The global pandemic is making radical changes to our way of working. History will show that 2020 was the year when a new work paradigm really took off: The virtual working life. HR managers will need to make a commitment to support that transformation into a more virtual future.
Coming in from the right is the coronavirus. It is leaving significant marks on our society and health care - and workplaces. Back in 2013, an article in the Harvard Business Review predicted that within a few years, 1.3 billion people would be working virtually. The trend was slow to take off, but the transition to a “cleaner” virtual working day has grown explosively since the beginning of 2020, when the world's countries began to take steps to reduce infection from the virus.
Many organisations have acknowledged that the old way of doing things has to come to an end and are in the process of rethinking their customer approach and business strategies. Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen has stated that "everyday life will never be the same again," and HR will be at the heart of that change, because it is about rethinking the way we define and organise ourselves.
In most high-performing companies today, HR plays a significant role and has become increasingly strategic. Successful companies typically need at least three things from HR:
Understanding of the strategy your company needs to succeed
A fundamental task for strategic HR teams is to translate the company's strategy and ambitions into competency needs. What, who and how, can we succeed? In a time when artificial intelligence can support and even take on human roles, the HR function is more important than ever - but these are questions that HR rarely plays a central role in answering. Then when you add virtual working and the demands of agile transformation that many work with, and you have a perfect HR storm.
Know your business
You need a thorough knowledge of your business. Keep track of your products and services, how you generate revenue, who your customers and competitors are, and what your financial model looks like. Next, you need to have an overview of how your employees and artificial intelligence support the mechanics of what you do and how changes to the model should be handled as you turn up the virtual aspects of your work.
From reactive administrator to proactive counsellor
It's a move I see in many places. From its historical role as an administrative support function behind the curtain HR now has to take centre stage and play a direct role in achieving the company's strategic goals; as an adviser and opinion former, not just as an executive recruitment and employee satisfaction survey officer. That means championing the question: "What does the change mean for the way we are motivated and work together - and how do we create value for our customers and employees going forward?"
It is truly a time of change – that’s evolving around all aspects of employees’ life- and work and is up close and personal. That is exactly why HR should have a pioneering rolein the coming change and help to create value and an understanding of culture in the companies out there. That will help us succeed in this "Together but apart" world.
Stefan Knapp is a transformation expert at PA Consulting
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