Rethinking the Future of Work and Workplace- 2021
The year 2020 will always be remembered as a year of extreme challenges and unprecedented situations which was faced by several companies all over the world. It swayed from caring for employees to surviving the least expected and declining profitability. It was truly a year of survival for the entire industry. As COVID -19 did spread its wide wings all over the world, our country also was not left untouched. The businesses suddenly faced challenges such as streamlining structure and cost, redefining employee experiences, automation, faster evolution of digital technologies, and a dramatic shift of the business ecosystem from in-person (or physical) to virtual processes.
“Giving it a new thought and positivity, 2020 hasn’t been that bad either. The role of HR became more indispensable than ever. When going gets tougher, tougher gets going is a phrase that was applicable to the innovation and work performance that was put forth by the HR professional”
The HR professional in 2020 had to go beyond his/her daily routine of business partnering to care for the employees’ safety and wellbeing to help them ride this wave of anxiety & exhaustion, being connected even and supporting the usage of virtual mediums, streamlining structures and handling downsizing and grievances. Even if we have stepped into 2021 with a positive zeal the invisible enemy is still there to haunt our employees & workforce. Hence the HR professional must up their ante and be ready to be more than HR manager, rather being the conscience and motivation managers in order to maintain a strong and healthy workforce for business.
HR professionals have a moral duty to accentuate the transition and help the workforce as well as business to stabilize, be in right mental frame, and grow. Some key HR trends to look out for in 2021 are as follows.
Remote Working or Office Working
Covid-19 was a year where work from office took a backseat offering an impetus to work from home which posed impeccable challenges for the HR professional. While work from home is not a phenomenon which may continue to exist for long, it is a rising trend creating volume of opportunities for the employees and employers. Government bodies have already started encouraging work from home by giving clear indication of formalizing the work from home practice by way of creating draft model standing orders for various sectors.
Challenge is now to rethink the working models and deploy a Hybrid culture at work. It will not only help organizations offer more flexibility to employees and remote working inspiring employee loyalty and motivation but also help rationalize organizational cost structure in many counts. Of course, it may throw some challenges in the beginning until all stakeholders find it convenient to adopt virtual interactions a way of life.
Recruitments Through Virtual Mediums Rather than in Person
Recruitment without f2f interaction at least at the final round was never thought of in pre-Covid period. While virtual mode of interaction like Skype was earlier in use for recruitment to some extent, huge influx of other efficient virtual interactive mediums like ZOOM, MS Teams etc though were seen as challenge initially, have become the new normal today. With increase in remote workings employers have started developing more reliable and sophisticated methods of recruitment through virtual mediums. With improvisation of technology including AI, gradually virtual mode of recruitment will become the trendsetter in terms of voluminous outreach to candidates, segmentation, analytics & shortlisting from among large candidate data base as well as more reliable & cost effective selection process compared to traditional way of recruitment.
This new trend in recruitment will be seen more & more among organizations in 2021 & beyond and the HR professionals or Recruiters need to attune themselves to this new trend and adopt to new technological interfaces.
Organizations has a huge responsibility towards caring for employees’ health and wellbeing which has become a big trendsetter for 2021 & future. The role of HR is no longer about carrying out motivation and employee engagement programs but involves responsibility to care for the employees mental & physical health and wellbeing. COVID-19 has made many of employees suffer mentally and physically.
With a sudden surge of work from home, inability to differentiate between work and home has been a challenge. Isolation, uncertainty of jobs and stress has accelerated a mental pandemic among the employees. As the organizations adopt to the Hybrid work culture, it is important that the employee feels supported through the journey. In these extraordinary conditions, balancing between work and personal life, and also working at home all becomes a challenge. HR professionals need to standup to the challenge and drive for mental wellbeing of employees through innovative and trending methods & programmes.
Flexible Work Schedules
Increasing trend in work from home also calls for a flexible schedule for the employees. Work from home is not always limited to “work from home” but becomes “work for home” as well. The employees are being forced to do domestic work at home and attend to their daily remote working for office/work.
