Nothing is permanent in these ‘turbo’lent times. Politics, business, arts, and sports are redefining and shaking the very fundamentals that we once were brought up with. Polarized opinions, bold art forms, challengers defeating champions, and so many other visuals have shaped the year that has gone by. This indeed has been a ‘boomerang’ year in many ways; the harder the response, the stronger the challenges faced.
Not that any of this sounds different from what we experience in the workplace, at least not in my life anyway. In our line of work, I realize the work we put in to get everyone to dance to the same song, or sometimes, different songs as well. Throw in valuations, growth, and profitability, and HR and business resemble the cartoon, ‘Coyote and the Road Runner.’
Interestingly, according to the 2020 Workplace Theory, over 36 percent of the workforce will be people born after the baby boomer generation, making it the most-diverse workforce ever. This also means that 2020 is headed towards exciting twists and turns and the first component to be affected will be ‘people,’ and when the word ‘people’ rings loud, all roads lead to HR! So, here is how I imagine the HR motion picture for 2020 will unveil in my crisp three-point high definition, panoramic view:
Share ‘purpose’; not just ‘goals’
In a world where business objectives and key results are flying thick and fast, it will get increasingly important for HR to articulate goals into ‘purpose’ which then throws open the question, ‘Why are we really achieving this’? If the purpose of business objectives is made clear, employees will find more meaning and motivation to achieve their goals. The crystal ball indicates that while mission statements and company objectives are management-driven, functional goals will be defined basis the half-and-half effect, i.e., 50 percent from the functional leader and 50 percent from the contributors. This will drive accountability on both sides, and HR will play a significant role in designing, defining, and governing a purpose-centric performance culture.
A transition from talent engagement to a holistic experience
Employee engagement in today’s time and day is a horse flogged by everyone. Fun committees struggle to get people to participate, monthly birthdays are attended by everyone except for the people celebrating them, and of course, the legendary ‘rangoli’ celebrations are just some of those instances that don't necessarily move the needle around creating great employee experiences, in my opinion. We have to transition from engagement to experience. Fun activities are a great distraction, but frankly, it reminds me of the ‘Itch-Scratch cycle.’ For those unfamiliar, it states that no matter what you do, the irritants remain, and the philosophy of ‘shared purpose’ becomes irrelevant. Sure, working in cool offices, having flexible hours, providing resting rooms help, but a wide gap has engulfed between what companies need and what they offer.
Therefore, the employee experience needs to be agile, diverse, and sustainable. HR will need to change some of its traditional engagement principles and curate ‘personalized relationship frameworks’ that evaluate stability, pulse checks, early flight risks every day and not on a cyclical basis. Businesses are winning based on convenience, network, and functionality and HR will need to prepare similarly to provide meaningful employee experiences. For example, HR platforms that are easy-to-use, fun, and socially engaging will thrive. Those that only supply information and act as reactive workflows will plummet. The gap between employee experiences and their aspirations is getting narrower every year and HR’s operating model will have to bring about a flexible structure and thought as well.
Analytics of the people, by the people, and for the people
I was watching one of Eddie Griffin’s outrageous standup clips. Eddie observes ‘In the beginning, there was Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve had two children (Kane and Abel), and Kane and Abel got married. After a two-second pause, he yells, ‘To whom? Where did they come from?’ While I laughed, I also reflected on how belief was the basis of an individual’s status in society. ‘Who said it’ was ‘data’ to the people back then. Later on, early analytics was used primarily to be more efficient and to be able to control. It had nothing to do with how it impacted mainstream talent in companies or as they would call them, ‘foot-soldiers.’ Wise men in the room looked at the information and made big decisions.
Well, to be fair and honest, there are still wise men, and they still make big decisions. The question is, how has this changed for people given we always call it ‘people’ analytics? Today, future-looking companies break a lot of sweat being employee-centric and thus, HR’s first question today must be, ‘What kind of data would help leaders and employees?’ Before kicking off any data-related effort, this question would be great to get off the blocks. This also helps in gaining acceptance and participation from other functions within a company, which is equally crucial. It is all well and good to measure the mood of people, absenteeism, people leaving a company, but these are symptoms. HR in 2020 will need to intensify its research to publish outcomes, cure, and its effects. It would help to keep in mind that the proof of change lies in the outcome, not the effort.
I believe that 2020 is going to push us out of our comfort zones. For better or worse, I think that new-age companies will start to appreciate an individual’s span of work just a bit more than the person’s depth of work. Like full-stack developers, the idea of an all-package HR professional may not be far-fetched. If that is to happen, HR has some suiting up to do.