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The trends and challenges that are affecting HR today

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With the new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the challenges faced in our industries and look ahead to emerging trends. HR is often referred to as one of the slower moving business functions, but with the way technology has changed how people work, it’s being forced to evolve at a faster pace. Moreover, macro trends such as the changing demographic of the workplace have altered the landscape, as have cultural shifts in expectations that affect how we approach business ethics and transparency.

Here are some of the trends and implications that we believe will come into focus or continue to demand attention in 2018. 

The remote workforce

As technology enables more workers to be employed from remote locations, HR processes have sometimes struggled to keep up. Managing a far-flung team presents at least two major challenges.

One is logistical: how do you manage and measure the productivity of employees that you can’t see? What changes to payroll or time recording systems need to be made?

The other is a shift in workplace culture. Many of the traditional morale-boosting or team-building exercises favoured by HR departments aren’t applicable in a remote working environment, but it’s still important that cohesiveness be promoted.

HR professionals are increasingly attuned to the communication options available to remote teams, who should be encouraged to check in with their coworkers regularly even if they’re not sharing a desk.

Also read: The Future of Productive Workplaces - Telecommuting

Performance management in a fluid environment

Performance management and the annual performance review have long been a staple of HR services. While there have been some movements towards ditching the annual review in recent years, that trend is now reversing itself. Rather than eschewing annual performance management reviews, HR professionals are looking to use them in smarter ways.

That might include recognising the fluidity of employee roles in the current environment, with some workers reporting to multiple supervisors or working autonomously. Cross-functional teams are a feature of this new work environment, with workers no longer confined to a single aspect of their skill set, and performance reviews should reflect this. A focus on self-directed learning and ongoing training, rather than a narrow focus on KPIs, are part of this trend.

Automation and digitalisation

Perhaps the trend that is most directly significant for HR professionals is the trend of automaton. As digitalisation grows, many of the traditional HR processes can be outsourced to technology. Onboarding processes, timesheet management, leave requests and expense claims can all be handled via software. As a result, HR professionals are freed up to concentrate on other tasks, with an emphasis on people skills, collaboration and change management. With automaton affecting almost every job in some way, it’s more imperative than ever that HR looks to recruit people with a lot of learning agility and interest in ongoing learning.

Generation Z

Thousands of bottles of virtual ink have been spilled on the topic of managing millennials. What motivates them, what do they perceive as important and how to manage the gap in expectation between millennials and their older Gen X and baby boomer bosses. But some of those millennials are approaching forty, and might well be the boss themselves. It’s Generation Z, now in its early twenties, who are graduating from degrees and moving into the workplace en masse.

Generation Z are commonly considered to be entrepreneurial and individualistic in approach. They’re digital natives who don’t expect a job to be for life. HR professionals can recruit and retain these individuals, along with their older Generation Y counterparts, by offering flexibility and autonomy from the ground up.

What trends are impacting your HR practices? How has your job in HR evolved over the past 5, 10 and 15 years? Leave a comment below to have your say.
 

This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Smart HR Inc, Page Executive, HR Magazine and Fast Company.