“The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. “The Big Shift”. “The digital age”. All of these expressions have been used to describe the social and economic transformations we are experiencing in the 21st century, driven in large part by the technological revolution (Internet, big data, social media, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc.) that has transformed the world we live in. However, how is the world of business and work adapting to this new reality? And what role should human resources departments play?
To answer these questions, Deloitte has published an influential report in which it assesses how companies are responding to the huge challenge of the technological revolution. According to the report, these are the ten challenges that will shape the future of companies and human resources departments worldwide:
1 – A modern, dynamic and network organization
Faced with all of these changes, the priority for businesses is to transform the way they work and the actual organization of the company. According to the Deloitte report, 88% of survey respondents (10,000 businesspeople and human resources leaders in 140 countries) rated “building the organization of the future” as important.
Accordingly, the majority of companies are striving for a more flexible and dynamic reorganization, and leaving behind the hierarchical structures of the past in order to be able to respond quickly to changes in the market. Companies are being organized around small work teams which are set up quickly, work together for one or two years and then move on to other projects within the company. “As organizations make this transition, they find that smaller teams are a natural way for humans to work”.
2 – Employees are learning all the time
An employee’s career may last 30 to 40 years. However, taking into account the speed of technological change, how can we prepare ourselves for what is likely to happen in the coming decades? The solution is continuous learning. We can no longer content ourselves with going to university and basing our future career on what we learn during those years; our career has become a journey of continuous learning.
To equip employees with the necessary skills and knowledge, company training and development managers are developing more flexible and curated learning models that can be used in real time, all the time. Companies’ Learning Management Systems (LMS) are being adapted to this revolution by incorporating videos, mobile content, micro-learning, gamification techniques and game-based learning.
3 – Talent acquisition
In a knowledge and human capital-based economy, talent acquisition is vital for any company. Immersed in the great technological revolution, companies are constantly on the look-out for professionals specialized in new areas of economic activity that emerge almost overnight. According to the executives surveyed by Deloitte, this is the third biggest challenge facing companies, with 81% of respondents rating it as very important.
To recruit (and then retain) the right people, human resources leaders are using social networking, new cognitive technologies and big data. The use of videos (with platforms such as HireVue), online forms, social networks (not just LinkedIn) and Skype interviews (the last step) has spread like wildfire, speeding up recruitment and reducing costs.
4 – Enhancing the employee experience in the company
Human resources leaders are striving to maintain the corporate culture of companies, improve employee motivation and engagement, stay abreast of the demands of the new Millennials and offer better learning opportunities to employees. The quest to enhance the employee experience (from recruitment through the career journey) aims to increase employee satisfaction, improve companies’ reputations (in an increasingly demanding environment) and facilitate the transition towards a more dynamic, agile and flexible organizational model.
5 – New ways of appraising employee performance
The way to achieve a promotion within the company or a raise is changing. Experience, seniority and examinations are no longer the primary method of appraisal and there has been a shift towards a faster and more flexible model. Human resources departments are looking for new appraisal models based on well defined targets and continuous feedback; hundreds of companies (including Adobe, IBM and Goldman Sachs) have been successfully experimenting with new ways to appraise and reward employee performance.
6 – New leaders
And if times are changing, so too are the leaders. Companies around the globe are looking for a new type of leader, one that is capable of adapting to the economic and social changes taking place. The trend is towards younger and more diverse leaders who are able to run businesses the digital way. Their ability to manage small, agile and dynamic teams is in high demand by companies, together with an interest in continuous learning and development throughout their career. While the quest to find new leadership should involve the entire company, human resources leaders also play a key role in steering their company in the right direction.
7 – Digital human resources
As the organization as a whole becomes digital, human resources departments must also follow suit. The department’s responsibility is to roll out new digital initiatives to the entire workplace, implement new mobile applications (Slack, Workplace, Microsoft Teams, Gamelearn, etc.), software and tools that help change the way the company works.
On this point, even chatbox services that use artificial intelligence for recruitment have found a niche in the most innovative companies. Deloitte explains this in clear terms: “This shift is happening rapidly, as HR leaders are being pushed to take on a larger role in helping to drive the organization to ‘be digital’, not just ‘do digital’.”
8 – Big Data at the service of human resources
Today, more than ever, numbers are power. And human resources are not being left behind in the big data revolution. More and more, companies are using data about their employees to improve staff recruitment processes, increase company productivity and detect logistics errors. These new trends have led to the coining of the popular term “people analytics”: the intensive use of data to make decisions that affect people at work (who to hire, who to promote, etc.).
9 – Promoting diversity and inclusion
As companies strive to become more global, digital and transparent, the issue of diversity and inclusion cannot be overlooked. Employees attach increasing importance to these principles, and consumers (and the public in general) have become more exacting in their demands for respect for cultural diversity and gender equality. Promotion by the human resources department of a policy that fosters diversity and inclusion among employees will not only make companies more efficient, innovative and productive, but it will also improve their brand image and reputation.
10 – Striking a balance between machines and workers
New technologies pose a new challenge for all employees, and also for human resources leaders. What kind of jobs can be replaced by machines and what ones should be performed only by people? The answer to this question calls for a redesign of jobs, the organization of companies and, indeed, the future of the company itself.
Deloitte believes that the key lies in identifying “essential human skills” and combining them with the best machines, robots and automation technology. While many companies may be worried about the negative impact of the technological revolution, they should see it as a huge opportunity: combining workers and machines (which some people call the “augmented workforce”) may create new jobs, boost productivity and allow workers to focus on the human aspects of work.