Each year, around this time, we take stock of all that was accomplished, both within our companies and the HR industry at large, and begin adequately preparing ourselves for the new year. But do we look back and compare what was predicted as trends for the year and what really occurred?
Sometimes, yes. However, most of the time, we’re busy looking forward.
A quick glance at 2016 shows that while most of the trends like data analytics, digitisation and automation in HR made a start, the biggest trend that has been predicted but is yet to make its full impact, is the disruption caused by technology.
Tech disruptions in the HR space will be a focus area for 2017, and as is seen, is already a force to reckon within businesses in general. Especially in the IT industry, the dynamic nature of technology advancements has left many companies playing catch-up as business models get disrupted. A similar disruption is on the cards in the workspace. I would look at it as two-pronged—a positive impact with technology enabling humans to be more efficient and creative, and a negative impact as traditional ways of doing work get challenged.
We are witnessing the way people use technology to make their daily lives simpler—whether it is to commute, to interact, to order and pay for services or even control devices from their phones.
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These innovations are going to spill into the workspace and careers in a big way. People will expect similar interfaces and enablement in their workspaces. This means greater focus on design of work process as well as heavy investment in technology as companies start to support the mobile workforce better.
To me, the user interface one company offers over the other will make a difference in terms of attracting talent.
The other impact is the ability of companies to use people data in an interesting way. With substantial people data now available in digitised formats, the modern computing power makes what was impossible a few years ago, possible. This will allow for real-time data-driven decisions regarding people.
For example, you could predict with reasonable certainty as to which of your employees is likely to succeed in a challenging assignment by analysing his digital footprint within the company and beyond. Similarly, you could enhance your returns on investments on training, new systems, etc, by using already available data.
One big challenge facing us in the times of micro-time spans is that HR managers are losing the ability to spend time interacting and talking to employees as well as on creative work of designing great workplaces, processes and systems. More than ever before, this is a skill that is prized highly by employees as well as organisations. One of the biggest complaints among HR professionals is the inordinate amount of time spent on tiresome, routine tasks that involve little to no human thought. This leaves them with no time for anything else.
Therefore, automation of HR processes will be on the list of required upgrades in 2017. While the popular understanding is that automation rids people of their jobs, it is not so. By automating redundant HR processes, time and effort is freed up, which can be spent in more meaningful work—creating better experiences, focusing on the actual wants of employees, inculcating innovation into everyday work, etc. The goal is to disrupt existing work patterns of spending time on tasks that can be easily automated. Thereby enabling the HR professional to do the work she is meant to do. Yes, this may mean working with more systems, but it will signal the move from managing transactions to determining the output in a meaningful way.
While companies, including Infosys, have begun their journey in creating the workplace for the future, fostering innovation and introducing data-driven decisions is the key to success. Companies have to make the leap from improving current processes to the liberating world of innovating into the new—to go where no one has gone before. By embracing technology, automation, innovation and entrepreneurship, we can create an environment that fosters creativity, brings together multi-generational teams to shape the business of tomorrow.
The future of our organisations depends on making this possible by seeing ahead a little into tomorrow.
The author is EVP & head, HR, Infosys