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Peering into the future: HR trends for 2018 and beyond

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In the year 2020, India will have the youngest working population across the world. The average age of an Indian will be 29 years compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. The Indian workforce will be multi-generational, and primarily aided by increased flexibility and ease of working.

In such an environment, the use of technology is no longer an option but a strategic imperative for businesses and is likely to only increase in importance. With SaaS technologies being implemented for various business operations, the impact technology will have on the world of work is only increasing. With this as the backdrop we look at some trends that will impact HR practices at organizations in the near term.

The reality of the gig economy

Many organizations today struggle to identify and retain top talent and this is expected to intensify in 2018 and beyond. One option that many organizations will hence look to explore is part-time or freelance workers available in the global market. Currently this is being leveraged primarily for part-time work or project work however it is expected to extend to even traditional job profiles.

People argue that an Uber-like model of employment where the drivers are not employees but entrepreneurs in their own way and work with the organization to optimize returns for their efforts will find root in other industries also. The scope of the on-demand workforce is also likely to expand to include higher skill and impact jobs like Chief Marketing Officer or even CEO.

The traditional model of contracting would also be challenged as it may not be necessary for  part-time workers to be physically available on the ground to complete certain tasks. Availability in online marketplace for such skills will increase and companies will have to ensure those sources are considered in their talent acquisition process.

Job security is still relevant

Even though a large section of the working population is employed by startups and the like, the age-old concept of job security will however remain relevant. While low- and high- skilled employees will have the option to move to the “gig economy” a large majority are still likely to prefer the predictability of a monthly pay cheque.  Credit scores and access to funds for various reasons depend on this pay cheque to assess risk.

The behaviours here are likely to be fuelled by the increased competition and realization that the worker might be replaced by a younger, more efficient human or even a robot. Individuals will hence focus on staying relevant and more willing to invest in their own education and skill improvements while also being more available via phone, email etc.

Companies which draft policies to assist employees  stay relevant in the rapidly changing job market and focus on building technology-led innovation, where humans will play an important role, are likely to attract and retain talent more effectively.

The benefits bouquet

With multigenerational workforces, organizations will be increasingly forced to think about creating a truly flexible benefit plan that suits the needs of multiple generations. Innovative solutions would need to be deployed to ensure that the younger staff is assisted in achieving their life goals by helping them secure an education loan, house loan, etc., while ensuring that the older staff is assisted in their life goals of retirement planning, re-skilling for different jobs and  child education, among others.

These variations in the benefits are a major departure from a typical one-size-fits-all approach and HR departments will have to ensure that the necessary flexibility is built into the software solution to handle these various permutations and combinations.

The choice architecture

As the workforce gets more diverse in terms of gender and generations, organizations will struggle to accommodate the various choices that individuals and groups will make about what to do, when to do and how to do their work . Companies will have to ensure that effective frameworks are in place to ensure that these choices are being made in the most efficient and productive manner aided by technology solutions for effective workforce collaboration.

Companies will hence see their policies and procedures move away from the older rigid systems to a more fluid state of affairs focused on outcomes and individuals. How this is designed and deployed with the aid of technology solutions will determine how companies can leverage various variables of workforce diversity.

From engineering to design

Many organizations will start focusing on the “employee experience” similar to customer experience. There will be focus on the problems employees are facing and how best to solve them. This is likely to make the process of framing or reframing policies and procedures more democratic, with employees participating in the process as internal customers. The organizations’ focus will generally shift to the experience they create for all stakeholders and taking efforts to make that experience more delightful for everyone.

This requires a fundamental shift from a problem solving to a design thinking mindset. This is evident in the World Economic Forum report on the Future of Jobs where the top 3 skills required by employees were found to be complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.

Compliance becoming business-critical and complex

While most HR tasks are getting automated, the process of ensuring that the business is compliant will assume greater importance in the years to come. As many businesses including small and medium ones focus on markets beyond India, they would be forced to ensure they are compliant with local and in some cases global standards. Companies will continue to invest in this aspect as being a compliant business becomes table stakes. The world of compliance is, however, getting more complex with many new dimensions entering the equation.

HR leaders will have to ensure that organizations are responsive to these changes, particularly of the sexual harassment legislation. Technology will continue to play an important role in this area as multi-location businesses look to deploy efficient solutions to help them stay on top of various aspects of compliance.

Small data and big data

Large enterprises are focusing on putting together strategies around big data, while small and medium organizations will start or improve their analytics journey by focusing on small data. Small data is information that can be immediately interpreted and put to use by a human. The small and medium companies are likely to focus their efforts on identifying and analysing the information already available with them in a better manner to drive more effective business decisions. Business decisions in general will get more data-driven and organizations irrespective of their size are likely to take efforts and drive investments in this area.

In conclusion

The business environment of today and the future is going to be more complex and businesses will have to be in a perpetual beta mode with respect to all aspects of their businesses. Individuals will also be in a similar mode with respect to their career and skills. This presents a very dynamic situation for individuals and businesses which they will need to learn to manage in order to thrive. Technology solutions which understand and simplify this dynamic world of work will be deployed by businesses to ensure they build specific capabilities to help them win in the market.

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