Article: Are you ready for the future workplace?

Strategic HR

Are you ready for the future workplace?

The definition of 'work' has changed and will continue to change as pandemic-driven trends evolve. Here are the top trends driving organisations' strategies for the coming months.
Are you ready for the future workplace?

The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the off-site working it necessitated, the ‘Great Resignation’ it spurred, and the ongoing digitisation process, has greatly modified the way ‘work’ is defined. Many organisations now have to scramble to implement wide-ranging changes to stay relevant.

We acquaint you with the top trends that indicate what organisations need to do in this situation of rapid flux.

Finding the tricky balance between physical and remote working models will be key

Employers are experimenting with new work models like hybrid work, gig work, and part-time work, with the hybrid model emerging as the work model of the future. The transition to hybrid work is already underway, and is certain to become a permanent feature for organisations who find that a flexible work culture will enhance employee productivity, satisfaction, and work-life balance.

“Hybrid-working culture is and will be the future for those businesses who want to reach a state of normalcy in this new normal. Additionally, as these changes take centre stage, employers will need to further understand that the new way of working will have its fair set of challenges. To help employees make a smooth transition, employers will need to take on a more empathetic leadership approach, put greater focus on health, wellness, recognition, and overall work-life balance of their employees. Taking on more employee-friendly initiatives will be an effective way to ensure the success of a hybrid-working model,” says Birlasoft Chief Delivery Officer Shreeranganath Kulkarni.

Fluid workforce the norm for the future?

The fluid workplace of the future places limited importance on location/geography, and employers will explore various work models to stay competitive.

“New work models like gig working (use of contractual workers and freelancers), hybrid working, and part-time working are in the exploratory stage while outsourcing jobs to agencies/partnering with companies emerge as a norm. However, employers may still construe freelancers as unemployed, and hence a full-time worker is apprehensive about making this transition,” says the Randstad - Future of Work Report.

Flexibility wins

Mercer|Mettl CEO Siddhartha Gupta says the era of ‘9 to 5’, ‘Monday to Friday’ is coming to an end.  

The year 2022 will be the year of digital nomadism where employees will have the freedom to customise their work and career experiences with their well-being at the centre of it. 

“In addition, we will see an increase in the implementation of a ‘Listening Culture’ .i.e. the formation of workplaces guidelines and policies based on employee feedback.  Fluid hierarchy and organisational structures will also come into play with an emphasis on transparency and accountability. And lastly, re-conceptualising of productivity will take place. This will be done because the modern workforce is digital and distributed across the world. Furthermore, the notion that productivity equates to the number of hours is outdated,” he adds. 

Upskilling on the radar

Since the advent of the pandemic, uncertainty has been constant. The result? Agility and upskilling have taken centre stage.

“As digital transformation plays a role in organisations’ efforts to recover and be more resilient, and hybrid multicloud, security, automation, and artificial intelligence become even more important, professionals have felt compelled to learn a host of new technical and soft skills. Hence, upskilling continues to be paramount as we navigate the health crisis and companies continue to prioritise skill-based hiring and skill-building to not just make the most of their digital transformation efforts, but also drive greater value for their clients,” says Nutanix People Business Partner Head India Ramya Menon.

Lendingkart CTO Giridhar Yasa adds that upskilling yourself on the job is very important. “Externship is an emerging trend in this context. Doing an externship is a great way to get paid while learning on the job. It also helps upskill and become ready for an even better opportunity. There are many good companies that enable externship for young professionals. We, at Lendingkart, value candidates who have shown an attitude towards constant learning,” he says.

Which technical skills will really matter?

In the pandemic’s wake, every business has transformed into a technology business and companies have been embracing digitalisation to stay relevant and operate sustainably. Analysts predict that direct investments in digital transformation initiatives will continue to see strong growth and form 55 per cent of all investments in information and communications technology by the end of 2024.

Even though the business focus varies across industries, the technical skills they require to fulfil their digital goals are generally similar across the board.