In such a challenging scenario, flexible work schedules are here to stay and HR professionals will have to adopt to the same creating innovative ways to align team working & task accomplishment in midst of such flexible work schedules.
Organizations are now preferring leaner work structures to maintain their cost viability with declining profits. Many have resorted to restructuring of organization, manpower, compensation, work/ production schedule. In this effort to maintain leaner organization culture, there will be implications for many of the employees which needs to be handled not only with due sensitivity but adherence to change management processes by respective HR professionals.
Learning and Development Focus
Even if Covid-19 pandemic has come up with a huge challenge to survive the tide but the implementation of virtual mediums has opened new opportunities & tools for employee learning at remotest of the places without having people gathered at a training center. Due to accelerated growth in automation and reduction in manpower at workplace, it has become utmost important to assess and eliminate the obsolete and redundant work & processes and train employees for future skills.
Learning has become as important as any other routine business task. When the inclination earlier was towards holding workshops and seminars periodically to provide an opportunity to employees to hone their skills, the prevailing pandemic has provided the opportunity to voluntary learning of employees anytime and anywhere. HR professionals are required to facilitate this new way of learning to meet the need for continuous evolution and adaptation for the employees.
Rise of an Innovative Performance Culture
Change is the only permanent thing” and it is here to stay. As the employees are adopting hybrid work culture or WFH culture, so also flexible work schedules, it is important for the organization not only to stay connected with the employees but also assess and improve the performance level of the employee by deploying innovative methods and scales of performance measurement. Information Technology and HR analytics will be playing a huge role in development of an energized and innovative performance culture without stretching the employee limits, but with improved employee connect and periodic monitoring & feedback of performance.
Communication & Engagement
With the change in times, the definition & approach for employee communication & engagement has changed. It has provided opportunities for connecting with larger audience across the globe without being limited due to space constraint, distance or the travel time and even eye contact ceiling or the like. The new mode of connect supporting multiple mode of communication such as visual display, audio communication, chat messaging and more over features that helps know real time participant presence, conducting real time audience poll, muting audiences or chatting with selected audiences etc. has created efficient communication mechanism.
HR professionals would be required to get used to the new & upcoming trends including technology in such virtual mode of connect, communication, engagement and even hosting of events, functions or celebrations, being innovative, to achieve maximum result.
Need for Rejigging of People Policies
People policies are one of the key things that generally facilitate employees perform and deliver business results. This is possible only when the policies are contemporary & relevant to support employee alignment, motivation and infrastructure needed for business performance.
In this changing time there is a need for HR professionals to continuously assess changing employee needs as well as business needs to ensure the people policies, be it on work schedule, Leave & Holiday, Health & Wellness, Rewards & Incentive, or IT infrastructure support etc. are updated and aligned to support employees perform being agile & motivated. Further, there is also a need to understand implications, if any, from legal perspective of the changing working pattern or the policies to proactively ensure readiness to deal with such eventualities.
Upcoming Labour Codes and Implication
Amalgamation of labour laws into four labour codes has been an uphill battle for Government and the central trade unions yet the government insists with implementation of the new labour codes as part of its ease of doing business agenda. With these new codes coming into operation, it will give rise to a new trend among HR Professionals for transition readiness as well as internalization of the changes in the organization.
Rise in Fixed term working culture, GIG & Platform workforce as well as restriction in free structuring of compensation are going to be the trendsetter of innovation for HR professionals in the best interest of the organization, to not only contain cost but drive productivity & motivation.
With introduction of new terms like GIG, Platform worker and Fixed Term Employment, there would be an increasing trend in project/ assignment specific or time bound/ close ended employment giving rise to separation of such employees upon completion of assignment or employment term. The rise of such class of employees pose huge challenges towards the HR professionals in managing their aspirations, motivation and social security. New and robust processes will be required to manage their survival in the industry.