By Swetha Harikrishnan
Every time I am asked to write a piece on the HR trends of the future, I find myself in a little bit of a fix. The basic mantra that all HR professionals live by – to put your people first – isn’t a fad and neither does this focus waver from one year to another. In that sense, most of the HR forecasts are usually variations on the same theme.
This year has been slightly different though. While we have moved past the worst of the COVID years (a layperson hopes!), we are still dealing with pandemic fatigue, and the toll it has taken on interpersonal connections and our productivity. 2022 opened with a focus on economic recovery and ‘back to the office’, and then the maverick global economic factors drowned us all in a renewed wave of fear.
Ever since COVID, the very nature of what we considered ‘work’ has been shaken and changed so abruptly. As I see it, the immediate task before us is to help our workplaces and our teams become recession-proof. High attrition in a savage economy is a double whammy; you cannot hire more hands to fill in the gaps, nor can you let it affect your bottom line. The need for the HR function to serve as a shock absorber in a crisis scenario is also undeniable.
The list below is by no means comprehensive, but use it as a Rosetta stone of sorts when building and adopting new policies for the upcoming year. These are the top 3 trends I believe could move the needle in the positive direction amid continuing external challenges.
1. Making your employees’ financial safety a priority
According to one layoff tracker, there have been 1138 rounds of layoffs at tech companies globally so far this year, affecting 182,605 people, this is changing by the day. As a result, there has been tremendous pressure on tech talent to explore opportunities that reduce reliance on single sources of income.
With the market being what it is, individuals with high drive and passion are not hesitant to take on multiple challenging opportunities at the same time. For us in the HR domain, the challenge then is to create policies and directives that allow our employees to put their financial stability at the forefront.
We cannot ask our workers to stay attached to us at the hips anymore. Moonlighting has been in the news a lot in recent months and it is high time that the working world opened up and helped individuals in their career journeys, and organisations became more inclusive of diverse modes and employment opportunities.
2. Increasing the pool of talent to more neuro-diverse and passionate people
One in seven people in the UK identifies as neurodivergent, and research suggests that companies with a neurodiverse team can be up to 30% more productive. The untapped talent pool that exists among those tagged as having bipolar disorder, dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Tourette syndrome, can be vastly beneficial for a company. Globally, an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the population is neurodiverse.
Neurodiverse people experience the world differently than neurotypicals do. It is in this divergence of thought and experience that organisations, that are leapfrogging into the future, could look for creative ways to face challenges and build more revenue. Employees on the autism spectrum can be as much as 140% more productive than others. Those who are dyslexic are gifted with out-of-the-box thinking. From Richard Branson to Barbara Corcoran and Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA), neurodiverse individuals have been contributing at the highest echelons of society. Organisations today have the opportunity to establish the right support structures in place for this talent pool.
It’s a tricky fight to create bias-free environments to support neurodiversity without giving in to implicit ableism. However, if done right, this has the potential to go a long way in helping us build stronger and more resilient teams.
3. Fighting e-presenteeism, burnout, and lack of engagement with tools and TLC
Keeping employees engaged in a remote world is hard as is. Keeping them engaged, loyal, and focused in times of recession is an Everest. When the slightest of shakeups can bring your workforce to the edge, how do you make them believe that you have still got their backs?
This is where the empathy that has been under the spotlight since COVID comes into play. Asking your employees to be forever present online even if it causes burnouts isn’t helping anyone. It might sound counterproductive because we are so trained to fight fire with fire. While new and progressive policies around work-life balance and capping work hours can be beneficial in the long-run, in the immediate, it risks alienating the best of your workforce that is still growing new skin post the emotional and professional scarring of the last two years.
There is no denying the need to measure or manage productivity. Perhaps, it is better done via new tools and processes rather than an overreliance on the traditional ‘war room’ approach.
To end… Navigating a constantly changing tech employment landscape has been tough for us HR professionals, too. Though we as a function have always prided ourselves on being adaptable, the constant cycle of boom and bust that we have gone through lately has taken its toll on all of us.
Sooner or later, our economy will stabilise. I hope this time around we do not blindly fall into the trap of hiring beyond our means in a stable market, only to walk back on commitments made, at the first hint of danger. As we close a year and walk into a new one, let’s do it with intention and the collective wisdom we have gained. This too shall pass. In the interim, it’s upon us to be better than the crash-and-burn reactions that the market is designed to elicit from us.
The author is Senior Director – People, HackerEarth
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