As ominous 2020 comes to an end, one thing is clear- COVID-19 is here to stay, and the future depends on a lot of unknowns. The pandemic has changed our world and our world of work permanently. From its crippling effect on world economies to the massive shift it has brought in the world of work as far acceleration of remote working and flexibility in workforce management to integration of work and life is concerned, the year has taught us much.
As we move into the year 2021, it’s time to reset work norms that are more human, more productive, and more inclusive. What are these key issues that HR leaders need to reweigh and plan for the year 2021?
In an exclusive interaction with us, Bratindra Sanyal, Senior Vice President, Human Resources at Lendingkart sheds more light on the opportunities ahead and what the future holds for HR in a data-driven world post the pandemic.
With the coronavirus pandemic altering the way we work, it also offered the possibility for HR and talent leaders to accelerate to digital and enable their workers to stay productive amid this chaos. What are some of the trends you have seen across organizations?
Many companies had initiated digital transformation well before COVID-19, however, the current situation has forced organizations to focus on their new priorities.
When COVID struck us, organizations were grappling to cope up with an emergency situation that none of us were prepared for – right from employee safety to business targets, and then the news of layoffs and cost-cutting – nothing was envisaged. However, with flexible and resilient organizational cultures there were organizations that were able to swim through this pandemic by implementing robust, resilient agile digital transformation initiatives. The balance between shifting priorities of business and people made organizations to look at employee safety, engagement, and assurance.
We have also seen high levels of passion, commitment, and resilience from employees working round the clock, cross-functional teams coming together to make things happen. The pandemic forced the year-long digital transformation initiatives to consolidate into months and weeks – this included some of the non-tech savvy organizations also to work in a virtual environment overnight, including all of their functions! Many organizations beefed up their BCP plan after getting a jolt from the pandemic and are looking at better decisions for the future.
I think COVID-19 has made organizations more digital and more humane which is a great step ahead.
How do you think investments in HR Tech have grown this year and what do you think is going to be the trend in the coming year?
With the workforce going remote and digital it is imperative that we enhance our HR Tech to ensure we are able to cater to the needs of all employees. There will be more demand for cloud-based HR software as against to internal server-based technology. We have seen a tremendous shift in the thought process of what should be in-person engagement activity and what can be online engagement. This means investment in newer/better software that can equip the organization to perform this activity online has become a priority.
The industry has seen a big rise in gamification apps, continued growth of AI, employee self-service, chatbots, virtual and remote work technologies, new wellness Technologies and better integrations.
What are your thoughts on the concept of a hybrid workplace? What are some challenges you foresee in implementing a hybrid workplace?
With the current pandemic situation, which is going to stay with us for a while, return to the physical workplace is inevitable but are we ready for it?
While some organizations have adopted the work from anywhere model the nature of some organizations do not allow 100% of employees to work from anywhere – The answer to this was some sort of balance between the two—which is a hybrid workplace model that is role-based and need-based. This means a mix of office workspace, as well as remote/virtual workspace, can be looked at.
A hybrid workplace model will help in employee flexibility and work-life balance, focus on employee productivity, reduce the cost of operation, redefining collaboration with teams, and organization. I see the following challenges while implementing this mode – change management with respect to client experience, employee isolation, team bonding, and high cyber risk.
What do you think the future holds for HR in a data-driven world post the pandemic? What is going to be HR’s new role?
With COVID-19 most businesses are impacted in some way or the other – however with time businesses will find their way back with innovation, agility, and cost-effective methods. In this scenario, HR has a larger role to play as most complex roles are put to test.
It is time for HR to revolutionize itself adapting technology and becoming more business relevant.
The mundane, transactional, administrative aspects of HR will naturally get outsourced to specialized agencies that will have those capabilities. What will internally continue to get managed are the critical, unique, sensitive business value-adding activities which will have aid business in the value chain
What do you think the year 2021 might look like as far as new skillsets and essential job skills are concerned?
The pandemic has created enormous changes in the workplace. Regardless of their jobs, employees needed to adapt rapidly to massive changes ranging from working remotely to changes in operations and fulfillment.
As organizations continue to operate in a pandemic and plan for the future, here are some of the essential skills that employees will need
Digital capabilities: Technical skills will be required by employees doing just about every job since digital tools will be commonplace and will impact every industry. Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, blockchain, and more will become a part of every worker's everyday experience, whether the workplace is a factory or law firm. So, not only do people need to be comfortable around these tools, they will need to develop skills to work with them. Awareness of these technologies and relevant technical skills will be required for every job from a hairstylist to an accountant and everything in between.
Data literacy: Data has become every organization’s most important asset—the “fuel” of any organization. Companies that don’t use that fuel to drive their success will inevitably fall behind. So, to make data valuable, organizations must employ individuals who have data literacy and the skills to turn the data into business value.
Emotional Intelligence: With the emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the ability to recognize, understand and manage not just your own emotions, but also those of others, has become one of the top skills employers look for. Strong emotional intelligence skills allow us to understand and interact with our feelings in a way that helps us build quality relationships and make decisions effectively.
Courageous leadership: Even if you’re not in a managerial role, developing leadership skills has never been more important. In fact, people with such skills are more likely to get a raise, promoted, or selected to take on additional responsibilities. It’s important to note that leadership isn’t just about managing a team. It’s also about having the courage to do things like raising your hand for a role outside your comfort zone, pushing the envelope to make an impact, take actions when needed, be innovative, and away from the conventional.