Work from anywhere: Workforce trends expected in 2021

January 4, 2021 5:00 AM

The pandemic has shown us that while digital business models were game-changers, the great pivots to productivity in the pandemic were happy, engaged, driven and most of all healthy employees.

Technology will have a significant role to nudge, support and track each individual’s journey towards wellness.Technology will have a significant role to nudge, support and track each individual’s journey towards wellness.

By Aditya Kohli

The year 2020 has been anything but forgettable. I believe it was a year that has shown something that is remarkably human—our ability to evolve, the agility to respond, and the resolve to overcome against all odds. I am reminded of a quote by Viktor Frankl: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

As an HR leader, I have been fortunate to be a part of a fantastic group of professionals who were tasked with the responsibility to handle the crisis, respond to the needs of our employees, and focus on restarting the business. As I reflect on the year, I saw three big HR priorities that superseded everything we were focused on. Employee health and wellbeing emerged as the number one priority. Second, as business continuity and emotional resilience were tested, there was a huge focus on communication, proactive connects, and engaging not only employees but their families too. Finally, the HR function invested in building skills and capabilities to support new ways of working.

In 2021, as businesses starts to totter back to pre-Covid-19 levels, we will continue to see traction on the good work done by the HR function. The three trends that will be a priority for CEOs and Boards are:

Employee wellbeing (EW): The pandemic has shown us that while digital business models were game-changers, the great pivots to productivity in the pandemic were happy, engaged, driven and most of all healthy employees. It also showed us that most organisations aren’t doing enough to create an environment where employees can be at their best and thrive. As we start the year, I expect companies to adopt a more holistic approach towards EW that goes beyond health covers, and focuses on physical, emotional, mental and financial health—an integrated approach towards wellbeing that connects to all other HR systems like people development and performance management. Technology will have a significant role to nudge, support and track each individual’s journey towards wellness.

Workforce flexibility (WF): We should look at WF across three dimensions. Workplace (where does the work get done), Work (what needs to be accomplished to create value) and Workforce (who will do the task). Workplace: The pandemic has shown that work can be successfully done from almost anywhere and the role of the office and that of home is radically being redefined. For many, office spaces will become hubs for collaboration and experience, and home a place for work. Work: How we structure it, measure it and deliver it evolved at a phenomenally rapid pace, largely due to increased digitisation and adoption of technology. There will be a lot of pressure for organisations to redefine jobs, skills and organisational architecture. While I don’t think there is one best model, the mix of the workforce will change a lot. There will be a significant increase in hybrid workforce, which incorporates gig workers, part time, outsourced, contract, experienced shared talent and maybe a large number of virtual employees (bots) too.

Digital HR: In 2021, we will witness more investment in HR digitisation. Technology will help augment HR capability and make the function a lot more ‘human’ by driving employee experience at a scale that wasn’t possible before. Much of the transactional HR work requiring repetitive task, queries and talent engagement will be done by bots. People analytics will become more mature, providing actionable intelligence and deeper business insights.

Going by the current markers, it seems 2021 will be a year to look forward to at multiple levels.

The author is CHRO, Clix Capital

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