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HR 4.0 – the future is here!

Future of Work

By Vidisha Mehta | September 29, 2020

How has COVID-19 impacted the role of HRs?

To say that the world of work has undergone an accelerated transformation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. Almost overnight, organisations were forced to move most operations to remote set ups and enable work from home arrangements. As an immediate crisis management measure, governments and organisations have implemented employer support programmes and furloughs to protect pay and benefits.

As countries reopen their borders and economies get back on track to varying degrees, the focus is now shifted towards resetting business operations to be more sustainable in the long term. Work design has taken centerstage as organisations’ technology deployment plans get adapted (and in some cases, accelerated) in response to the pandemic. Workflows and service delivery models are reviewed. This impacts jobs across industries as manual and routine transaction processing activities are increasingly automated.

And as we move up the value chain, the workforce should also focus on the ‘human’ element of work. This is characterised by aspects such as relationship building, creativity and complex problem solving. This fundamental transformation of business models and jobs heralds an exciting time for HR professionals. They will be key enabler of this journey, through ongoing job redesign and continuous upskilling and reskilling of the workforce.

Another change accelerated by the pandemic is in the area of employee experience. As organisations move to remote work models, the immediate concern was to maintain productivity and engagement of the workforce. Managers had to build capabilities in managing remote teams, often with little previous experience in doing so. While there is no conclusive evidence of loss in productivity (in fact some anecdotal evidence suggests an increase), the employee experience is starting to come under strain.

Blurring of work-life boundaries and fatigue of video calls, combined with challenges to collaborate in a virtual environment and the absence of serendipitous coffee machine chats, is beginning to have an impact on how we experience work. Surrounded with broader environmental (the pandemic, climate change) and societal (ageing, income disparity, inclusion and diversity) challenges, employees are increasingly focused on the purpose of the organisation and how it aligns with their own need to contribute to communities and society. Developing and delivering a compelling employee experience is more important than ever, and business leaders are counting on the HR function to step up to this challenge.

So how is the HR function responding?

Through multiple studies conducted by Willis Towers Watson with global and local stakeholders, we have identified key themes that define the new charge for HR. Enabling business transformation through job redesign, and workforce transformation through continuous upskilling and reskilling is central to what the HR function needs to deliver in future. Enhancing the employee experience is also critical to ensure that employees are committed to giving their best to the organisation.

To deliver on these expectations, the HR function needs to embrace technology on a large scale. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) allows for many transactional and administrative activities such as benefits administration to be automated, AI is powering several processes such as initial screening of resumes.

Adopting these technologies helps to free up the bandwidth of the HR team so that they can focus on the more strategic aspects of workforce transformation. As HR adopts more technology enabled service delivery, more sophisticated and real time data will be generated. Using data to move from reporting to insights, including measuring intangible aspects like reputations and networks, and using predictive analytics models will help to enable data- driven decisions to be made across all areas of HR.

Needless to say, the HR function needs to focus on its own transformation and reskilling to enable these changes. The pandemic has accelerated workforce transformation and has provided an opportunity in this time of crisis for HR professionals to step up to what we’ve always wanted. A seat at the executive table and the means to shape the future of work.


Talent and Rewards Leader, Singapore

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