Building a future-proof workforceWednesday, September 15, 2021
BY MONIQUE BROWN
Can one move ahead without looking back?
Answers will vary based on the respondent's perspective. Some will say that the past is simply that — the past — and that relishing bygone events in excess is a trap that only serves to keep us psychologically regressed. This millennial, however, believes that for one to be successful beyond any and all doubt, complete ownership of past experiences, both positive and negative, is necessary. It is by owning these moments and lessons learnt that we move forward and create successful outcomes. This is the formula for growth.
The novel coronavirus pandemic brought about unique challenges that continue to wreak havoc across every economy and industry. However, adversities have always paved the way for opportunities, and this time is no different.
The year 2020 compelled many organisations to choose their fate — pivot within the pandemic or be left behind. Jamaicans were forced to implement measures that, to some, seemed impractical, yet triggered the rise of new sectors. HR practitioners, in particular, found themselves redefining their engagement initiatives as many team members were forced to work from home. We had to ensure that, although we were physically apart, we remained engaged and connected as a team and continued working towards fulfilling our companies' vision.
Over the past year we have continued to be forerunners of change, event planners, project managers, psychologists, big brothers, big sisters, counsellors, consultants, game changers, and, ultimately, visionaries, as we journeyed, and continue to journey, through this new normal paradigm. But the questions we ask ourselves have changed. How do we continue to rise to the occasion and seize opportunities presented to us? How do we continue to mould a workforce that can scale, adjust, and leverage the chances packed inside these adversities and challenges? It starts with acknowledging the lessons of the past and present and using that to our competitive advantage. It starts with building strong foundations and embracing opportunities whilst withstanding future threats.
Organisations can achieve this type of longevity by implementing measures that focus on people development, scalability, agility, and digitisation (PSAD). But, for PSAD to be successful, members across the entire organisation must first understand and connect with the identity, value proposition, and culture of their organisation. Furthermore, every team member must be able to connect their roles and functions with the bigger picture; that is, they must understand how their function connects with the company's vision, mission, and purpose. This is the anchor of the PSAD methodology.
An organisation's greatest asset is its people. Therefore, one of the most important factors when building a future-proof workforce is the type of solutions that will be used to attract, engage, and retain top talent. The focus must shift from the conventional one-size-fits-all approach to the deliberate creation of experiences that are personalised, authentic, and inspirational to team members. This is how we strengthen their productivity and performance and, ultimately, that of the organisation.
Companies will first need to be aware of the critical skills that stimulate future value creation, then devise mechanisms to upskill and reskill their talent base accordingly. Team members must be equipped with individualised development and career pathing plans that are aligned with the goals and values of the organisation. Human resource (HR) departments will also need to ensure that its performance management processes provide continuous reviews, check-ins, feedback, and career development opportunities for team members across the organisation. The culture should, above all, foster open and honest communication, and support the development of people leaders as career coaches for their direct reports.
It is important to note that, while all team members may not be interested in promotions and leadership roles, measures must be in place to facilitate skill development that complements their role and stimulate their growth and advancement within the company. Benefits and training opportunities tailored to the expansion of each team member's knowledge and skills, congruent with their professional goals, are essential.
HR departments should also seek to become data-centric to deliver data-driven insights regarding their decisions. As we journey into the future, dependence on traditional recruitment strategies will have to be revised. Allowances must be made for creativity, venturing into the world of gig economies, and accessing retired personnel with valuable skill sets that may be used to fill roles for short-term projects as needed by the organisation.
With the advent of hybrid work models, management, under the guidance of HR, must take unique approaches to redefine its employee experiences to ensure that team members remain highly engaged and productive. Additionally, it will be vital to instil mutual trust within the management-worker relationship. This is best supported by outlining deliverables and expectations to team members clearly, which eliminates the need for micromanagement, and boosts productivity, flexibility, and fluidity within the workforce.
After determining how to create future value, the second step is to review the organisation's ability to grow through continuous learning and innovation — its scalability. Teams across the organisation must ensure that the models in place for various business units are operating optimally at the intersection of efficiency, relevance, and reliability. The modus operandi must change as the demands of the business evolve, using flexibility and fluidity to deliver outcomes that matter the most.
Right now, the closest companion of many millennials is the iPhone, known for its enhanced security and numerous features. Yet, rather than enjoy a monopoly, it coexists in a crowded electronic consumer market with competitors. Apple's secret to success with the iPhone has been to continuously scale its operations to achieve growth, while delivering its value proposition. It does this by understanding the market in which it operates, assessing the wants and needs of customers that it targets, alleviating those pain points with its products, and pre-empting future frustrations through technological advancements. By continuously repeating this process their brand stays ahead of the competition.
Similarly, teams across organisations can adopt a similar methodology by understanding and documenting — in detail — the current processes they have in place. Once this is done, it becomes easier for teams to see the process flows in place and identify pain points and success gaps. Teams can then use technology to further support efficiency through the automation of processes. This must consistently be reiterated for teams to scale their processes and advance the vision, mission and value proposition of the organisation. Scalability within each team's strategy fosters a system of continuous innovation while providing solutions that enable increased productivity at work, allowing management to pinpoint areas of excellence.
Once an organisation gets its people, development, and scalability processes correct, agility and digitisation become by-products. Teams achieve agility by being attentive and responsive to the evolution of business models that attract and retain top talent. Additionally, HR can incorporate and leverage data analytics that facilitates the prediction and design of target programmes with a huge probability of success. Emphasis will also need to be placed on the development of structures that the organisation can use to create autonomous, cross-functional teams that are assembled on an as-needed basis for the completion of short-term projects.
Digitisation will naturally arise within an organisation seeking to incorporate technology within its processes. Technology allows team members to consistently exceed the expectations of their leaders and deliver exceptional client experiences to internal and external clients. For HR practitioners this will mostly be seen through the automation of its many manual processes and the introduction of artificial intelligence within them. Organisations will need to move towards automation and digital, data-led processes to maintain competitive advantages and promote efficiency and productivity. Teams must find ways to digitise processes that were once manual and develop a tool for accountability in this regard.
As many HR departments seek to transition from solely transactional activities to analytical and strategic initiatives, data will have to be centralised — not siloed across different teams in different systems. It is this incoherence that poses the greatest challenge for HR leaders in connecting their overarching people strategy to the much-needed metrics that should guide talent and business decisions.
The future of work has been tremendously reshaped through the impact of the pandemic, which has highlighted inefficiencies and sparked innovation within the workforces' skills, infrastructure, and engagement. Anchored by their visions, missions, and value propositions, companies should use these lessons to focus on their PSAD, and waste no time in building a future-proof workforce.
With a newly instilled ability to pivot quickly, maximise opportunities, and minimise threats, teams will have the tools necessary to consistently deliver value exceeding the expectations of customers and the employees themselves.