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October 2019 – Issue 180
Managing Business Growth
Growth remains business critical, but for more strategic reasons. Whereas in the past the ambition was to increase existing market share, now it is to gain a foothold in new and emerging markets that are either compatible with existing business or threaten. Consequently, business portfolios are becoming increasingly international, diverse and complex, and often it is dynamic and chaotic start-ups that are targeted. Meanwhile, the backdrop could not be more unsettled, with the swirl of political, technical and commercial disruption and a skills shortage biting hard – achieving growth scalability has never been more challenging. So, what are the core considerations in planning ahead in a time of continuous change, and how can a plan be assured, robust and sustainable in an uncertain and tumultuous environment? HR’s role in managing business growth needs to become more credible. Indeed, CIPD’s research, (July 25th 2018), revealed that workforce analytics is; “the missing data from corporate reports”? Surely people data is central to informing business growth decisions, as the change continuum forces, not just operational and market changes, but cultural change too. Indeed, a more agile workforce framework is not a “nice-to-have”, its central to competitiveness and the capacity to react quickly to the changes that business expansion inevitably brings. As always, leadership is key and HR’s role in eradicating lead weighted legacy issues and developing leaders that are agile, forward-looking and technically astute is fundamental to future growth success.
The timely, but sudden death of the annual performance review succinctly demonstrated the necessity for the role of line manager to be overhauled. Practically nothing of the traditional framework and definition is relevant to the way organisations and people operate. If the old way relied upon routine, stability, consistency and predictability, now the polar opposite exists, as organisations struggle with a disruptive and unsettling transition, where; line of sight is eroding, the physical and psychological contract between employee and employer is being rewritten, and increasingly, workforce resources are made of gigging itinerant contractors, who join projects not companies. Technology, of course, is the volatile accelerant, forcing change which will further impact the role in ways yet unknown. So, it is incumbent on HR to create a line management system that robustly ensures a chain of command in a meritocratic frame, and flexibility and agility with a level of rigidity that maintains a semblance of integrity, responsibility and accountability in a highly-dynamic environment. As technology increasingly supports autonomy and remote working, the capacity for line managers to demonstrate real empathy, clear communication and soft skills are key. So how can HR ensure that they are developed appropriately to meet the challenges ahead and supported by HR policies that can cut it in an ever-changing workforce landscape?
AI, automation and Robotics
In four months’ time, we will see what the workforce of 2020 will look like – clearly, the time to view AI and robotics as a disruptive transition to a new way of operating and working has long passed. Now is the phase for organisations to prepare to capitalise on the opportunities this dawning era presents. It is inevitable that many different types of human jobs will be superseded by AI, but encouragingly, research by the Workforce Institute finds that the majority of employees (75 percent) perceive AI as a positive influence in creating a more engaging and empowering workplace experience. So, it is business leaders that must find the synergies and exploit the opportunities to improve efficiency, productivity, and provide the environment for employees to take on more innovative, cerebral and meaningful roles. To achieve momentum, unquestionably, HR has to upscale its technological profile and capacity and attract the crucial digital capability that is required to meet the ever-changing needs of an increasingly automated future.
In its research entitled Avoiding the demographic crunch: Labour supply and the ageing workforce, CIPD revealed that over 30 percent of people in UK employment are over the age of 50, and there are unlikely to be enough younger people entering the labour market to replace this group when they leave the workforce. Without question, employers need to address the challenges ahead, such as; skills shortages, productivity and labour shortfalls, and to work innovatively with the demographic reality, in recruitment and development, upskilling and reskilling, and creating a culture of knowledge sharing in all directions. More positively, there are demographic changes that employers can capitalise on to redress the balance such as; rising female participation in the labour market, better supported and developed to take on more key roles. Likewise, multicultural workforces and the influence of younger generations is having a considerable impact on the workplace and the employer/employee relationship. Indeed, rising cultural diversity will cause businesses to incorporate a broader set of values, which means that companies will have to radically rethink their internal interactions, particularly how to attract, deploy, develop and retain key skills people. Ultimately, the capacity to adapt and thrive will require greater flexibility, agility and the capacity to support and empathise with diverse workforce needs and expectations.
As with all our subjects this issue, we welcome your expertise and insight in providing guidance to these challenging times.