As the country begins on the path of recovery post-pandemic, workplaces are starting to look at how the past 13 months have shaped the business landscape and what this means for 2021 and onwards. Here are some of the key trends and changes the HR industry could witness in the not-too-distant future.
The Industry’s Digitalisation
The pandemic kickstarted the shift to digitalisation for all types of organisations, and it is no different for HR. Many departments have now integrated digital HR database systems and apps into their practices, and it’s safe to say these will most likely take over any old modes of working for good.
Digitalised systems allow for ease and time-efficiency when it comes to storing and processing data such as employees’ personal information and career progress. A centralised location containing employees’ individual data can also improve overall employee experience, making leave requests, training and goal setting more accessible.
Digital-first also hugely helps with recruiting. With many software systems now available allowing companies using multiple agencies to track candidates, ensure that there is no duplication and streamline the on-boarding and contract management aspects of the process. Whilst nothing can replace the personal interaction of a recruitment process, the digitisation will at least ensure a quicker and more efficient process.
Yet, despite the overwhelming positives of going digital, some organisations have yet to make the jump to paperless. Not only is this laborious, but those who still work with manila envelopes and paper-clipped files are taking dangerous and unnecessary risks.
The immediate risk is element damage: physical documents are significantly harder to protect, and fire or water damage can destroy years of irreplaceable paperwork in moments.
Another risk is the threat on security and confidentiality. In the era of GDPR, where a strict set of data protection laws make organisations legally liable for the protection of sensitive data, staying away from digitisation seems particularly reckless. Results from a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and IBM revealed that 70 per cent of organisations have had one or more accidental data breaches due to hardcopy documents. Digital databases and systems offer security with data encryption, passwords, firewalls, audit trails and back-up copies, and where HR departments carry a wealth of private information, investing in tech is a no-brainer.
Of course, the level of digitisation depends on the type of organisation. For big, multinational firms, a consolidated place for timesheets, payroll, onboarding processes, holiday and sick leave saves an abundance of time and money and avoids overcomplicating mass staff requests. Automated processes reduce the time spent on simple yet repetitive tasks which frees up staff time to undertake larger, and more important projects, consequently benefitting the organisation’s bottom line.
For smaller companies, the quantitative data can allow succinct succession planning and reporting. If you have an efficient system, you can see where your business has been, determine where it’s going, set goals and plan how to create an inclusive environment.
Adapting processes for graduates
During the pandemic, many 2019/2020 graduates have been made redundant, taken career changes or are still searching for employment, and the question of when they will catch up in terms of skillset and salary remains. Research by UK-based graduate jobs website, Milkround, has found a mere 18 per cent of graduates secured jobs in 2020 compared to the typical 60 per cent.
When hiring graduates, employers and recruiters alike must consider that they are seeking employment in one of the worst job markets since World War Two. They may have large gaps in their CVs and experience will have been scarce, so while an applicant’s CV may not be the perfect fit, it’s crucial to look beyond this and instead focus on their transferrable skillset. An applicant may not have landed a high-flying marketing executive role in the last year, but they may have spent their time volunteering with foodbanks and building their portfolios and interests in other ways – a true testament to character. By taking a closer look at non-traditional specifics, such as personality, motivation and initiative, your company can secure the most skilled applicants who might otherwise be missed.
After such a turbulent year, conversations around sustainability, identity, wellbeing and mental health will only become more commonplace and the need to implement processes and policies to make for a happier, more inclusive and productive environment will be crucial.
However, the current method of yearly staff surveys simply doesn’t do the job. According to research featured in Talking Talent, 58 per cent of respondents believe annual survey results do not help managers gain a better understanding of employees’ needs and wants, as well as the behaviours and/or practices employers needed to change or improve on.
More frequent and more in-depth data collection will undoubtedly be the way forward. This puts further emphasis on the importance of integrating digital HR tools and systems; data recording can allow organisations to track and monitor patterns, celebrate successes and improve areas where cracks may be beginning to show.
For example, data can provide clear and objective gender pay gap reporting, allowing companies to identify any successes or room for improvement and act accordingly. The gift of foresight can also be invaluable; for example, predicting when a key member of staff is set to retire means you can kickstart the next recruitment process sooner.
The future of remote working
For many of us, working from home has become, and will continue to be, the norm. It has had profound effects on the UK’s workforce, and it would be wise to expect these changes to continue evolving over the long-term.
The debate around remote working and its impacts on wellbeing and productivity is ongoing. Concerns remain around the true impact on staff productivity, presenteeism and potential IT security risks, and the shift has resulted in many UK workers overworking and struggling to switch off. Because of this, employers and employees will need to work together to set boundaries and limits which may help better manage implications of remote working.
Despite this, employees have reported to, more so than not, reap the benefits of remote working. This includes an improved work/life balance, flexibility and financial savings and because of this, companies will be hard-pressed getting their employees into the office 5 days a week. Any business leader unwilling to become more flexible will inevitably risk losing staff.
Nevertheless, this is an unlikely story. Our most recent Welfare Report found 93 per cent of employers will be offering their staff a hybrid working model. Whilst a fantastic step forward for all employees, employers and HR teams must now look towards new challenges such as the costs of office overheads, managing the flexible schedules of large teams and allocating days at home whilst ensuring the office is manned five days a week.
Over the past year we’ve seen many changes to the HR industry and will continue to do. Employers and employees alike have already made impressive efforts and steps to adapt, so to continue this upwards trajectory, businesses will do well to take advantage of the opportunities that have risen. The ability to pivot will be essential to the progression and development of companies and HR teams; to create efficient, inclusive and better workplaces across the board.