The year 2020 sounded a wake-up call to businesses—big and small—that digital transformation is no longer a wait and watch phenomenon but has become an imperative for survival and reinventing themselves. While functions that are customer facing or are directly supporting markets were prioritised for digital investments, because of the need for remote working, HR function also had to reimagine their processes.
Post lockdown periods, with uncertainties around new virus variants and their impact on work, many organisations continue with remote working or with the hybrid model of physical and virtual working. Several businesses which have zoomed during the lockdown and post lockdown periods, have also been experiencing exodus of employees and need to hire new talent and also upgrade existing employees quickly. Prolonged periods of working remotely have raised concerns of employee wellbeing and the challenges around sustaining employee engagement efforts. Cybersecurity and protection of employee data have become significant areas of focus for HR managers, and not just IT managers.
Starting with the call to digital action in the year 2020, rushing to put in place temporary inevitable steps, HR managers have started to think ahead and plan systematically for 2022 to rejuvenate the HR function to cope with the new realities of business functioning. The hybrid mode of working would require robust digital applications to capture attendance and other activities. There would be a greater reliance on cloud based systems for day-to-day administration work, learning and development and recruitment and onboarding of employees. In this context, it is also important to examine the multitude of applications created over a period of time and how to make unified HR systems, making them more effective and design a seamless process for both HR teams as well as for the employees.
During the pandemic those with disabilities as well as a large number of women had lost their jobs. Enabling talent from these segments to become part of the workforce would call for imaginative use of technology for search and recruiting process as well as for providing them with appropriate tools for successful work outcomes. Recruitment and retention of employees would largely depend upon their experience through interactions which are likely to be significantly more with technology applications in the coming years. Therefore personalising employee experience at all stages of employee lifecycle through the blend of technology and human interfaces has to be an ongoing initiative of HR function.
Managers would required to be coached on new techniques to manage hybrid teams for high performance. AI will become the constant companion for HR managers specially for screening of applications and automated chatbots would have to be trained on a regular basis to handle the routine questions from candidates. In addition to adopting and implementing cyber security practices, adhering to compliances and putting in place controls for access and storage of data pertaining to employees, educating employees on cyber security practices and ensuring there is a frequent orientation on new practices would be an ongoing mandate for HR teams. With businesses recognising the importance of data backed decisions and actions, HR managers would be expected to create the expertise in data analytics in every function. HR function too would have to build new real time dashboards on people productivity and performance and new measures linking with business outcomes would be required to be introduced.
The experience of the last two years and the recognition of the importance of digital in HR function should pave the way for the next big leap of faith for the HR function.
The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company