2020 – So, what for HR?
We, HR professionals, are yet again about to be caught up in the surprise of a new year approaching. It happens every year. And, yet little changes. Global trends continue. But, step-changes in our organizations suck up our time between now and January … and, then, fade away within a few weeks as we settle back into our comfort (or perpetual discomfort) zones, whichever applies.
In 2020, our organizations will continue to face the macro challenges that have faced them for a number of years:
- Continued growth in the economy will demand that organizations resource themselves with the best possible talent to meet demand. Whilst the population growth outstrips economic growth, insufficient education, training and development will continue to constrain the talent pool. Organizations are going to have to become smarter in their approaches to each of the three key areas, (i) attracting top talent to want to work for them, (ii) selecting the best talent available i.e., not making recruitment errors, and (iii) retaining their top talent, not merely exploiting and then losing them;
- Increased overseas demand for skilled talent e.g., scientific, clinical, and IT will encourage emigration of our best talent - reducing the average level of skill available for domestic roles and potentially pushing up the cost;
- Increasing competition from other low employment-cost nations such as China, and other eastern countries will continue to keep prices for products and services low. Increased trade sensitivities with the west will encourage China and those other eastern countries to look for other markets in which to compete, potentially reducing our revenues and profit margins. A new focus on productivity will become an imperative;
- Demand to educate and reskill the existing population will increase more rapidly. The World Economic Forum’s report “The Future of Jobs 2018”, still applies. It explains, for example, that more than half of Indian workers will require very substantial reskilling to meet the talent demands of 2022 and beyond. This will impose unavoidable financial demands on many organizations;
- Imbalance of wealth and employment opportunities between urban and rural communities will create dramatic social pressures, the impact of which is not yet foreseen. However, as digital connectivity is extended, many organizations will have the opportunity to educate, employ and develop low-cost virtual workers from these areas;
- Physical and mental health, especially within the poorer and rural communities will continue to be a major concern. Severe issues will still exist in terms of hygiene, nutrition, and availability of general health care services. Organizations will need to keep a sharp eye on the impact on the sustainability of their workforces and productivity, and monitor all health related metrics.
- Actual or perceived corruption. Significant improvements have been made but India at large has yet to shake of an image of being one of the more corrupt business environments. In a global economy, where concerns for ethical, moral, and socially responsible performance are rising significantly, this poses a challenge for each individual organization.
As we enter 2020, organizations will need to keep a sharp eye on the impact on the sustainability of their workforces and productivity, and monitor all health related metrics
I started by pointing out the obvious – that every year, the start of the new year catches us by surprise. I’ll end by stating the equally obvious:
- “If we keep doing what we always did, we will always get what we always got.” As HR professionals, we must step outside of our comfort zone, focus less on asking employees to be more innovative … and be more innovative ourselves. Let’s stop implementing and tweaking processes that don’t work and find new ways of optimizing the contributions and development of our workforces.
- “The significant differentiator of sustainably successful organizations is the quality of their leadership and management.” Every one of the many challenges that we face demand highly skilled, ethical, and morally sound people managers and project managers. There is no long-term sustainable alternative. Now is the time to focus on that one critical issue. In 2020, HR professionals must unite to drive a step-change improvement in the quality of those we honor and reward with the title of “Manager” and in whose trust we place the productivity, well-being, and happiness of the workforce and their extended families.
The significant differentiator of sustainably successful organizations is the quality of their leadership and management. Every one of the many challenges that we face demand highly skilled, ethical, and morally sound people managers and project managers
Being an HR professional gives us no rights but places on us huge responsibilities. So, as HR professionals, we too must continually upskill ourselves, not only in HR knowledge and specific skills but in five other areas:
- Technology acumen – knowing and understanding the behavior-engineering power it has and how best to deploy that to increase productivity and development;
- Analytical acumen – knowing and understanding how to collect quality HR data and to use that to drive sustainable process improvements and make better HR decisions;
- Business acumen - knowing and understanding how to present HR initiatives to line management in a way that excites and persuades them;
- Courage – to demonstrate confidence in what we propose and to fight to get it approved, and;
- Personal effectiveness – to prove our worth and get things done that make a positive difference.
So, three critical metrics must be monitored throughout 2020:
- Productivity – unit of output per total investment per unit of labor. Despite massive investments and advances in technology and communications, productivity worldwide still lags behind;
- Development – despite cost pressures, increased investment in upskilling must take place to achieve the levels of skills needed for the future. In the short term, monitoring training & development activity will have to precede seeing the results of it;
- Talent availability – coverage for all critical and most senior roles. As difficulties in acquiring external talent increase, we must ensure a ready internal supply, retaining and growing the talent we have.
- Management quality. A range of metrics are available e.g., attrition, short-term absence, wellness, productivity trends, role coverage...
2020 offers to be another exciting year in the world of HR. We have a choice – face it, make an impact, and grow as professionals – or, we can be reactive and merely do what is asked of us. Which will you choose?