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The Future of Work: The Role of HR In Preparing The People

The world of work is changing. There is a lot of disruption going on as a result of :-

  • Increased competition by smaller but agile companies with disruptive business models
  • Advanced technologies generating new opportunities to add value
  • Automation posing a threat to employment

These are just a few of the trends changing the way organizations operate around the world, and they are doing so at an increasing speed. In fact, 73% of business executives which includes the Chief Executive Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, etc. surveyed by Gartner (The world’s leading research and advisory company) believe that changes will occur faster, forcing companies to go through restructuring, culture changes, and mergers or acquisitions, at times all at once.

The future of work is not abstract, rather it is being triggered by customer expectations, it is basically a response to a demand and supply. The effect of the future of work differs from one industry to another as well as individual responses to these changes differs. There is a need for Human Resource professionals to rise in order to gather insight on how they can adapt these changes (the future of work) in their respective industries.

  • It has become quintessential for HR professionals to recalibrate their mindsets to look beyond the usual recruitment requirements such as qualification, grade, experience etc. when recruiting desired talents for their organizations. Human Resources must first look for the competencies and skill sets required in a particular job role when interviewing candidates and not be constrained by the status quo of numerous years of experience, educational qualification, grade etc. This tactic if adopted will be useful in attracting individuals especially the millennial, who have multifaceted talents that may not necessarily fit into the outlined profile for a job role but have exhibited certain competencies either in school or at other times (not necessarily in a formal organizational setting) in their lives which clearly indicates their potential.
  • In preparing the people for the Future of Work, there is a need for total skill audit of the various departments to determine if the staff in these departments have the desired skills that will be needed to enable the organization attain its strategic goals. Human Resources needs to identify the must-have skills/competencies required for each job roles to determine if the people in these departments currently have the needed skill sets. There is an urgent need to get people to build critical skills beyond their current job roles
  • There is a need for HR to partner with the business on social impact projects in a way that is ultimately building the society for the Future of Work.
  • Human Resources professionals should seek to empower people by reorienting their minds in preparation for the Future of Work. People need to understand that their career is ultimately their responsibility and desist from the thinking that HR must train them, develop them and plan their careers. The role of the line Managers in this empowerment scheme cannot be overemphasized as employees should be encouraged to take ownership of their careers.
  • It is a known fact that technology is changing businesses operations and there is a need for organizations to adapt. More and more businesses are either going virtual or adopting flexible work hours system. Human Resource professionals need to start thinking if their current work force have the skills, infrastructure, etc. to adapt to the changing Future of Work e.g. With the dynamics of working in Lagos, an average professional would appreciate remote or virtual working from time to time. It will soon become an employer value proposition for most organizations and some have already embraced it. HR needs to think through the demography of their organization, infrastructure available and what impact it would have on the business in order to be able to make a business case for it to be considered.
  • Human Resource Practitioners must guide against getting lost in the trends but quickly interpret how the future of work affects their organization and ultimately their industry. There is a need to research on successful organizations who are operating in the future we envisage for our businesses. This is because, in the advanced economies, a lot of what is considered as the Future of Work within the Nigerian context are either being currently experienced by some organizations in these advanced economies or they have experienced them already. Once the picture of the Future of Work is clear, it is easier to develop the right blueprint to get there.
  • Talent War is something that will arise from the current changes in the World of Work globally. This is fundamentally triggered, within our nation specifically, by the brain drain as talents migrate from one geographical location to the other in search of opportunities that align with their personal goals. For others, it is as a result of socio-economic challenges. In Nigeria, for instance, the educational system has been found faulty and the few policies guiding the sector are either non-existent or have failed to address the gaps identified in preparing graduates for the Future of Work. Since that is out of our control, we as HR professionals need to re-look our approach to identifying and developing talents that will meet the future business needs of our organizations.
  • Some Challenges for The HR function In Preparing for The Future Of Work are as follows;
    • Leadership support
    • Business perception of role
    • Cost – Getting Return on Investment for whatever expended cost either monetary or otherwise.
    • Employees’ Attitude – Resistance to the changing Future of Work
  • HR skills required FOR THE FUTURE OF WORK
    • Ability to influence
    • Stakeholder Engagement
    • Critical Thinking
    • Data Analytics

Behavioural Science HR professionals should move from the back-office to the front line for strategic discussions that are value-adding. HR professionals should move from the back-office to the front line for strategic discussions that are value-adding.

  • Re-Imagine HR

Reference was made to Dr Obeng’s presentation at the Gartner’s ReImagine HR Forum which held in London in September.

  • He advised HR professionals to not design work for the future workforce alone as we are a multi-generational workforce with peculiar attributes, and that won’t change. Instead we have to leverage the experience of different generations and the relationships between then to combine their perspectives and create better value.
  • He also advised that organizations should stop thinking in terms of how it will replace people. People need to begin to see Technology as an ‘Enabler’ rather than as a ‘Threat’.
  • His final submission was that a digital workforce doesn’t mean providing employees with an information-rich, tech-heavy experience for them to navigate.Rather it allows organizations to play to the human strengths, freeing their people to be more creative, to make better decisions, and to become the high-empathy contact point with customers.

In conclusion, there is a need for HR professionals to individually revisit the “Why” of their career choice, which is primarily to help align people with businesses for mutually beneficial value exchange, as this will help with a rediscovery or revalidation that can bring about a transformative impact on the value, we bring to the businesses we work with.

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