The world of work is changing.
The one-job, one-company career popular in the Baby Boomer generation is a faded memory.
The portfolio life, a work life comprised of many work-related roles, is the new norm. For some, this may be contract work for many different projects; for others, work might be a series of part-time roles all packaged together. It also can mean starting one’s own business from home or working eight months in one organization, two years in another, all while starting a business on the side.
What’s driving these changes?
- Generational shifts: Gen Y workers seek meaning as a priority at work, and, thus, are following less traditional paths.
- Technology: Today’s professionals can work from anywhere, and apps make workers nimbler.
- Dramatically scaled-down businesses: One-to-two-person firms can easily compete with much larger traditional organizations.
What Does This Mean for the Field of Human Resources?
The shift to employees’ emphasis on finding joy and meaning at work is reverberating change throughout the workplace. Here are two examples that directly impact human resources and show that business is anything but usual.
- Rewards: Organizations are moving to flatter team-based work structures and team-based rewards versus the idea of a system of merit for the highest performers.
- Reviews: Many organizations are now encouraging informal, frequent, and verbal positive feedback — a 180-degree turn from the annual performance appraisal, which tended to be backwards looking, rigid, written down, and negative.
Human resource professionals, the gatekeepers at work, now have to shift their typical operations to accommodate these emerging ways of doing business. This opens up new opportunities to do the valued-added work that enables people on the best path to organizational productivity, healthier relationships, better customer service, and — ultimately — more success for the organization.
Help Wanted in HR: The New Work Needed Now
The rapidly changing HR landscape will require smaller, flatter HR organizations which are more strategic in nature. HR will need to become more strategic, focused on peoples’ experience at work. In my view, much of the traditional HR work should be either outsourced or moved to line managers as part of their normal leadership responsibilities.
With this shift in mind, here’s what human resource professionals should focus on:
- Interpreting data and adding technology: The rise of data analytics, if used with positive intent, will become a key tool for HR professionals to assess and measure how people are doing at work. It will allow them to understand the gap between a person finding fulfillment in what they do and a person feeling they are locked in “job prison.” New technology tools can help people to provide such feedback and allow human resources to encourage well-being through social recognition and build positive relationships at work.
- Implementing employee engagement: “Employee engagement” is a buzzword already used in HR, but now it needs to be fully comprehended to mean finding meaning and joy at work — not as just another management tool to manipulate people.
- Restructuring compensation models: New compensation models not only will need to be developed to accommodate both competitive pay and team-based rewards but also enable people to work in ways which fit them best. This form of part-time work may range from traditional work to time-based work and/or contract work.
- Encouraging humanistic leadership: The new generation of workers require coaches who enable growth and development versus the autocratic manager of the past. HR strategies should resolve how to enable humanistic leadership, which is an emphasis on people and not just profit. Humanistic leaders combine managing and coaching in harmony with these ideas.
- Recognizing learning opportunities: Since the new workforce generation grew up with text messages and technology, they will undoubtedly require education and experience in human face-to-face interaction. HR strategies to develop stronger learning experiences should include traditional classes which require set time and place.
Additionally, HR will need to enable people to have a deeper self-awareness and self-assessment and stronger interpersonal skills and system thinking (big-picture thinking abilities). All of these changes will enable HR professionals to focus on new ways to enable joy and meaning at work.
Change is Coming … but Not Without Resistance
CEOs will continue to push a traditional HR agenda to serve shareholders, as it is required by law. However, the enlightened HR professional can become a champion for solutions for the new workforce, which can serve both people and profit.
To accomplish this help is wanted now for those who have and/or want to develop these new HR approaches. With this idea, the field of HR will evolve and add greater value.