Strategy & LeadershipHR StrategyGoodbye to HR practices as we know them?

Goodbye to HR practices as we know them?

David Wilson of Fosway Group asserts that the time ahead is set to revolutionise what businesses and professionals understand as HR practices.

Considered an overlooked function in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced HR into the spotlight, requiring leaders to confront new challenges and embrace opportunities as they emerge, redefining what we understand as HR practices.

Early research carried out by Fosway Group indicated 100% of HR functions have been impacted by the crisis as they support people and organisations through these tumultuous times. From workforce planning, to talent management, there is no area of HR tech that has escaped new demands.

However, the good news is that this situation is driving real change and innovation, often where it has been long overdue.

What’s the big picture of HR today?

Coping with these COVID-19 related pressures are of course unprecedented. Having shifted to homeworking – or even furloughing staff – many are now transitioning to re-boarding people – or unfortunately re-furloughing or offboarding as the economic shock begins to bite. The people challenges that lie ahead of us are enormous.

So far so obvious. It is also clear that this current situation has piled the pressure onto HR practices to become fully digital. The genie is out of the bottle now and work is never going to return to the way it was. Whether that’s in terms of working patterns, or the importance of great technology to help get things done. Fosway research shows a strong correlation between digital HR maturity and the ability to adapt and cope with the sheer level of change.

But much of that change has been initially focused on survival. Just keeping the lights on. Now HR practices need to enable organisations to move into the next phase where they can thrive and grow. And we know that it can feel nigh on impossible to take a step back and assess the impact of the change that is unfolding in HR practices. So, what are the headlines?

Any remaining barriers to the digital transformation of HR have been removed

Despite the immediate pressures on cash flow, any remaining barriers to the digital transformation of HR practices have now been blown away. I’ll repeat that those organisations who had already adopted modern cloud-based HR systems have found it significantly easier to deal with what’s happened in 2020.

But with 40% of HR teams telling us they are still relying on spreadsheets for their HR reporting, there are plenty of organisations with catching up to do. And it just might be there has never been a better time to build your business case for investing in new HR systems to help support your people properly.

Although we believe that investment-heavy, strategic projects with a long pay-back period will be impacted,  many organisations will look to optimise their existing HR technology, but also look for the opportunity to replace legacy solutions that will drive the most value. It might sound counter-intuitive but now could be the ideal moment to put your business case together…

HR practices need to be ecosystem first

Fosway’s continued position remains unchanged by the impact of the pandemic, and that is that European and international companies in particular, always need to think ecosystem first when it comes to HR tech. Rather than a ‘rip and replace’ strategy or searching for the perfect ‘one ring to rule them all’ single HCM suite approach, organisations should seek to actively manage their HR tech across an ecosystem of solutions that work together.

Planning out this HR ecosystem landscape and understanding how it impacts your supplier choices is an increasingly important step for every mid-large sized organisation. It’s not always easy to get everything to fit together and play nicely, but HR tech should always be led by an ecosystem approach.

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Innovation is happening across HR practices and specialist solutions are on the rise

Once you start to look at your HR solutions from an ecosystem perspective, it becomes easy to see the impact on the market of a wide range of disruptive specialist solutions right across the spectrum of HR services.

These providers typically have a focused proposition and want to lead the market in their chosen area. From more flexible payroll options, to HR service delivery, to absence management, workforce planning and talent management (more on which below), we are seeing some long overdue innovation sparked – at least in part – by the response to COVID-19.

For example, payroll has often in the past been seen as problematic but too dangerous to mess up. Now though, the pandemic has accelerated changes in payroll the like of which we haven’t seen in years. Suddenly there are options for drawing down early payments or new opportunities to consolidate multinational payrolls.

Employee engagement is another key focus for HR that is seeing real innovation; new approaches to wellbeing supported by portals, communities and digital check-ins are on the rise alongside the traditional survey tools. Temperature checking is no longer enough to understand what is moving your people’s hearts and minds – especially during a time of crisis.

These specialist solutions are driving innovation in the larger Cloud HR suites too which is positive. But caveat emptor – buyer beware; more choice can lead to more complexity. Look at your vendor options carefully and keep your bigger ecosystem in mind when exploring some of this new technology.

Say goodbye to traditional talent management

Unfortunately, the traditional world of talent management was, and still is in many cases, something that doesn’t truly enable the scale and organisational agility most businesses now need. It has typically focused on a small cadre of senior leaders, high potentials or the ‘top 250’ employees, so had limited scope and reach.

The solutions it used were isolated and the processes for accelerating talent across the organisations were slow and lacked transparency; rigid with low intelligence and frequently based on false promises of career paths that never materialised. Most critically, they did not solve the problems of mass upskilling and reskilling that is central to an organisation’s success or address the challenges of fluidity and agility that seem to be the hallmark of today’s successful organisations.

To succeed now, talent needs to be an enterprise-wide issue, not the preserve of the few. This means re-evaluating the organisation’s relationship with employees, as well as rethinking the role of HR; what is HR’s role in the COVID-19 economy, its rallying mission in the organisation? We are starting to see a sea change here. And what’s encouraging is that practically every part of the talent cycle is evolving at pace.

Global mobility, workforce planning, internal job boards, performance management, appraisals, training, onboarding, personal development, employee engagement and competency management are still important. But there are some major changes in focus in each of those labels. This is where Fosway’s overall view of talent management, evolves into talent and people success.

It represents a whole new philosophy, one that values upskilling and reskilling, and proactive inclusion as the next step beyond equal opportunities. It thinks about talent marketplaces as much as it does career paths, and agile talent allocation as well as workforce planning. It focuses on relationships as much as engagement, and flexibility and fluidity above hierarchy and mentoring and coaching beyond performance management.

And whilst, economic uncertainties will make HR workloads difficult to find slack to do new things, the challenge is that not evolving is not really a longer-term survival choice. Adopting more innovative people practices is going to be key. So, despite the recent disruption to HR practices, there are opportunities for all – in more ways than one.

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