It’s fair to say that at the start of 2020, few would have predicted the turmoil to come. A global pandemic was simply not on anyone’s radar, and those who did anticipate such a disruptive, game-changing event were probably not taken seriously. Such is the nature of forecasting in such a rapidly changing world — the risk of getting it wrong has never been higher.
Read on for five emerging trends that will shape the HR profession in 2021.
Trend #1: HR will consolidate and build upon the strides made in 2020
Few issues have tested one profession’s mettle quite like COVID-19 has tested HR. Tasked with handling everything from troublesome technology and team-building to sickness, furloughs, poor mental health, low morale and new ways of undertaking and assessing work tasks, HR proved itself the go-to, unifying function in a crisis.
So, what does this ultimately mean for the profession? In years to come, will 2020 be noted as a significant break-through year for the profession? Evidence suggests the answer is yes.
Trend #2: Adoption of a ‘dynamic skills approach’ will escalate
Instead of predicting the future, a dynamic skills approach anticipates skill shifts as they are occurring in real time, and adapts to those shifts in an iterative, course-corrective way.
A dynamic skills approach calls for two-way skills transparency between the organisation (e.g. what skills it needs, what skills it no longer needs, or where its needs are unknown) and the employee (e.g. current skills and interests).
HR is then able to create channels for employees and the organisation to exchange skills information, which facilitates a better match between employees and their organisation to pursue mutually beneficial and flexible skills development.
Ultimately, a dynamic skills approach helps HR sense shifting skills requirements in real time, develop skills at the time of need, and empowers employees to make informed skills decisions.
Trend #3: ‘Hyper-automation’ will fast-track digital process adoption
Hyper-automation allows organisations to augment humans and automate as many business and IT processes as possible using advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA).
Hyper-automation extends across a range of tools that can be automated, but also refers to the sophistication of the automation. That is, the tasks to be automated.
When basic HR tasks are automated, the HR function can shift from being a supportive and mainly transactional department to a business-driven, strategic department.
Trend #4: Performance management will finally catch up to agile business operations
It makes logical sense that as workplaces reinvent themselves, so too must the processes that enable employees to excel in this brave new world. However, there’s one stubborn process stuck in time, and that is performance management — specifically, performance appraisals.
IBM identified the reinvention of performance management as a key component of the profession’s shift to “HR 3.0”.
Key characteristics of this approach are:
- Shorter-term goals
- Continuous feedback
- Multi-dimensional assessment or no assessment
- Managers accountable for ratings and conversations
- Results being used to coach employees
- Mobile applications and tools allowing for continuous feedback and updates
Trend #5: Workplace cultures will reform and reset post-pandemic
Since the pandemic, some leaders have been forced to ask tough questions. For example, did the choices and actions taken during the height of the crisis reflect our culture and the values that define us? If not, where was the disconnect?
Other leaders may be asking how many of their organisational values are contingent on everyone sitting in the same room. How can one demonstrate a value like “continuous innovation”, for example, if the ideation process is dependent on everyone being in the office?
COVID-19 confirmed that many entities and individuals can work effectively in a crisis. However, a popular meme circulating post-pandemic highlighted the need to take a fresh look at all aspects of life: “In the rush to return to normal, use the time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
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