The future-shaping trends HR mustn’t miss

Changes in employee motivation, job roles, technology and AI are defining the way we work, says Stephanie Kelly

The days of sitting at the same desk from nine to five, shuffling paperwork from one payday to the next are long gone. The workplace is undergoing a fundamental transition, and HR professionals need to stay ahead of the game.  

People managers should take stock of these key changes as they guide their organisations towards the future world of work:

The paycheque is only part of the deal

A generation of socially aware millennials is encouraging businesses to take a fresh look at what they offer their employees. Newer entrants to the workforce are not motivated by pay alone, they are looking for a deeper sense of value from their jobs. It’s a view that was expressed by a panel of experts in a debate held at the CIPD’s Festival of Work in June.

Jeff Wellstead, consulting partner at FutureXeed, heralds the demise of the traditional pay-equals-performance principle. “We must get out of the old-school thinking that says ‘you’re getting a fair paycheque, so produce great things!’ This simplistic equation no longer reflects today’s more complex relationship between employer and employed.”

The fixed job role is outdated

The old-style job description is also changing, and the panel are seeing a shift away from a defined role towards working across multiple functions.

Natasha McCreesh, wellbeing expert and founder of PiP To Grow Strong, explains: “Historically, you had a silo role with a tight job description and carried out the tasks A, B, C. Now, because of the tools available, and being able to connect with people remotely, we can actually start to work more to outcomes and goals.

“This has the added benefit of giving people a stronger sense of purpose, rather than working through a daily checklist of tasks attached to a rigid job description.”

Technology must be a unifying force

In most organisations, there are those who love technology, and those who fear it. Some employees may be resistant to changing from a paper-based to a digital system but, given time, teamwork and training, they will open up to a new way of working.

On the other side of the coin, a digitally literate section of the workforce may find their employers are using technology that is less state-of-the-art than the smartphone in their pocket.

Wellstead highlights the issue: “We are in the age of consumerisation of the workplace – where the workplace is now the laggard when it comes to digital tooling. If a company’s technology is five years behind, employees feel the business doesn’t care about keeping up or trying new ideas – and that’s where resentment can build.”

By demonstrating the impact IT has on productivity, HR professionals can encourage a company’s leadership to adopt new technology.

The bots are coming

Not so long ago, researchers were predicting we would all be working fewer hours. But in reality, many of us have a longer working week than ever because technology allows us to be always available. However, technology can enhance the work/life balance too, by relieving us of routine tasks with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). 

Business leaders can use AI to enhance employee wellbeing, says McCreesh. “They need to use technology to work smarter, not harder. I see so many owners/founders talking the talk but not leading by example. You must model the values to get everyone on board.”

As the pace of change accelerates, the role of the HR professional is critical in supporting their organisations to create the happier, more balanced, engaged and productive workplace of the future.

Stephanie Kelly is chief people officer at Iris Software Group