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theHRDIRECTOR – February 2018 – Issue 160

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Synopsis – Issue 160 – February 2018

Employers are bending over backwards to accommodate a mind-boggling array of employee expectations and must haves, in a bid to make the list in one “best companies to work for” award or other. Unequivocally, what remains the same is that employee engagement, an empowered workforce, imbued with authenticity and self-responsibility, has always been the beating heart of any business, an essential component of competitiveness, the very difference between success and failure. Enough time has elapsed for us to compare the old with the new –  the clunking iron fist of fear, that kept subordinates scurrying for cover for generations, or the free and easy chill zone of today. An element that remains critical is, customer is still king/queen and the line between those that serve and those that pay remains the same, whether an employee is a deep-seated middle manager, an itchy Gen Z, or a gigging specialist, if they represent the brand, they are business ambassadors. So, in this strange land of great contrast and difference, how can engagement be developed and sustained? If teams are out of sight, how can we ensure that they are not out of mind? In the game-changing workplace, what is the best strategy for improving retention and optimising performance? What now can effectively avoid stagnation and career inertia? What is society’s influence on engagement, and how are the changing conventions of work impacting on engagement?

Knowledge management
Essential and valued knowledge that walks out the door in the brains and hands of departing colleagues has always been a huge loss to businesses; “nobody could polish a cabinet like ol’ Ted”. In today’s workplace of course, hands on physical craftsmanship is a thing of the past, but if anything, this is an increasing knowledge-based economy, particularly in leading-edge tech, where the trend is that employees are setting the pace of change. What is particularly vexing is an evolving culture that knowledge is power, which is likely to grow in prominence as the gig specialist economy takes hold, where knowledge and capability is currency – so why would anyone impart knowledge on others? In these changing times, how can we most effectively develop a knowledge-sharing culture that supports collaboration and enhances relations and the effective transfer of knowledge? What is the best approach to eradicate siloed working, build a culture of transparency and support and encourage the broadest contribution?

Disruptors & disruption
Massive auto manufacturing marques with century-long heritages and hundreds of thousands of employees are silently and fearfully watching a new and audacious disruptor called Elon Musk light the path to the future, building cars that outperform their best efforts and even installing banks of recharging docks in service stations and hotel carparks, with the word Tesla glowing red in the dark. Think Kodak, think Nokia, think being caught in the battery-generated headlights, transfixed by the brilliance and paralysed with fear – it’ a catastrophic contemplation. What and who is speeding up the pulse of change? Technology of course, and customers are more disruptive than competitors, and then there is employees, dynamically forging the future direction of business, the proverbial tail wagging the dog. So how can we best turn the dynamics of disruption into a positive? How can businesses look to optimise the positives and mitigate against the negatives? Should we even be terming forced change disruption? Business has always been about meeting customer needs, and the death of the combustion engine has been writ large on city walls and congestion charges for more than a decade. What needs to be overcome more than anything is fear of change, and that is a primeval sense based on feeling safer in recognisable surroundings.

Workforce planning
What is increasingly clear is, what cannot be predicted has to be measured, and so much of what lies in the future is written in data – the retrospective storyteller – and analytics – a sort of mysterious soothsayer – constantly churning out cryptic messages. If, in the past, resource planning was largely focused on the current and near future needs of the business, based on output and meeting supply and demand, armed with AI-grade SWP, businesses can reach further into the dark with much greater alacrity and confidence, or so the theory goes. For despite SWP being heralded as the most essential tool in the HR dashboard, it is still largely misunderstood and this needs to be rectified, fast. In a flat economy and volatile world, businesses must be able to forecast human capital requirements immediately, anticipate gaps before they occur, and ensure the organisation has the capability and infrastructure to meet business objectives, in order to stay competitive and relevant.

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