We live in paradoxical times. And I see 2019 being no different. There is hope and there is despair. There are businesses of resurgence and there is the reality of joblessness. There are growing examples of true leadership even as we battle increasing number of stories of #MeToo. There is growing belief in diversity and yet there is so much of insularity. There is so much of talent and yet the war for the right talent is incessant.
Let me articulate four top HR trends I visualize for the coming year.
Talent will remain the topmost issue. There will be growing pressure on people productivity in many sectors. Organizational designs will go through versions to eke out margins. The talent needs will thus get redefined. Either this will lead to a major effort at reskilling or hunt for a better skill fit, or a major effort at rightsizing organizations, which will eventually have a ripple effect on talent engagement. There will be anxiety to manage while looking for talent beyond the obvious catchments. Reimagining talent acquisition, talent engagement, and talent productivity will take the center stage. Learning opportunities, both virtual and on the job, will demand creative HR focus. Micro- learning will intensify in response to specific talent needs. Agility to comprehend and support almost atomized and potentially conflicting talent demands will test HR in 2019.
HR Technology will be a huge thrust. Across segments, there will be growing adoption of various Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud (SMAC) solutions. HR will intensify its efforts to get digital and enhance both employee/ candidate experience as also improve people productivity. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will work in tandem with the growing gig economy to move HR to a data-anchored business solution architect.
Leadership will be a priority in the 2019 bucket list. We will continue to see the concern on the inadequate depth of leadership, across levels, functions and businesses. The contextual relevance of leadership is getting redefined. There will be the need to reimagine, support, and reinforce a value-based servant leadership culture that can be inclusive of varied workforce demographics. Changing times call for different nuances of leadership. HR will have to be the custodian of this very politically sensitive agenda.
Brand & Culture will be another priority for HR in 2019. HR will be under pressure to upgrade its own ability to stay relevant through the cross-hairs of hard business imperatives and the custodian of caring, empathetic workplaces. I see the need for a huge upgrade in HR’s ability to be seen as the driver of an organizational agenda than a mere executor of business directives.
While Brand HR will need polishing, it will also need to refresh organizational brands to attract the right and relevant talent.
The ability to market and champion the employer ride will need a lot of creative marketing thinking within HR. Apart from piggybacking about talent and leadership stories, it will need to nurture culture that will attract the new breed of talent. Creating environments of space, empowerment, trust, and ownership are easy to write about but not as easy to create. But as organizational transformation will intensify across, and HR will be called upon to play in the ring rather than just stay a cosmetic cheerleader.
Whichever way the cookie crumbles, I will stay as an eternal optimist for HR. 2019 will be another year of opportunity. Much of what we will focus on will flow from 2018 and go beyond 2019. HR should anticipate and lead rather than react and follow. It should not do things for what is trending but do what is apt for the operating context. It is this judgment, prioritizing, influencing and handholding the execution that will impact HR’s strategic reputation in 2019.