or a performance marketer also equipped in branding and website management.

That's why reskilling and upskilling needs to be transitioned at war footing for business and livelihood sustainability. The people left out of jobs because of the sudden dipping of sectoral demand in the industries like automotive, transport, hospitality, and travel can be absorbed by the surge in employment in other in-demand skills and sectors by efficiently reskilling them with new-age skills relevant to modern workplaces.

Trend 4: Hybrid working model

While Facebook, Amazon, Dropbox, and American Express have already shifted to full-time remote work, other companies like IBM now allow 3-4 days work week from the office. It will let teams collaborate on some days and work on executing the plans and strategies on other days. Employees and managers can discuss and decide on the best days for collaboration and execution. Moreover, the hybrid work model also brings down business costs and employees' commuting time, directly impacting the business bottomline while offering increased employee flexibility and work-life balance levels.

Furthermore, as offices reopen, managers will have to integrate their pandemic hires into the office culture seamlessly. Ensuring emotional and operational integration and the physical safety of new joinees is paramount.

Technology has played a transformative role in every industry, and organizations must build their people capabilities and infrastructure capacities to build their competitive advantage. For people-centric initiatives, creating a trust-based environment with enhanced levels of cooperation and flexibility will help with the easy assimilation of people. Empowering employees with solutions to work in this new hybrid work model will ensure they are more collaborative, productive, and efficient. Together both these aspects will launch and ready us for the change realities of the post-pandemic world.