What lies ahead? Three ways HR teams should prepare for the Future of Work

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew
Head

Whether you’re Nostradamus or a trends forecaster, the one thing that you can say with certainty about the future is that it’s uncertain. Unexpected events drive unpredictable outcomes. Even expected events can lead to complex chain reactions, the impact of which may not have been foreseen. And in today’s hyper-connected world, the ripple effect of changing variables – shifting demographics, increasing automation, the growing scarcity of resources - can be felt across continents. 

What does this mean for businesses? Does this ultimate uncertainty mean that companies should leave the future to take care of itself?

No! As every resilient organisation knows, one vital pathway to success is assessing what could happen in the world of work and preparing accordingly. 

Forward-thinking companies are doing exactly that. Early in 2022, LinkedIn noted that there has been a 60% rise in job titles referencing the phrase ‘Future of Work’. One early exemplar of this modern profession is Dr Christian Schmeichel. He’s the Chief Future of Work Officer at SAP, the world’s leading enterprise resource planning software vendor. 

Dr Schmeichel is the guest of our latest webinar. Designed to give HR leaders, Communication leaders and People Managers the tools to deliver what their people really need in this new world of work, this webinar looks at the changing role of HR, and how it will have to evolve to meet the demands of the Future of Work.

To watch the webinar, click here. Or read on to discover three ways HR teams can start preparing for the changes that lie ahead. 

Three ways HR should prepare for the Future of Work

1. Consider the composition of the future workforce

While the working population is continuing to grow, it’s also becoming older. The future workplace will be multigenerational and increasingly diverse. What proportion will be working remotely? What proportion will be full-time employees? And which functions will be even more heavily automated than they already are? 

As the composition of the workforce changes, it’s vital that HR evolves with it, because these employee changes will transform what’s needed in every aspect of the workplace: from onboarding to flexible working, to health, safety, and wellbeing. 

HR needs to see these changes in their real-time context. To do this, the team needs to move (metaphorically) from the back to the front office, building strong connections and sightlines across the business. This is also the moment for HR to focus on developing new skills – becoming more data-driven, and building a genuine understanding of the capabilities of today’s cutting-edge tech. This will allow them to see precisely where the business can invest in ways that add real value: supporting it to adapt to the needs of the changing workforce. 

2. Engage in continuous listening

It’s become commonplace to talk about taking an iterative approach to everything within the workplace: testing, learning, and adapting what you do in response to feedback. To get that feedback, HR should be thinking about continuous listening – running short surveys or listening sessions on a regular cycle. These would ideally include a few core (benchmarking) questions, and a few of-the-moment questions (to keep things fresh). Short surveys aren’t onerous for colleagues, and they offer a regular pulse check that keeps HR informed about employee feeling.

This two-way, ongoing interaction gives you a very good understanding of what the business needs, from both a competitive and an internal point of view. To build on this, HR should draw on the skills of dedicated communication experts. This would be a team committed to people topics, who understand the content, and who can focus on framing it in the right way. This approach ensures that communication is leveraged to its utmost extent – supporting the business to transition more easily through times of change.

3. Build resilience

As we flagged up at the start, no one knows which changes are going to affect the Future of Work, but we do know that there will be change. HR can build organisational resilience by building the connections that create a united workplace community: ensuring that people are focused on why they’re working together, what they stand for as a business – their purpose and their values – and by humanising business decisions. 

There are multiple aspects to building a sense of belonging. For example: 

  • Creating a state-of-the-art working environment, with the right digital set-up, so people want to be there. 
  • Giving leaders the tools and support to encourage conversations about what behaviours are going to be needed, and why – so that their focus is on empowering their teams to succeed, wherever they’re located.
  • Creating occasions and events where people really feel that they want to come into together, to connect and to be part of the community in-person.

Want to find out more about evolving the HR function to meet tomorrow’s needs? Watch the Future of Work webinar, today.

Do we need to acknowledge this in a different way or add a comment? For us, a dedicated comms team for HR isn’t ideal for our business! I wonder if we need to mention something here about the value of having dedicated communication experts who understand the subject matter (i.e. us!) 

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew
Head