5 top trends shaping the HR world in 2020

Successful organisations always look for an edge when it comes to getting the best out of their people. Here are the five hot issues for HR in the year ahead.

What are the main challenges practitioners are facing as they try to prepare their organisations for an exciting and unpredictable future world of work? Here’s our run down of the top five topics pre-occupying the profession and causing debate in the pages of the HR press.

1. Agile HR – matching up to the pace of organisational change

Agile HR emerged as a hot topic in 2019, with a growing community of HR people signing up to what has almost become a movement. Agile was born in the tech world, where it has been used for some time to drive software development, but the methodology and principles behind it are now increasingly being adopted in HR. Forward-looking practitioners have realised that traditional approaches are often too slow, given the rapid pace of change that now characterises organisational life.

HR departments who insist on sticking to the tried and tested ‘best practice’ risk being seen as blockers to progress rather than enablers. The agile approach – which is based around the principles of deliver, collaborate, reflect and improve – builds trust, encourages teamwork and can help organisations become much more fleet of foot. Certified agile practitioner Kate Rand, part of the growing agilehrcommunity.com, says the approach has helped her organisation adopt a ‘test and learn’ methodology.

“HR can’t just step out of its ivory tower and start telling people how they should be doing things,” she says. “We have to move to a model where we are the facilitators of success, not the dictators of best practice.” HR can’t afford to be static, she adds, warning the profession runs the risk of “falling behind the organisation it is working for”.

2. Redefining the skills for future leaders 

In uncharted digital territory, where the rules are constantly changing and markets are disrupted overnight, leadership as we know it just doesn’t cut it any more. Organisations need agile, resilient and adaptable leaders – but they need them immediately. There is simply no time for the traditional lengthy management development programmes of the past – new approaches which balance formal training with informal learning and self-driven development are needed.

Recent research from Hult Ashridge business school has shone a spotlight on the key skills organisations need to develop in their leaders right now. Topping the list is a high level of competence in influencing, negotiation and communication. Researchers say these important relational skills need to be integrated into training and development programmes from a very early stage, before people reach the heady heights of management.

Digital confidence and know-how come a close second. “Leaders can’t be expected to master the myriad of new technologies impacting their organisations and markets. What is important, however, is that they have enough of an understanding to feel confident to hand over accountability for maximising those technologies to their digital and technical colleagues,” says Lee Waller, one of the report’s authors.

3. Employee wellbeing – fewer gimmicks, more rigour

With work-related stress now the top cause of sickness absence in the UK – it’s no surprise that employee wellbeing is beginning to reach the top of the boardroom agenda. The words, however, aren’t always being backed up by action. In a recent CIPD survey, 60% of businesses admitted to not having any kind of strategy in place to tackle the problem. This is perhaps surprising, given the significant ROI for organisations who do take wellbeing seriously.

Research shows that employers with wellbeing initiatives generally have 44% higher morale and engagement. However, Wellbeing guru Professor Sir Cary Cooper recently pointed out that efforts centred around “bean bags, ping pong tables and lunchtime sushi” are not going to solve the problem. Organisations should conduct wellbeing audits every year, he says, so they can identify the pressure points in the business and put appropriate measures in place to tackle them. Poorly trained leaders have much to answer for and should come with a “health warning”, he adds, highlighting the damage caused by managers who lack the ability to organise work and manage their teams effectively.

4. Learning as a benefit

Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report says that many organisations are turning to non-cash perks to help drive employee retention and performance. When workers were asked what inspired them most at work, the ability to ‘learn, grow and progress’ was the second most popular answer, coming in just below the nature of the job itself.

It’s no surprise then, that more employers are expanding their learning offer. Initiatives such as informal ‘lunchtime language’ sessions, nano-programmes on emerging technologies or bite-sized online courses – which are not necessarily immediately job relevant – are increasingly popular. These are particularly appreciated by younger workers, who want to prepare for the future world of work and are hungry to learn how to progress faster in their careers. With the gig economy continuing to develop swiftly, the report points out that learning and development opportunities are also a valuable reward tool when it comes to engaging the alternative workforce.

5. Better management of conflict and harassment

The problem of harassment at work isn’t going away and is probably the issue causing HR practitioners the most sleepless nights. This isn’t just about the turbulence caused by the #MeToo movement, but harassment in all forms. Organisations have been understandably keen to take proactive approaches. As a result, cultural reviews, new whistle blowing hot-lines and updated disciplinary procedures have proliferated.

Conflict management expert David Liddle of The TCM Group suggests, however, that organisations need to think beyond processes which can be divisive and pitting people against each other every time. Liddle suggests that alternative approaches, such as mediation and facilitated, restorative conversations, can often be useful in situations where harassment is alleged to have taken place. “Asking a victim of alleged harassment to sit down across the table and talk it out with the perpetrator may seem counterintuitive and there will of course always be situations where this isn’t appropriate,” he says. “But people are often more willing than you might think to engage in dialogue.”

“If you ask a victim of harassment what they want, their answer is often that they want the behaviour to stop, to be heard and to feel they have a voice.” Organisations, he says, are often reluctant to embrace these approaches for fear of being seen to be ‘soft’ on the perpetrators. In fact the opposite is true, he says. “Opening up face to face dialogue in a managed, safe environment, allows victims to be heard and gives perpetrators the opportunity to reflect on the impact of their behaviour.”

Author: Andy Philpott | Category: Blog | 30/09/2019 | 0

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