Three external factors driving change in the HR sector, and what it means for HR and People leaders

Paul Burrin
Published on 30th October 2019
3 min read

The internet. Smartphones. Social media. All things that weren’t around, or commonplace, around 30 years ago.

The world of work has drastically changed over the last few decades – in ways that couldn’t have been imagined.

Those changes show no sign of stopping, either.  New technologies like AI, automation and machine learning are now too becoming used increasingly more in workplaces.

As a result, the way people work is transforming. Employees can work anywhere, anytime. New ways of working have given rise to the gig and freelance economy. Remote and flexible working, coupled with high employment, have given workers choice. At the same time, however, productivity and engagement remain obstinately low.

No sector is having to keep up, let alone get ahead, more than that of the one tasked with managing the working population: HR.

Sage People polled 500 HR leaders on the changing world of work

Sage People’s new research set out to understand how these changes are impacting HR and People leaders.

The report, ‘The changing face of HR’, found that over a third have adopted new ways of working. Yet, 43% of HR leaders feel they won’t be able to keep up with changes in technology.

Read the report in full. 

The HR to People transformation: What external factors are driving change?

Just as HR evolved to Personnel in the 1980s, it’s now transforming into a ‘People’ function. 94% of HR leaders we polled agreed and said they expect to make changes as part of their own ‘HR to People’ journey. Just 18% of HR leaders felt they’d made the transition already.

So we also asked HR and People leaders: what do they think specifically is driving these changes? Here’s the top three external drivers they cited.

1. Technology

79% of HR leaders we polled ranked technology and its impact on the workforce as one of the main drivers for change in the HR sector.

Not only does it enable employees to work differently – flexibly, remotely, globally – but it also offers new opportunities for HR and People leaders in how they attract, retain, manage and engage their workforces.

Employees are so used to using technology in their personal life that’s easy to use and helps them do things more easily, that they expect the same in the workplace. Organizations need technology that frees up employees’ time and enables them to work smarter and more efficiently.

Consider employees in your workplace: do systems work intuitively, enabling your people to get work done easily? Or, are they hard to navigate and a constant source of frustration? If the latter, consider what would free up time – for both employees and HR teams.

Technology like a cloud HR and People system, for example, can automate core admin and processes for HR teams and employees alike, enabling both to concentrate on what’s important.

2. The rise of the gig economy

The rise of the gig economy was cited by 75% of respondents also as a powerful driver of change.

A staggering 43% of US workers are expected to be part of the gig economy in 2020 – that’s nearing half of the working population.

This presents new challenges in sourcing and managing talent, yet, often the same expectations apply. They still need to feel valued and empowered in the workforce. Accessible technology and clear communication is even more vital for gig and freelance workers.

Equip gig workers to stay connected. Provide all workers with great mobile experiences so they can check and edit documents on the go, share up to date information immediately and communicate with each other effectively wherever they are.

Use technology and analytics to gain visibility of all your workers – permanent or gig – enabling you to manage your projects and staffing easily and effectively.

3. The war for talent

74% of HR leaders continue to see the war for talent as a driver of change in the sector.

Gone are the days when companies could simply post a vacancy to a job board and wait for the applicants to come rolling in. High employment has given workers choice and today, if organizations want to attract the best, they must be the best.

Companies must position themselves as an employer of choice. Pay, their organizational purpose, flexible working, company values and career progression are just some of the things that candidates consider.

As a result, it’s no surprise 78% of HR leaders noted the importance of social media and sites such as Glassdoor as having a strong influence over HR policy and recruitment strategies.

To get ahead, HR and People teams must consider today’s new basics in their recruitment strategies; things like employer branding, their approach to employee advocacy and sites like Glassdoor. It also means going further than this, however.

Companies who want to get ahead must apply consumer marketing techniques to market themselves successfully to candidates. They need to grow candidate relationships and deliver great experiences throughout the entire recruitment process.

It goes beyond free lunches, great workspaces and unlimited holiday. It means know your people and what drives them – and using this information to create an employer journey that constantly continues to energize your workforce and get the best from them.

Can HR be the face of change in organizations?

Internally, HR leaders also rated expectations of the employee experience, the need to gain a competitive advantage, and operational excellence as vital in influencing change – demonstrating the value placed on creating great workforce experiences.

Ultimately, in today’s changing world of work, people want to be part of an organization that they believe in and creates great workforce experiences for them.

To do that, a company needs to know this right at the top – and that’s where HR come in. Not only can HR and People leaders demonstrate the value of becoming people-focused on the bottom line, but they can drive these people-focused changes across the business.

Only, however, if they’re able to take up this mantle and lead these changes.

Are you ready to be the face of change in your organization?

Find out what 500 HR leaders said about how they’re responding to these changes. Download the research report ‘The changing face of HRtoday to get ahead.

 

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