By Shaakun Khanna,
After a year of the pandemic upending the very concept of a ‘workplace’, organizations around the world have risen to the occasion – migrating to a new way of working that even the best business-continuity plans hadn’t envisaged. Across industries, both work and workplaces are being redefined in bold, innovative ways. Conventional wisdom around people, performance and productivity is changing and long-held assumptions about how work effectiveness should be regarded is also undergoing a structural shift.
Renewed focus on reskilling and learning can be considered as key attributes among professionals in the new workplace. When companies went remote, new skills like digital dexterity, personal time management and other soft skills gained value. According to an online survey done by us, 56% people reported having learned a new skill, a number significantly higher than before. This has triggered a trend where companies are aligning themselves in a way that can help employees put their learnings into practice.
Additionally, workforce composition is undergoing a paradigm shift. People have started earning through multiple sources of income and this can have strong implications to how this new generation will view employment contracts and therefore their choice of employers. Moreover, people want to invest in personal skills along with professional ones, they prefer individual contributor roles over people management work. Owing to these changing aspirations, organizations are now relooking at new employee retention tactics —like opening paid gig opportunities to existing employees within the organization, so they don’t have to look outside.
Finally, organizations are looking to derive talent insights using modern data analytics tools. Such tools can help predict attrition rates, reduce employee churn by revealing behavioural patterns or even help employees upskill. Carmeuse, a global producer of lime and limestone products has done just that. With an online HCM platform, the company has been able to gain better insights about its employees and has been able to create a central hub for learning and development which is ultimately helping its people.
Change in people’s aspirations has directly impacted performance metrics. Now, unlike ever before, efforts are being made to try and build a smarter and efficient workforce by simplifying mundane tasks and eliminating inadequacies. This can be achieved by designing systems that minimise human involvement and instead use cognitive technologies. Employees are being encouraged to cultivate critical skills that potentially open multiple opportunities for their career development and allows them to spend their time and talent on higher-level tasks.
In terms of the ‘new’ workplace, organizations are moving towards a more fluid workforce where employee policies, compensation, benefits, rewards, and other aspects are being recalibrated. The fundamental way of looking at performance will be laser focussed on their outcome. Organizations are now focusing on providing their employees with the right technology & tools that enable them to fully work from home without any limitation during the lockdown. This change is likely to have a bearing on every dimension of work.
As workplaces prepare to open, companies must rethink how they engage their employees. Instead of defining new work reviewing measures, organizations should focus on enhancing health and safety of employees, rethink flexibility regarding working from home, and most importantly, facilitate people with tech enabled platforms which enable them to fully work from home without any limitation whatsoever. A study by Gartner shows that 16% of employers are using technologies more frequently to monitor their employees through methods such as virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring employee emails or internal communications. While these are essential to assess employee productivity, what’s more important is to better understand the employee’s experience. Digital assistants are a great tool that can allow employees to ask for help, whether they work-from-home or in the office—across any device. It allows them to receive personalized responses to HR queries using SMS, voice, or any other preferred social platform. This interaction will surely improve the employee’s experience and could have a direct impact on productivity too.
In India, the Piramal Group too has leveraged a modern HR platform to ensure access to a single view of fragmented HR data across geographies. Tools in the platform such as HR analytics, collaboration tools, and automated employee query handling have helped the company enhance and track employee productivity.
Furthermore, HR teams need the right tools to make work safer, provide more support, and work smarter in a time of constant change. They need solutions that can steer employees to navigate the new workplace by providing personalized to-do- lists, guiding them through an automated experience using a configurable ‘Return to the Workplace’ set of tasks, providing information like how-to videos and policies, and enabling employees to schedule a COVID-19 test or order an at-home testing kit with their preferred vendor, or share immunization status. In that regard, solutions that are tailored to individuals will make it easier for HR to roll out efforts by putting together processes that are easier for people to follow.
As the adage goes, change is the only constant, and this is even more relevant in today’s dynamic environment. Businesses must seize this moment of transformation to break out of suboptimal systems and achieve the ultimate goals of a healthy workplace. Clearly, a large proportion of the workforce will come back to work with modified beliefs, updated skill sets, elevated aspirations, and most importantly evolved work ethics. Organizations, therefore, will have to transform their culture, enable true flexible working with technology and processes, create a culture of openness and empathy and of course, assume greater societal and environmental responsibility. How the world evolves after the current crisis is for us to see, however, some of these trends clearly signify the dawn of a new era. An era where generational differences have been trumped by survival of all with the right technology and the right mindset.
(The author is Head HCM Applications Strategy, Oracle Asia Pacific. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)