Jaikrishna B, President - Group HR, Amara Raja Group

The world has transformed exponentially between 2019 and 2021. While the nature around us may appear the same, all human enterprises have witnessed fundamental changes. Our existence, businesses, and activities have entered the era of the new normal, which has caused us to think, act, and live a lot differently. 

For any organisation or institution, the responsibility of seeing through the transition lies more than ever on its top leadership and HR function. More importantly, we now have the onus to design the organisational fabric of the New Normal. Given the context, the HR design for 2021 and beyond is not going to be something brand new but something that’s inherent to all successful businesses. 

The Fundamentals of Organisational Success

In a 2019 Amazon conference, its CEO Jeff Bezos remarked “It’s interesting, I do get asked quite frequently what’s going to change in the next 10 years. One thing I rarely get asked is probably even more important – and I encourage you to think about this – is the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’”. 

This secret to a successful business applies equally and strongly to one of its most important function, human resource. From the lens of HR function, what’s not going to change for an organisation in the next year or decade is its people. 

While for successful business, customer centricity is the key, for organisational success, the key is employee centricity. According to me, the following 2021 trends and beyond are vital fundamentals to empower an organisation to deliver upon its business promises.        

Employee centricity has employee connect at its core 

Employee connect as I describe, is all about connect with employees and connect for employees, especially in today’s hybrid working environment. While the former is psychosocial connect to harbour warmth and solidarity as well as the guidance towards a singular vision, the latter is to integrate and connect process, people, and policies through digital enablement. 

Connect with employees is a means to make employees motivated, supporting them and to drive them to consistently perform better. It is not only about communication but also includes culture of informality, appreciation, mentoring including reverse mentoring, coaching, continuous feedback, collaboration, and empowerment. Employee connect should not overtly lead to employee control. The intention is to care more and control less.

Embossing agility in organisational DNA

Every organisation of tomorrow has to be agile. The HR function needs to inculcate purpose and values that foster a dynamic culture so to emboss agility in its very DNA. Building agility is about transforming bureaucratic organisational hierarchy and processes to become faster. It is about the ability to accept, change and adapt to dynamic systems and processes and design a core culture, wherein change and adaptation happens as needed.

Organisations that consider people as their vital asset seek to leverage them rightfully, fairly, and consistently. They would seek to create multi-skilled, high-performing agile and collaborative teams bolstered by a hearty backbone and future-forward compelling vision.

Fostering employee experience 

The importance of employee experience is being understood more than ever. A 2021 Gartner survey states that 28% of HR leaders, 31% of CHROs, and 46% heads of diversity and inclusion hold employee experience amongst the top priority areas.   Several studies show a direct link between employee experience and customer experience.

In the new normal, the hybrid working environment indeed poses a challenge to HR functions to assess the employee experience. Employee experience is about empowering an employee with facilities, technologies and environment to perform better and enabling the organisation life to be joyous. 

Be Resilient, but also anti-fragile

The pandemic put much focus on resiliencey or the ability to bounce back. With emerging crisis and dynamic world scenarios, the quality of resiliencey would be very dear to every organisation. However, what is equally important is to be anti-fragile, which is the ability to embrace unexpected situations, failures and comeback stronger than before. 

Organisation with anti-fragile personality will have the capability to embrace than to get stressed about shocks or black swan events.  If an organisation has to become stronger, it should not just be resilient, it also has to be anti-fragile. 

Upskilling and reskilling 

As per the recent 2021 Gartner report on HR priorities, building critical skills and competencies is amongst the top priorities for 68% of HR leaders. For any organisation, it is important to identify the skill gap, integrate learning into employee workflows, and design upskilling and reskilling solutions to be at par with evolving skill needs.    

With the accelerated adoption of advanced technologies and dynamic workspace, we have entered into a continuous learning environment. Upskilling is mostly focused on enabling employees to become more capable and relevant at their current roles/domain, whereas reskilling is focused on enabling employees to be equipped and ready for other roles within the organization based on the changing needs. For sustenance, skilling, reskilling, and upskilling of workforce are essential for organisations, and HR functions along with top leadership need to be the first in the line to lead by example. 

Anticipate future trends and initiate action

We are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, which necessitates an organisation to develop the attitude and habit of anticipating future trends as well as to initiate appropriate actions on the ground. 

The organisational triumph lies the success with which the workforce observes, highlights, and discusses what’s on the verge of making an impact, follows-up the actionable intelligence with pragmatic actions. 

It is at this point all the key fundamentals string together, as an organisational workforce that’s connected, agile, resilient, anti-fragile, continuously learning, and enjoys good employee experience will be more effective in anticipating new trends and reinventing itself with the demands of the time, ensuring business continuity and displaying greater commitment to organisational vision. 

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