• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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International HR Day 2024: HR shaping the new future

International HR Day 2024: HR shaping the new future

What people want:

We cannot manage people today with the approach, tools, and ways we managed them in the past. Why? Simply put, change.

The times have changed. People too. How people view work has changed; how people view their relationship with work has changed; and, most importantly, how people place work in their lives has changed. Phrases about ‘employees taking back their lives’ have caught on.

Read also: Human resource information systems

Employers, people managers, and people leaders need to recognise these changes and adapt accordingly.

Q: “These challenges provide HR professionals with the perfect opportunity to influence how work is designed, shape how employees interact with work, and drive change.”

With this in mind, I set about putting myself in the hearts of employees at work. What would I want from work? Beyond being concerned with three major things:

Where I work,

When I work, and

The work that I perform.

What should my overall experience with work be? Largely, positive. CIPD defines employee experience as:

creating a great work environment for employees, enabling them to have a voice, and helping them to be their best.

It is a holistic approach to engaging with employees, as it looks at how people interact with every stage of the employee life cycle. 3

Questions like the following kept ringing in my head. As an employee,

How would I want to be treated throughout the hiring process?

What onboarding process will make me feel special or like I belong and set me up for success?

What type of leader or leadership traits would empower me and push me to do my best?

What kind of company would connect me to a higher purpose or bigger mission?

What company culture would fill me with exhilaration and drive, not toxicity?

Who are the people I would work with? Know that some people get on the bus because of who else is on it (Jim Collins, Good to Great).

How would I be better equipped to do my role and the next role after that?

Does the environment and system support how I work best?

Answering these questions honestly will help people (HR) managers design better employee experiences at work. To do so, it is important to reflect on the recent evolution of HR.

HR and the 4th Revolution:

The late 20th century saw increased technology use, particularly the internet and digital tools, revolutionising HR practices. People management solutions (HRIS and HRMS) were the order of the day, as automation helped HR professionals to be less administrative and focus more on strategic people initiatives. Every stage of the employee life cycle (from recruitment to talent management) became fun again due to predictive analytics leveraging data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

In this century, there has been a growing emphasis on enhancing the employee experience and promoting employee well-being. This is shaping the focus for HR professionals to prioritise—wholeness for their people. Initiatives on the front burner are flexible work arrangements, mental health and wellness, inclusion and culture, and work-life balance.

It is important to note that the recent evolution has been fast-tracked, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reinforced the importance of digital connectivity in the face of forced remote work. And HR professionals displayed their resilience and adaptability in those unprecedented times.

Challenges and landmines:

The evolution of HR professionals hasn’t been without challenges, especially as change is the only constant and workforce dynamics keep changing. Noteworthy changes include:

Technological change: The rapid advancement in technology has reshaped job roles and skill requirements.

Skills gap and lifelong learning: The pace of technological change has widened the skills gap, with many employees lacking the skills they need for emerging roles.

Globalisation and diversity: The world became smaller in 2020, and globalisation has led to increasingly diverse and multicultural workforces, presenting challenges in managing cross-cultural communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution.

Recruitment, management, and retention: Talent acquisition and retention have become increasingly competitive, particularly in high-demand industries and specialised roles.

Remote work and collaboration: The shift towards remote work has introduced new challenges in managing remote teams, maintaining employee engagement, and fostering a sense of community.

Employee well-being and mental health: The pandemic has heightened awareness of employee well-being and mental health issues, with many employees experiencing increased stress, burnout, and anxiety.

These challenges provide HR professionals with the perfect opportunity to influence how work is designed, shape how employees interact with work, and drive change.

HR shaping the new future:

In addressing HR’s role, the question is, ‘How Might We as HR Professionals Solve the Challenges of the Evolving Workforce?’


Adopting technology: HR professionals must lead by leveraging technology to simplify processes, improve decision-making, and enhance the overall employee experience. Some HRIS automated tools include SeamlessHR, Pade, and OnCulture.

Innovating in skills and learning: HR departments must creatively map out training and development programmes to upskill and reskill their teams in formal and informal ways through continuous learning. The global hospitality company Marriott is known for prioritising employee training and development through programmes like “Marriott University.”

Offering flexible work options and remote work: HR professionals need to propose innovative flexible work arrangements for their types of businesses and industries. These should be supported by clear policies, collaborative tools, and the right support for employees to achieve work-life balance. Early, fully remote companies such as Automattic and GitLab have some of the best remote work tools available.

Championing diversity and inclusion: Managing people in different geographical locations will require HR professionals to be aware of and implement initiatives that create equitable and inclusive workplaces while ensuring compliance. Examples of a subset of diversity are AXA Mansard (the SHE Initiative), Access Bank (the “W” Initiative), and Sterling Bank (the One Woman Initiative).

Prioritising talent management and retention: Culture is key here. HR professionals must prioritise creating a positive, enabling environment that attracts, empowers, and keeps great talent. Leadership training and development are crucial to retention. Google is well known for innovating around talent management and building a versatile culture that is synonymous with creativity. Netflix’s motto of “freedom and responsibility” gives employees autonomy and trust.

Promoting employee well-being and mental health: People are drawn to +ve environments. HR professionals must prioritise mental health and employee well-being by providing support and resources. A recent win for Unilever was approving a one-day menstrual Leave policy for all female employees to allow them to rest and recuperate.

The role of HR has transformed over the years. As strategic partners, HR professionals can shape the new future of work by reflecting on, and anticipating, the changing dynamics of the workforce. The focus is on optimising the employee experience and is a call to get back to the basics. People.

As we say at The People Practice,

– Focus on Culture and people will follow TM

– Focus on People and all else will follow TM

Tunde-Anjous and Richards are with The People Practice.