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Preparing For The Future: HR Trends In 2023

August 7, 2023

If there was one positive from the covid 19 pandemic, it was that more organisations came to the realisation that remote working was possible for significantly more roles that in the past may have been strictly office-bound.

Several benefits arose from this in terms of providing employees with more flexibility which can be an effective recruitment and retention tool. The ability to work remotely may also support organisational strategies around equality, diversity, and inclusion, opening up work opportunities for people who require flexibility.

However, remote working does potentially raise some challenges for organisations, most notably the impact on communication, a sense of belonging and team working. Organisations can overcome some of the barriers around remote teamworking by providing learning and development opportunities for their teams to explore how virtual team relationships can be developed and maintained.

Preparing for the future of work is at the forefront of many of our minds. As University educators, my colleagues and I are constantly thinking about how we enhance the employability prospects of our students when they graduate and how we can prepare them for roles that may not currently exist. Organisations should also be having these conversations and considering the potential HR implications including having to re-skill or re-focus existing employees and how to attract a new generation of talent.

There is widespread appreciation across organisations for the importance of employees having ‘soft’ skills and this is commonly reflected within job adverts, job descriptions and person specifications. However, there is still a gap in further developing these skills for existing employees and learning and development budgets.

This should be moved higher up the agenda as part of organisations’ talent management strategies. In the context of how many organisations can now be described as being international, either through where and who they do business with and/or having more culturally diverse workforces, I argue that cultural intelligence should sit at the heart of soft skills training. This can be advantageous for both organisation and employees.

Post-pandemic, there are organisations which are still dealing with the financial implications of two years of uncertainty and potentially lower profits. Where this has an impact upon staff pay and rewards, organisations need to consider how to engage employees through the provision of intrinsic and non-financial recognition for their efforts. Potential options include employee empowerment, increased employee learning opportunities (which can be delivered by in-house experts) reviewing job designs and considering where employees may benefit from having increased flexibility in how and where they work.

Traditionally HR wasn’t seen as a natural home of technology but then over the years we have begun to use it to a far greater extent but predominantly as a way of recording and reviewing information. The technological revolution now offers so many more possibilities which should be further explored by HR teams to consider where they can help add value to the organisation.

At a strategic level, consideration should be given to the balance between roles and tasks that could and should be carried out using technology rather than people and what the transition should look like. In mature organisations, the use of technology may be feared, and HR teams have a key role to play in supporting employees to be able to benefit from its use. The use of artificial intelligence has moved quickly from being a ‘science fiction’ to a reality for organisations and is another key area for organisations to evaluate. 

Whilst the concept of sustainability has been discussed for many years, this was traditionally from the perspective of being more environmentally friendly and as part of corporate and social responsibility (CSR).

There is now a greater appreciation of how sustainability can be considered via an HR lens, and I predict that this is an area that HR teams will be asked to explore further. Of course, in the UAE many of our minds are already looking ahead to COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference which is being hosted in this region in November and December. In the comprehensive programme there are themes which are highly relevant to HR, however across the whole programme, humans will need to be heavily involved in the application of change which provides further opportunities and challenges for organisations to innovate.  

Author
Professor Fiona Robson

Head of Edinburgh Business School and Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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