The future of work – HR implications

Last week it was a pleasure to speak at an event organised by YunoJuno (a freelance resourcing company) about the future of work and HR implications.

It’s a hugely exciting topic and the audience which was predominantly start ups and fast growth businesses were great.

Here are some of the key messages from the night together with a few things I didn’t get time to say.

Conventional HR doesn’t work for dynamic tech companies.

Amelore worked with notonthehighstreet.com in the early days when it was just an amazing idea and later when it was an amazing profitable company and later still as it became a household name. People were a huge issue. Who to hire and occasionally who to fire. What structure, what skill sets were needed as the product range and services grew. When they moved over the rubyonrails that had significant implications for recruitment and how you managed tech folk along side everyone else (answer – you don’t manage them you guide them).

HR had a huge role to play in supporting the founders grow and develop with their business. Everything happened very fast and working in a pacey agile way was key. And always saying yes we can do that.

Workforce is changing, people are working in different ways and value work-life balance. More working longer.

We know that people entering the workforce or at different stages of their careers, want more choice about what they do and when. The removal of statutory retirement means some individuals are thinking actively about careers that they can continue with into their 60’s and beyond. Consultancy and coaching are good examples.

Flexible working is no longer just an option for those with caring responsibilities. More and more people are going freelance.

Technology being used more and more (though not in HR)

Technology is here to stay and is everywhere you look. But most HR departments will focus any effort and budget on HR databases that require lots of feeding. Much documentation is still hard copy and not automated. Identifying and investing in the right systems is important.

Organisations are increasingly using flexible labour

Freelancers are increasingly being used by companies that want to hire specialist skills for a period of time or for a particular project. Peopleperhour estimate that by 2020 upto 50/% of the workforce could be freelance.

Many organisations are paring down or closing their HR departments to use skilled innovative external support when they need it. Many HR professionals traditionally just focus on employees, employment legislation and contractual terms whereas they should be creating an environment and culture that means that is easy for everyone to settle in.

The 5 key things ALL workers need are similar to anyone playing a game.

  1. clear goals
  2. obvious rules
  3. room to manoeuvre
  4. information transparency
  5. real-time feedbackCompany structures are getting flatter

Start ups and growing business tend to have a team with a leader or a few partners and then a workforce. Introducing conventional HR tools like appraisals can create a burden for the 1 or 2 people leading having to appraise everyone.

Our education system is not producing the skills employers need or giving good careers advice

Employers are delighted about the IT skills of those entering the workforce but less so the appitude and attitude of some employees who lack initative. Whilst careers advice can be quite progressive at university level it is severely lacking much earlier on (aged 13/14 yrs) when young people are making important choices and almost exclusively led by educators and not employers.

 Implications for the HR profession

As the world of work changes so must HR.

A venture capitalist shared recently that when she invested in a company, she always advised the CEO that they must spend about 90% of their focus in the first year on people issues. But she said she would never advise them to hire an HR Director because rather than giving them competitive advantage by helping them make quick decisions, she feared they would slow everything down and cripple the business with policies and processes and rules and regulations.

Reward

In a flat structure with a mixture of employees and freelancers, how do you ensure your reward strategy retains all your valuable workers? What else will you offer and will this be available to everyone that works for you or just those with employment contracts? Many companies are still talking about employee engagement which immediately excludes your flexible workforce.

Career progression

In a high tech or fast growing environment flatter structures mean less space for promotion. Even though their remuneration and skill set are progressing, individuals still aspire to that traditional recognition that they are valued. Important to address this with some new and creative thinking unique to your business.

Mindfulness

As we work longer, produce more, expect more – we can burn out. Creating space in your organisation for all your workers to think, to grow, to develop, to innovate and be creative is hugely important for your competitive advantage.

Recruiting & developing the workforce of tomorrow

Careers advice is still led by the educators whose skills set is education. Employers especially smaller ones tend to feel that any activity to guide and develop career choices is wasted however if every employer undertook to influence the careers choice of students in schools or colleges close to them that would have a huge impact on career choices. Corporate career responsibility has a big role to play in inspiring, recruiting and developing the workforce of tomorrow. Who may not all want or need to go to university.

Performance management

At Amelore we have been doing some of our own independent research into the cost and effectiveness of appraisal systems. One organisation with 400 employees is spending approximately 750k on conducting them each year. Hard to quantify the ROI. We think appraisals have had their day for a variety of reasons. They exclude anyone that is not an employee. Most staff don’t value them. Most managers don’t feel they have the times or the skills set to do them properly. If there is an issue people tend not to give honbest feedback or ignore it all together. And most importantly most HR professionals know they don’t work. Many large corporates including Accenture and Deloittes are dropping them in favour of alternatives.

So we firmly recommend you stop appraising and start ameliorating!

And finally

So, be you a business leader or a professional, let me leave you with this thought…

How much of the HR/People related activity in your organisation is focused on things going right rather than things going wrong?

How much of that activity is spent on the majority of your workforce rather than a small minority?

Will that continued focus make you more profitable and competitive? If the answer is no – why are you doing it? Would this focus be acceptable in other departments?

Remember that the definition of madness is continuing the same patterns of behavior but expecting things to turn out differently.

 

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