These are interesting times to be an HR professional. Attracting, retaining, and engaging top talent have all become more challenging than ever before, given the massive disruptions that are here to stay in these economically volatile post-pandemic times. Some fundamental changes—like hybrid work—have gained acceptance to varying degrees, whereas other factors—like employee well-being—now need a complete revisit and special attention, given the prevalence of layoffs and policies against moonlighting practices.
Here are five trends that we believe are shaping the HR landscape going into 2023 and beyond:
Being flexible attracts and retains talent
Clearly, remote and hybrid work scenarios are not going away soon. While going back to the office is now encouraged and even stipulated by some organisations, some continue to offer the options of remote/hybrid work to employees. Gen Zs, which joined the workforce during the pandemic years, finds new avenues at work exciting, but also needs the choice of remote/hybrid work on the table when considering a job offer.
Experienced workers, having now seen the benefits of working from anywhere, are also set on the hybrid model, and if the office is close to where they live, this choice becomes easier. That is one of the many reasons more organisations are moving away from urban centers and closer to smaller towns and cities, which are not only hotbeds of talent but also the ideal backdrop for holistic and sustainable development.
More opportunities for learning on the job
Upgrading skill sets, training in new digital tools, and constantly updating domain knowledge are going to be definite requirements for the workforce. Again, the onus is on organisations to provide enough opportunities for employees to explore and find their ikigai in terms of work. If that can happen by switching positions within a company, HR teams should be able to facilitate these transitions smoothly. Nothing is more important to employee satisfaction than making the right avenues available for expression of talent.
Also, providing the ideal setting or adequate opportunities for employees to shine in their chosen roles may discourage practices like moonlighting. Recent debates on this topic raise a lot of challenges for organisations, and consequently for HR teams, in keeping the employer-employee trust intact. With remote and hybrid work models compounding the problem, it is important for organisations to make their stance on moonlighting very clear at the outset and follow up with regular communication. The motivation for a side hustle could be financial or purely passion-driven—sometimes a harmless weekend hobby. Organisations should be able to delineate what constitutes parallel employment based on the industry of operation, and lay down simple rules of engagement. Reviews can be done on a case-by-case basis, since some employees handle sensitive data like confidential IPs, product USPs, etc. As with any HR challenge, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to moonlighting, either.
Say no to layoffs and yes to employee wellbeing
According to a recent survey by Gartner, 82% of employees say it is important for their organisation to see them as people and not just as employees. And when the chips are down, this becomes an even more crucial responsibility.
News of mass layoffs are stressful, even if there is no immediate threat in your industry or organisation. Keeping up employee morale is therefore crucial. Apart from finding new ways of cutting costs, there are instances of many companies bucking the trend entirely and actually investing more in training and re-skilling their employees during recessions. It is also a chance for companies to revise their overstaffed or understaffed teams and bring about changes that can help strike a balance. Using existing resources optimally is also a great cost-saving mechanism—crucial for difficult times. HR teams have to be proactive and facilitate internal transfers smoothly. Organisations can also revisit long-pending initiatives which had been postponed due to time and resource constraints.
Economic stringency is also a great time to innovate and find new ways of doing things. HR teams should take it upon themselves to devise programs that can facilitate these aspects—even something like small cross-functional team contests that keep the sense of community alive, while also driving the company's progress.
Constant and honest communication
When all the news one hears is doom and gloom—multiplied manifold by social media—it is reassuring for employees simply to hear from the company leadership. This is not the time to stay silent; instead, it is the time to hold 'town halls' or virtual CEO sessions so leadership can be seen and heard. HR teams would do well to draw up a calendar of such sessions and encourage active participation by employees—to address doubts and misunderstandings. Regularly providing an insider look at world events and significant developments through the employee portal is good practice, too. Team leaders can also use the many popular collaborative tools to communicate constantly and maintain the sense of community.
Leading with empathy
In 2016, the Gartner Workforce Change Survey showed that 74% of employees were willing to change work behaviors to support organisational changes, but that number dropped to 38% in 2022. Employees are clearly becoming more resistant to change and this has a clear mandate for HR leaders: "Help them to navigate change and mitigate the impact that change may have on their work and, more importantly, their well-being."
Employees are looking for an approachable, understanding leader—not just at the team level, but at the larger organisational level as well. And this demands a reset—not by taking away the core responsibilities of leaders, but rather by requiring leaders to achieve them in different ways. The changing environment is blurring the boundaries of the leader-employee dynamic. In fact, going forward, the only dynamic that will work is that of human-to-human.