Indira Ramachandra, CHRO, AscentHR

Indira Ramachandra is an experienced Human Resources professional with a track record of successfully handling HR strategy and operations in the information technology and services industries – with an exposure to diverse culture. With over 25 years of experience in HR and business roles, has vast experience in the areas of designing, leading, and implementing best practices & HR processes in employee relations, staffing, Org development, and change management. She has been a trusted advisor and coach in providing solutions across strategic and operational issues impacting business delivering strategies and compliance norms, apart from managing all aspects of scaling up operations.



As organizations are continuing to change the ways they operate, business leaders are looking to HR for strategic management of the “new normal” workforce. This has significantly increased the HR function’s sphere of influence than before. Now that the organizations are well on the path of recovery, the role of HR, regardless of the HR title they carry, is becoming all the more important.

HR leaders are facing a unique set of challenges as they are helping organizations navigate toward this new normal. HR function themselves are changing the ways they work with more agile HR models and are playing a vital role in guiding an organization’s recovery efforts.

Here are six HR trends leading the work world:

1. Increased Use of Workforce Analytics: Leveraging analytics is no longer restricted to quantifying employee performance and productivity. Today, HR professionals are using workforce analytics to measure employee experience (EX), their engagement levels, and job satisfaction levels in an effort to bring EX on par with CX (Customer Experience).

As talent attraction was put on the back burner, talent retention become more important during the crisis. Talent retention is also one of the biggest challenges faced by the HR leaders. Today, HR business partners are leveraging workforce analytics software solutions and employee surveys to measure employee experience, satisfaction, and employee engagement levels to plan and develop employee retention programs, reduce employee turnover, improve EX, and retain top talent.

2. Cost Optimization: Cutting costs and maximizing value without impacting business performance has always been an enterprise-wide effort carried out by every department or function in an organization.

However, the business landscape in the last one-and-a-half years has made organizations across industries and segments to enforce hiring freezes, alter workforce composition (increased hiring of contingent workers), implement pay cuts, pause new investments, cut budgets, opt for downsizing, workforce restructuring, and restrict travel policies, among other cost-reduction measures. While navigating these unique challenges, HR leaders are taking strategic view as these cost-reduction measures carry risks and have the potential to impact the organization’s performance in the long-term.

At the moment, HR leaders are focusing on leveraging technology to drive their own efficiency and effectiveness but also to take employee experience to the next level. As the pandemic is driving digital transformation in a more accelerated pace, HR leaders are reviewing their investment strategies in the emerging HR tech with more vigor and interest. They are automating most of the hiring and onboarding activities and employee workflows, making these processes fully remote. These innovative remote hiring and virtual onboarding strategies are possible because of emerging technologies such as AI-based chatbots (e.g. collecting and screening CVs/ resumes), video conferencing (e.g. conducting interview and induction program), and VR (e.g. office tours or training). For instances, some companies have already stopped investing infrastructure necessary for live or “classroom” kind of training.

3. New Talent Strategies: When the pandemic began, talent acquisition was put on the back burner temporarily. With the economy recovering gradually and the job market stabilizing, HR leaders are focusing on redefining their hiring strategies. For instance, candidates who are tech-savvy are being preferred.

HR leaders are also supporting their organizations in implementing the shift in the workforce composition. Several organizations are altering their workforce composition by hiring contract employees or gig workers in an effort to reduce cost as these contingent workers enable a cost-effective alternative to permanent or full-time employees.

4. Compliance Strategies: As the lockdown is being lifted in a phased manner and that the organizations are asking their employees to return to office, HR leaders are facing a whole new set of challenges in few areas, such as developing and implementing statutory compliance protocols concerning employee safety and welfare such as hand and respiratory, sanitation, healthcare, and mental well-being.

Additionally, HR teams are focusing on developing policies and frameworks as the new business operating models are taking shape. For instance, existing policies pertaining to managing permanent employees may not apply to gig workers. So, developing a whole new framework for managing contingent workers is imperative as the regulations governing gig economy might be different and these regulations might change anytime. So, being aware of ever-changing regulations and being agile to respond quickly and strategically is key to help the business remain compliant.

HR leaders in several organizations are relying on HR technology to capture regulatory and HR compliance changes as and when they are introduced.

5. Scaling Up Talent: The pandemic has altered the skill requirements in an organization. As part of the workforce planning and employee development strategies, HR leaders are collaborating with business leaders to analyze the existing skill gaps and to develop skill and training strategies to address the problem.

While employees with an forward-looking outlook are focusing on upskilling themselves to avoid the risk of being left behind, HR function at many organizations are proactively supporting employees in scaling up their talent in several ways such as: making learning content digitally accessible; introducing new learning content; and, facilitating cross-training to ensure an inclusive employee experience.

6. Increased Pressure to Maintain a Feeling of Connection: When the pandemic began, not just the business operations halted, the on-site interactions too came to a halt abruptly. As the organizations are re-opening with various work models, there is a pressure on the HR function to make employees feel more connected and enhance social engagement both in-person and virtually (making and encouraging employees to participate in events, fun activities, games, and competitions).

As a result, HR teams are increasingly adopting people-centric work culture. HR function in several organizations are making conscious efforts to connect and communicate directly with employees at an individual level addressing emotional concerns (such as grief, loss, or anxiety in the workplace).

Besides focusing on employee well-being, HR leaders are focusing on promoting flexible work arrangements and making right technology tools available to facilitate workplace connection. As the employees are returning to offices, it is no longer “business as usual” as technology is now playing a key role in enabling people to work and collaborate remotely. HR professionals are focusing on keeping this flexibility going on and the technology accessible to employees to help the organization attract, retain, and develop talent.

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