“These include artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, AR/VR, RPA, mobile engineering and machine learning – skills that are largely in demand because they touch upon multiple aspects of building a successful business in the digital era. In light of this sudden need for talent, organisations are looking to build global teams through Global Capability Centres (GCCs). India is already synonymous with GCCs and will continue to lead as a preferred GCC destination, thanks to an abundance of talent, Tier-I & Tier-II city infrastructure, government support and a thriving startup ecosystem,” says ANSR's Head of HR Operations and Talent Management Sukumar Payala.

Virtual working appeals but human connect will never lose its sheen

Virtual working has espoused the virtues of flexibility, which were hitherto not so appreciated, and hence would find greater acceptance in futuristic workplaces. Birlasoft Chief People Officer Arun Dinakar Rao, however, feels that humans are social animals and barring a few, who may not have this primary driver, most of us would look to satisfy these needs.

“Human connections have a huge upside to productivity as we have seen in team productivity levels when people dynamically collaborate – the best outcomes have come when people whiteboard their thoughts in a closed room with a unified dream. On the other extreme, haven’t we observed the yearning for a human shoulder to cry on when we find ourselves in a hole or with our backs to the walls, and digital modes unable to assist us in these situations? Hence, I believe that leveraging technology or otherwise, people would continue to look for human connections at workplaces,” says Rao.

The much needed soft skills 

Multiple reports state that over 50 per cent of IT employees need significant reskilling and upskilling - not just in technical capabilities, but also in interpersonal and soft skills.

“Besides, skills such as creativity, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, innovation mindset, empathy, and decision-making, will be most in-demand by the organisation. A hybrid work model makes it important for employees to be digitally savvy, emotionally strong and possess social skills. Having a continuous learning mindset, flexibility to perform in challenging circumstances, and willingness to adapt to situations when things don’t go as planned define the modern emerging hybrid workforce,” says Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Senior Vice President, Head of HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp

As per Umar Ali Shaikh, the CEO of Atos India Pvt Ltd and Head of Growing Markets - Country Cluster India, Head of India National Business, adaptability bundled with perseverance will be the most desirable attribute at the forefront of the way employees and employers both need to be aligned.

But he notes that adaptability is "a hard trait to comprehend, as it involves many aspects in the preview of soft skills that professionals would need going forward".

Diversity and inclusion at work, mental well-being the primary focus

Employers need to think about D&I initiatives in the new normal, along with how mental well-being discussions can be normalised, and by clubbing these aspects with others to devise what it takes to become an employer of choice for the next generation of employees.

As per the Randstad report, the post-COVID workplace will see more conversations around mental health and higher acceptance of its impact on work and productivity of the employee, and require support mechanisms at work, building skills like empathy and compassion, and providing personal space to employees as ways for employers to prioritise mental well-being.

“Employees are the backbone for a successful business, and we want to ensure that our employees get the necessary benefits, the flexibility of choice, a true alignment of their aspirations with and what they do, psychological safety, and well-being at their workplace,” says InMobi Group CHRO Sahil Mathur.

Culture trumps even practical issues

In practice, organisational culture is a big factor in determining employee engagement and satisfaction, but with evolving workplaces and a more diverse workforce, employers are finding it challenging to create a common culture that resonates with today's generationally diverse workforce.

The Randstad report says: “Generations like millennials and Gen Z employees especially look at culture as an important factor of employer desirability. Employees value a culture of trust and autonomy the most, one that provides avenues for innovation, propagates open feedback and is adaptive in nature. Open communication, presence of challenging work with tangible output and instant gratification emerge as important blocks of culture creation for the millennials and Gen Z employees.”      

Quantitative data reveals that millennials - seen as the leaders of culture creators of the future - ascribe higher importance to inclusive work culture as compared to others.

“Employers who understand this aspect and sow the seeds of change early will be the ones who will reap the benefits of a truly engaged workforce in the new models of working,” says the report.

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Topics: Strategic HR, #FutureOfWork

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