The Future of HR – Welcome to the 20s!Natalie Lewis
My HR and People Management Predictions for the 20s
What’s all this about the future of HR? It’s that time of the year when most people take time to reflect over the previous year and set goals for the coming one. This year is different, special even. We’re moving out of one decade and into a new one – the 20s!
So that got me thinking!
I’ve been working in HR since the early 2000s and started my business in 2012. Even in the last 5 years, I’ve seen a considerable change to society as a whole but to business practices and therefore HR as well.
So I thought I’d summarised some changes that I’ve seen over the last 10 years and how I think things will change for this new decade.
What people want from their jobs has changed
People want a sense of purpose and to know that they are contributing to a greater good. They want managers and businesses that care about them as individuals and they want the ability to grow both personally and professionally.
Those businesses that have recognised and grasped this change are ultimately benefiting from less staff turnover, lower sickness absence statistics and increased productivity. So the benefits of moving with the times are important to the basic success of a company. I would love to predict that this demand from employees gets stronger because I believe that this is a far healthier model than simply treating staff as a commodity. Seeing the value of employees is definitely the future of HR.
A move from a rigid fixation on rules, policy and procedure to a focus on human beings
Back in the day when I started in HR, it was incredibly transactional. It didn’t contribute to the overall success of the business, it was often seen as a department that blocked progress, told employees off, stopped flexibility – a disabler rather than an enabler. HR had a terrible reputation for being non-strategic and a total pain in the backside. They were only useful for hiring, firing and disciplinaries!
Thankfully, despite employment law becoming more complex and society becoming more litigious, there has been a realisation that a rigid fixation on rules and policies can be really unhelpful. There’s a great movement happening, slowly but surely, to make the workplace a more humanitarian one; focusing on employees as individual human beings. This of course is creating challenges for HR and employment lawyers as UK employment law is so utterly archaic but we’re managing!
I’d like to see for the future of HR the UK taking control of Employment Law and updating it in line with modern challenges and strategic business needs, as well as protecting workers rights, equality and dignity.
The introduction of flexible and virtual working
Hail the age of technology! Over the last 5 years I’ve had several clients introduce flexible working with my help. Two clients have gone completely virtual, getting rid of their offices and allowing their staff to work remotely from home offices, coffee shops or co-working spaces. I won’t say that it was an easy change, in fact it was rather monumental and yes, we lost a few staff from both companies. Virtual working comes with its own challenges but also a whole lot of benefits. It’s not for every employee and it certainly won’t work for all businesses but I do believe that most businesses would benefit from introducing flexible working in some way or another. I promise, it’s the future of HR!
With my clients, we’ve moved to an outcome based model of working for all staff and as long as staff reach their outcomes, they can have as much flexibility as they want. Some clients have dabbled and have introduced shorter core working hours (allowing people to avoid rush hour) and one has introduced ‘duvet days’.
Certainly I can see this becoming more popular in most industries and will become more sophisticated over time.
A focus on building a strong and supportive culture
Culture is now king and the future of HR! Staff will no longer put up with a toxic work place culture. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, rules, regulations, expectations and goals. A positive, mission led company with strong ethics, a great working environment and good employee engagement strategies is what you’re aiming for.
Values and culture are now a priority to candidates rather than pay package.
With most of society spending 8-9 hours a day at work, they want to spend that time in a supportive and strong, positive culture. Those companies with owners/directors who continue to have an attitude that their staff ‘should be grateful for a job’ and refuse to invest in their people, will ultimately fail (or at least make life very hard for themselves).
In this new decade, I can see a strong, supportive culture being compulsory rather than an optional thing that companies create. Without it, people will walk and go to a workplace that does have what they’re looking for.
A relaxed workplace
Some would argue that this should be lumped in with my section about culture but I think it’s worth giving it a separate section.
When I started working, back in the day, workplaces were stuffy, corporate and full of Draconian rules. In the last 10 years I’ve seen some huge changes which have resulted in a much more relaxed work place.
I’ve seen the move from wearing suits and ‘professional attire’ to a smart casual look, especially in the digital/creative industries. I applaud this move (I know some people will disagree) but when people are more comfortable and relaxed, they are more productive.
I’ve noticed that language is more relaxed in business, swear words are more acceptable. Some would argue that this is the case in society as a whole. There has been some great research which shows that natural swearing in conversation helps build trust and rapport. I’m sure the older generation will disagree with me and I shall brace myself for a flurry of angry messages in my inbox but language has a natural evolution and this is just part of that.
My final observation of the relaxation of workplaces is more and more pets being allowed to accompany their owners to work. As a dog owner, I personally love this but realise that it doesn’t suit everyone or every business. However, the benefits of having pets in the workplace have been thoroughly researched and the results show a greater level of engagement and fewer cases of work related stress/anxiety.
With increasing costs of childcare and more people adopting pets into their families, I can see a greater demand on businesses to either provide more flexibility or having on-site child/pet care provisions!
Businesses are taking more responsibility for charitable contributions and protection of the environment
And finally, the realisation that we are severely damaging our planet has created a huge movement in the last few years. The move to remove single use plastics from our daily lives, champions of the vegan/vegetarian diet to reduce carbon etc has been increasingly popular and as with most trends, these eventually penetrate the workplace. We’ve had the phrase ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ for many years but I believe there will be increasing pressure on companies to work ethically, consider human rights as well as the social, economic and environmental impacts of what they do as a business. I also believe that staff will be the main contributors of this pressure. The youngest generations pick where they want to work with far different criteria than we did. Ethics will be huge in the coming years, especially in the future of HR and their remit.
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