We find ourselves in the midst of a period of profound transformation, where every facet of our lives and work has experienced a seismic shift. Over the last three years, geopolitical uncertainties, the looming specter of climate change, an increased focus on mental well-being, and the far-reaching impact of technology, notably Artificial Intelligence (AI), have reshaped the dynamics between employers and employees.
However, amid these remarkable changes, I see a silver lining. HR leaders now have a unique opportunity to shape and refine their organisations’ value propositions. I would go so far as to say that the role of HR has never been more pivotal than it is today. They not only serve as the lighthouse guiding and supporting organisations through crises but also act as the vital bridge connecting corporate objectives and the ever-evolving expectations of employees.
Certainly, the challenges are formidable, and conquering them in such a dynamic environment demands more than mere adaptation. It requires anticipation, staying ahead of the curve, and seizing new opportunities. How can this be achieved? Firstly, by understanding the prevailing HR trends, and then by responding with agility, foresight, and a sense of empathy.
Prioritising Mental Health
Social media platforms like LinkedIn are rife with stories of companies going the extra mile to support their employees’ mental well-being. Conversely, organisations facing criticism for not doing enough in this regard are also common.
The crux of the matter is that employee expectations have evolved significantly since the pandemic, placing mental health and well-being at the forefront of every initiative. Worker well-being is now a sought-after objective as organisational culture undergoes a major shift. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), employers’ support for mental health is a vital consideration for job seekers.
In the realm of mental health, a new trend is emerging where companies adopt a holistic approach, addressing the whole person rather than just individual aspects. HR leaders can take several measures, such as offering counseling sessions, providing healthy food options in cafeterias, organizing financial education programmes, and implementing training and upskilling initiatives. More importantly, a policy that encourages employees to voice their concerns, feel valued, and acknowledges their life outside of work, including family needs, can significantly promote mental well-being.
The reasoning why mental health has become such a key topic is straightforward: for an organisation to thrive, its workforce must be both physically and mentally healthy. When an employee feels secure, appreciated, and valued, their contributions to the company’s greater goals increase.
Skills-Based Recruitment is on the Rise
While college degrees are valuable, possessing the skills necessary for a job is becoming increasingly critical. The trend of skills-based hiring is on the rise, with companies placing more emphasis on experience and attitude over academic qualifications. Recent research by Remote reveals that skill-based hiring has surged by nearly 63%, providing companies with a broader and more diverse talent pool.
Recruiters are prioritising skills over degrees for a reason. Individuals hired for their talent, agility, and solution-oriented thinking are more likely to be passionate about their work and make substantial contributions to the company. Additionally, motivated employees are more likely to stay committed to their roles.
Fortunately, technology has provided us with cutting-edge tools, including AI algorithms and data analytics, which unlock the potential of prospective hires, foster innovation, and maintain a competitive edge.
I need to emphasize one point though – the rise of skill-based recruitment should not undermine the importance of formal education or hard-earned qualifications from top colleges. Formal education is valued but in times of upheaval, companies prefer candidates who can augment their educational degrees with real-world skills. My advice to candidates is simple: invest in knowledge and acquire as many new skills as possible. Stay abreast of technological advancements in your field and equip yourself with insights into emerging trends to enhance your efficiency and productivity. As for recruiters, they should learn to look beyond the degrees on the CV and pay equal consideration to the additional skills, including soft skills that a candidate brings on the table.
AI is Changing the Game
If the significant social and economic changes of recent years have already transformed HR functions, generative AI is taking it 10 steps further. There’s no escaping AI, so my advice to HR teams is to embrace it, as the benefits far outweigh the risks. Many HR professionals are already utilizing chatbots and experimenting with AI in recruitment.
The deployment of AI tools – whether for hiring or developing strategies to enhance employee productivity or gather data for various teams within the company – enhances the efficiency and insights in HR functions. No wonder our engagement with Generative AI is set to soar.
Here again, lies the opportunity for HR to creatively harness AI. Use these tools for gathering information and insights, but ensure that you translate what you learn into actionable strategies. It’s also vital to foster dialogues about AI within the company and establish guidelines for its usage.
A two-word tip: Humanise AI! Human elements can make AI more robust and effective. HR should use AI to boost its capacity, gather data, and craft policies that benefit the organisation. Insights gathered through AI can bridge the gap between top management and other employees, foster a better understanding of departmental needs, and boost productivity. HR leaders can also use these insights to offer personalized, tech-enabled experiences for employees and customers. Encourage the organisation to invest in AI products that aid in understanding employee skills and promoting talent and career planning.
HR leaders should set a vision for change by helping the company boldly reimagine the AI-enabled enterprise. Above all, they should be early adopters, embrace new working tools, and lead with empathy and compassion while supporting various departments in adapting to these changes.
Sustainability Takes Center Stage
The significance of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting is on the rise as customers and stakeholders demand greater transparency in ESG performance.
For HR and business leaders, environmental awareness and sustainability have gained increased importance. HR leaders must play a pivotal role in creating and implementing sustainability strategies within their organisations.
Given the urgency of the climate action, sustainability initiatives can’t wait and HR needs to contribute to the overarching goal of promoting sustainable business practices. HR teams have always focused on people, hence it’s their responsibility to engage employees in sustainability projects of the company. And if employees are not involved wholeheartedly, it will impede a business’s ability to achieve its sustainability goals.
While the specifics and mechanics will vary for each organisation, HR will be involved in facilitating conversations with employees and the board, defining a code of conduct, and engaging with employees through training, competency models, and leadership development. In other words, HR is indispensable in driving the technological and cultural changes necessary to support the sustainability goals of their organisation.