COVID-19 has completely disrupted the world of work. But we are far from out of the woods yet.
In fact, it seems like an even bigger transformation is on the horizon as companies seek to create a future of work that works for their business bottom line, as well as employee experience.
To help guide companies as they grapple with the rapidly changing workplace environment, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) surveyed 6,000 individuals across 113 countries, including 30 executives.
In the resulting Creating People Advantage 2021 report, they identified digitalization and talent as some of the most urgent issues that need to be tackled to create an advantage in the next normal.
It is clear that HR departments are lagging behind in terms of digital capabilities; only 37% of those surveyed by BCG and WFPMA said their companies had sufficient digital tools and just 31% said HR was supported by the right IT systems.
Having the right digital tools, as well as data and analytics capabilities, helps to future proof the workplace, according to BCG and WFPMA.
In terms of talent, the report notes that the competition for talent – particularly in the realm of digital – is fierce and therefore companies need a very streamlined, digital-enabled approach to successful attract, but also retain, top quality talent.
It is also important that HR focuses on upskilling and reskilling employees with the right skills that the business will need to succeed in the future.
How to succeed in the future of work
Linked to these topics that need addressing, BCG and WFPMA identified five priorities for HR and decision makers in order to get ahead in 2021 and beyond.
First, the report notes that companies need to put employees at the center of everything they do. This is because 85% of those surveyed noted that the focus on employee needs and expectations is key to retaining the best talent.
HR teams and companies need to continually collect feedback from staff, create customized career paths for their employees, as well as understand what they need from digital tools.
BCG and WFPMA recommends that HR processes need to be designed with the employee in mind.
For instance, employees should be able to log onto a single interface for all their admin and self-service needs in the future of work. This platform should also be sufficiently sophisticated that it can learn about employees over time and improve their interaction with it.
Second, HR teams need to be involved in shaping the future of work whether the employer is implementing a remote-first approach, hybrid working or more flexible schedules. Doing this well can also help companies to attract and retain the best talent.
BCG and WFPMA also recommend that organizations should also seize the opportunity of the disruption to sharpen the company’s culture and purpose; this will help keep employees engaged and inspired, particularly since remote working is likely to continue at least some of the time.
Third, there is a need to transform the people management function and make HR into a strategic partner in the business.
According to BCG and WFPMA, this requires HR being very specific and focused about its priorities, as well as ensuring that their voice is heard at all levels of the company.
However, it is also needs all mangers to become people leaders.
“People management is not strictly an HR responsibility—it is the responsibility of every manager. Fostering continuous dialogue and feedback, listening to employees, and enabling them to succeed should be the most important goals of any leader”, notes the report.
Spotlight on people analytics
Fourth, BCG and WFPMA’s report noted there is an urgent need to accelerate digital strategies with a focus on IT, data and analytics.
They identified people analytics as being critical in the future of work. This needs to mature and HR teams need to have the capability to actually monitor and manage the key people data points to support any decision making.
The report notes that this may require some upskilling and reskilling of HR, as well as other advanced departments like sales and marketing.
This is another priority in BCG and WFPMA report; they say companies must focus on workforce planning and a holistic talent management approach that focuses on ensuring the organization is creating a workforce that will thrive in the future.
The focus on people analytics is interesting since this segment of HR tech market is booming – especially with leader in the space Visier becoming a unicorn just yesterday.
WFPMA president Bob Morton concluded: “Companies today must navigate an exceedingly challenging business environment—and strong, proactive people management is the only way to ensure that companies have the right talent in place to succeed.
“A data-driven, objective approach that places people at the front and center of work can help HR leaders allocate scarce resources to the most urgent priorities.”