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Independence is our strength – covering the issues that directly impact on those with the duty of directing human resources

 December 2020 – Issue 194

Although Coronavirus seems to be dictating the narrative of our time, with all the subjects being covered in this issue, it’s important not to just frame it in the current landscape, but to look towards the future, where we will all return to relative normality. We look forward to your synopsis for potential articles in this issue.

Knowledge management
Peter Drucker said that, the product of the pharmaceutical industry isn’t pills, it is information. Indeed, science is pure R&D – quintessential information work – and, as the world’s pharmers race to find a vaccine to deliver us to normal, cross collaboration is unprecedented, veil of corporate secrecy dropped and driving motivations expressed as, protecting lives first, counting costs – and profits – later. By way of stark contrast, in the same period, we have witnessed in Huawei, a catastrophic collapse of confidence and trust that will cast shadows, long and dark. In the Fourth (digital) Revolution the human resource has transcended from manual labourers and deskbound, paper pushing bureaucrats, to information workers, increasingly without fixed times, locations or affiliations. A return to an itinerant existence – not walking from village to village to catch harvests – but from project to project, potentially across the world, for distance is no object. But in this era where plans and corporate “secrets” are shared across a myriad of teams and individuals, how can KM ensure that businesses are not compromised? Increasingly, line management must modify to a pivotal position, between the business and remote teams, hiring and firing, knowledge managing, scheduling and controlling projects. They will need to be the guardians of contractual administration and marshals of intellectual property boundaries, mitigating against concerns of external influence with checks and measures. What is at stake is the protection of brand, intellectual property, innovations and secrets, customers and reputation and it will require a completely new mindset to the contract of engagement, approach to resourcing and human capital management in the future.  

HR Financial Reporting
The reformation of business operations is underway as leaders assess the past seven months of business paralyses and plan for recovery. The disruption to the workforce is unprecedented in peace time: The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for one-in-four, but there are serious doubts about how many will realistically be able to return to their original roles. Redundancies are rising at pace and number, (120,000 at 10th August 2020) and the predicted unemployment rate could reach 15 percent. Meanwhile, 30 percent of workers will continue to work from home for the majority of time and here, HR’s priority is to assess how this level of remote working can be supported in the long-term and mitigate against the predicted impacts on health & wellbeing, engagement and performance. Estimates suggest that 40 percent of people will need to undergo some form of re-skilling, but with cross-industry revenues 30 percent down on average – L&D budgets are significantly diminished. The task ahead is considerable in scale and complexity, but these trying times have drawn HR closer to the heart of the business and, in this crucible of fast and furious enforced change, there is the opportunity to build back better. This is a great time to be in HR as a critical actor for change and HR, forging closer affiliation with finance, effectively combining the language of people and its impact, with that of numbers and ROI, collaborating forces on common objectives of adjustment and recalibration towards the new normal.

Matrixed organisations
The unfolding implications of the pandemic rapidly and mercilessly exposed firms that were unprepared for disruption and were too slow to respond, adapt and maintain business and operational equilibrium. Those organisations which, pre-COVID-19, lacked the impetus for change and maintained a stoic, “business-as-usual” approach, were quickly plunged into chaos and a fight for survival. Meanwhile, matrixed organisations, which had either adopted at birth – or had the prescience to adapt to flatter frameworks – were capable of making decisions at speed and had the platforms and technology in place to scale up remote working to the wider workforce, with the minimum of disruption. In this volatile and ever-changing era – typified by the pandemic – AI, machine learning, data and analytics are key to accelerating the scope and scale of innovation, with the capacity to re-skill, upskill and redeploy people rapidly, to operate efficiently and capitalise on new markets and emerging opportunities. This requires an entirely new model, where organisations must dismantle departmentalised mentality, remove boundaries and break down silos, in order to streamline decisions and processes. Slow-moving hierarchies and bureaucracies have no place in organisations, the future relies upon leadership teams to constantly adopt new technology and utilise data and analytics, to form real-time decision-making and streamline core processes. Commercial success is about pre-empting change, not reacting to it, so speed and agility must be hardwired into the matrixed framework.

Decision science & evidenced-based HR
Time and again, this pandemic is forcing both change and the necessity to adapt to new circumstances. Until now, HR has gained a reputation for a somewhat chaotic and unconnected approach to evidence-based HR, making decisions without considering additional input, based on instinct, opinion, past experience and following industry or workplace trends. But as an eerie silence descended on workplaces and hung like a question-mark over the future, the constant thrum of people data has become an information lifeline. The challenge has been that there is no data to compare this crisis to, to help inform on decision making and it demonstrates the importance of real-time feedback from employees, building data to inform on the journey forward. Decision-making is even more challenging during crisis, when the future is a rolling unknown and so to be effective, data must underscore every aspect of the business, in real-time, so that plans can be re-adjusted. It’s no wonder that 75 percent of data and analytics professionals are working harder and longer hours now than before the pandemic, (Forrester), but this newly-acquired capability within HR is revolutionary, moving data from retrospective reporting to essential future planning, through decision science, on both internal and broader external levels. Despite the bleak outlook, decision science is informing with confidence in the face of ongoing uncertainty and, in this issue, we are looking for expert guidance for our readers, to enable them to capitalise on the new approaches to evidence-based HR and the burgeoning field of decision science. As with all our subjects for this issue, we look forward to your synopsis and suggestions for potential articles.

As with all our subjects this issue, we welcome your expertise and insight in providing guidance to these challenging times.

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