Last updated: Workplace trends: People first, inclusive culture, modern HR

Workplace trends: People first, inclusive culture, modern HR


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When looking for technology innovation around workplace trends, people don’t often look to human resources. The traditional perception is that HR is a lagging indicator of an organization’s technology progress. After all, CFOs and CIOs – not CHROs – are the primary driver of change when it comes to people technology and work technology, right?

Maybe not.

More and more, HR professionals are coming to the table, making the case for change. They’re petitioning for human experience management (HXM) solutions that put people at the center of company activities – and advocating for a mindset focused on the employee experience.

Workplace trends: We win when we turn the conversation from operational HR to discussions about experience

“Any enterprise, no matter how digital, will never outrun its human architecture,” says Dr. Tanvi Gautam, founder of Leadershift Inc. and professor at Singapore Management University. “If you don’t strive to improve the experience of workers, you’ll never get maximum benefit from even the best technology. HR professionals can lead the way because we simultaneously straddle the worlds of humanity and technology.”

There are three workplace trends driving the future of HR: 

  1. An employee-centric culture
  2. Humanizing the workplace, focusing on the employee experience
  3. Investing in modern technology to optimize HR

The need to shift from HCM to HXM  to adopt an employee-centric mindset with solutions designed to meet people’s individual needs is especially acute in areas where COVID-19 infection rates are fluctuating, such as the Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) region. “It’s like a Ferris wheel,” explains Gautam. “Some of the economies there are on top, with infections falling, and others are coming down as infections rise. And that means that the challenges for HR are unprecedented.”

This topic was just one of the issues recently discussed as part of our LinkedIn Live series, The Rise of HXM. This week we talked about the state of HR in the APJ region. (You can watch the replay here.)

Optimize the employee experience with an employee-centric culture

How can HR teams move forward during these uncertain times? It’s time to rethink old ways of doing things – the traditional human capital management approach where the focus is on HR’s priorities, for example – and shift to embrace a strategy that puts employees and their experiences first. Some companies are already moving in this direction by empowering employees to understand their strengths and putting them into practice.

One IT enterprise in India implemented a new approach to performance management designed to increase transparency by supporting employees’ “right to feedback.”

Creating a culture where the company shares responsibility for employee performance by enabling ongoing conversations helps increase employee confidence, engagement, and productivity, and is driving the workplace trends of the future.

For example, if an employee receives a two out of five rating, managers also examine their contribution to the rating. What should the manager be doing differently to help the employee meet the stated goals? Was the employee told about problems soon enough? Did the employee receive the guidance and necessary resources and tools to succeed?

“The right-to-feedback concept signals that the company is interested in employee careers and experiences while creating a conversation that is not just top-down,” says Gautam. “It’s great to see that kind of co-creation.”

But not every company is on board. “Recently, one of my clients was fired on a Zoom call,” she states. “It’s hard to believe these employee experiences can coexist. I think a lot of it just comes down to the leadership and culture of an organization.”

Workplace trends: Listen to employees

As we look to the post-COVID world, I asked Gautam how the employee experience might change in APJ.

“A big shift that’s already underway is the concept of employee preferences,” she says. In the past, HR designed systems, policies, or processes and simply expected employees to use them as-is. Now, the tables are turning, and HR teams are more mindful of employee needs and preferences.

“Everyone likes to choose their employee rewards, for example,” Gautam explains. “But I saw a recent survey that said Generation Z workers are likely to be three times more disengaged if they have no choice in their rewards. Our workforces are getting used to personalizing their work experiences. They want to have a voice. I think co-creation of the work experience will become very mainstream.”

Technology is increasingly helping companies do a better job of considering worker preferences. And for some organizations, the vision extends beyond full-time employees.

In the gig economy, HR must think about not just the worker community within the organization, but also integrating people outside it as well.

This is where powerful listening tools that enable timely insights to prompt the rights actions can play a big role.

“It’s important to have an ecosystem mindset enabled by technology,” says Gautam. “One company I admire extends its communications and engagement strategies to people within the company and the extended workforce, too. That’s the magic of technology. At the touch of a button, you can post to a larger community, increase your ability to understand sentiment, and roll out  learning initiatives that will keep all of your workers engaged.”

Invest in HR for your enterprise’s future

So, where does the HR profession go from here?

“It’s time to turn the focus a little bit inward,” says Gautam.

“During the pandemic, HR has stepped up like never before. But you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s not too late to think about investing in our HR professionals.”

The good news is that HR leaders are becoming more open-minded about mental health, which has traditionally been a taboo topic in Asia. In fact, she adds, many companies are beginning to explore how they can use HXM  solutions to develop employee resilience by building community and reducing the isolation of remote workers.

“The more human our workplaces, the greater their productivity and efficiency,” says Gautam. “If you get the humanity of the workplace right, everything else will take care of itself.”

By embracing HXM, you can help your business create the best possible experience no matter where you sit in the organization. Your people can be productive, and you can be profitable, building an agile organization where everyone can experience wins.

HR, better.
Employees, happier.
Businesses, healthier.
It’s time to modernize the employee experience.

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