Three Ways Today's Leaders Can Navigate the Future of HR
By Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of HCM Innovation, Ultimate Software
This is part of a special advertising section featuring forecasts on navigating changes and challenges.
The workforce and workplace are evolving at a rapid pace. For the first time in history, there are five generations at work, each with its own motivations, needs and expectations. At the same time, there is a growing number of freelancers, contractors and non-permanent workers who are moving fluidly between regular and "gig" work. These members of the "gig economy" are expected to account for over 40 percent of the workforce within the next three years, according to the Intuit 2020 Report.
As disruptions to the traditional structure of work continue, it is crucial for HR and business leaders to adapt their approach to managing people. Organizations that take meaningful steps to better understand and support their employees, work to strengthen and build trust between managers and their team members, and take a more nimble approach to address workforce shifts, stand to remain competitive, retain top talent and successfully navigate the future of HR.
Listening to Employees
In order to truly thrive today and in the future -- that is, to inspire employees, increase productivity and improve retention -- organizations must gain a deeper understanding of how their employees really feel about work, leadership and the organization. In fact, according to a 2016 study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, three out of four employees say the top action companies could take to retain them is to listen to and address their concerns.
Advances in perceptive technology empower organizations to actively listen to the "voice of the employee," providing insight into the true sentiment of people by gaining rich quantitative and qualitative metrics that go beyond engagement survey results. These new tools harness the power of natural language processing and machine learning to analyze individuals' responses to open-ended questions, all in real time. As a result, managers can immediately see a comprehensive picture of their teams' true feelings and take effective steps to address concerns and correct course, if necessary.
It is a major step in establishing an open, ongoing and two-way channel of communication between an organization and its employees, which also helps to forge stronger relationships built on trust.
Establishing Greater Trust
Communication and trust have always been important to employees, but have only become more pronounced with millennials becoming the majority generation in the workforce. The CGK's study found that 71 percent of U.S. workers consider open communication with their leader or manager a very important factor affecting their sense of fulfilment at work. When it comes to trust, most millennials say they feel engaged on the job if they can talk with their managers about "non-work-related issues," according to Gallup. Of course, this level of trust is not established overnight -- it is developed and earned over time.
In addition to actively listening to employees, whether through everyday conversations or smart surveys, organizations can foster greater trust through transparency. Keeping employees apprised of short- and long-term company goals, and instituting coaching-based performance management processes that show people how their daily contributions and professional aspirations align with those objectives, helps create a greater sense of belonging and connection to the organization.
Moreover, offering employees ongoing learning and development opportunities can further strengthen that impactful bond. Implementing a learning solution that shifts the focus from training employees to developing talent with a consumer-grade experience (e.g., mobile access, social collaboration and self-directed learning) shows employees their organization is wholly invested in their careers, growth and success.
Becoming More Fluid
Today's employees increasingly crave a different, more fluid work experience, with greater flexibility, choice and autonomy in their roles. HR has the power to lead the charge in adapting to these evolving expectations -- but it must remain nimble, innovative and open to change.
At the highest level, organizations can support their people by adopting the latest HR technology designed to make work life easier and increase productivity, and by reworking company policies to accommodate workforce fluidity. This can include providing more flexible employment arrangements in terms of scheduling and remote work, offering wider or more non-traditional leave arrangements, and encouraging employees to change jobs internally to support their growth and development.
Once organizations acknowledge the need for HR agility, they can begin to implement tangible changes companywide. It will be a long and continuous process of adaptation, but those organizations up to the challenge will be rewarded with a happier workforce, a stronger brand and a boosted bottom line.