HR has come a long way over the last decade, from handling the basic Employee Records and Regulations to Talent Acquisition and Development to acting as the Strategic Partner. The disruption and prolonged uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has hurled a radical evolution of HR across the globe. Organisations have taken cognisance of the fact that we need to transform processes and employee practices at a lightning pace, HR is therefore expected to facilitate and act more as ‘Change Agents’ today.


The current dynamic situation has put forth challenges like mounting stress and anxiety, increased family responsibilities, survival laced with financial uncertainties. To handle the complexity both Leaders and HR have been working hand-in-glove to safeguard business interest through proactive and empathetic communication. 


There is an increased acceptance of HR’s role not just as a strategic partner today but also as a ‘Pathfinder’ to manage the crisis and thrive in the future.


As per the ‘Future of HR 2020 Survey’, where over 1300 HR executives participated across the globe, 3 in 5 believed that HR will rapidly become irrelevant if it does not modernise its approach concerning understanding and planning for the future. It’s going to be relatively easier and efficient to manage recruitment and employee management through tools like EAP, HRMS, AI Apps, Zoom, Notion, Slack, etc.


HR: New Dynamics


The top HR Trends of 2020 include People Analytics, Employee Experience, Employee Branding, Cultivating Authentic Culture, and Upskilling to invest in Team and business growth, Providing Holistic Health Benefits, Establishing Work-Life Balance and Flexible Workplace and Workforce.

An influx of technology, Artificial Intelligence coupled with the dynamics on the people front compels us to adopt a ‘New Age Thinking’ in this new normal.


The pandemic has shifted the priority from employee engagement to employee connect, health, and wellbeing. Today, employees want more and more opportunities to grow and develop their skills. As per the engagement report, only 25 per cent of workers believe they get ample opportunities to develop.


To add to this, work from home (WFH) which had seemed to be an obstacle earlier is being leveraged on as a business strategy due to its financial impact. A recent study indicated that 3 in 5 employees want to continue with remote working too, in future. There is no doubt therefore that WFH is here to stay.


There is a drastic shift in the work canvas, making it an HR’s job to ‘offer employees everything they need to deliver their best’.


With a broader horizon, blurred boundaries focused on enhancing the virtual experience and connecting life-work balance and re-building capabilities, we are certainly leaping to the next evolution stage of HR.


Some questions to ponder over are:


Q. What exactly will be the role of HR over the next decade? Operational/Developer/Path-finder/Collaborator/Transformer/Strategic Thinker or ‘all of these’?


Q. Which roles can be automated within HR & and which ones can’t?  


Q. Is there a Skill Gap in your HR Team?


Q. What are some of the new skills that you would like the entire HR team to be equipped with?


Q. What are you doing to strengthen the fabric of the organisation w.r.t ‘People Strategy’?


The crisis demands agility of mind, a fine balance of process formulation, adherence on one hand, and creative people focus on the other, and championing change management and communication too. To identify new skills or skill gaps, it’s imperative to state the ‘gigantic vision’ of the company- ‘what we want the organisation to be known for’ say 50 years later and then map it to the current skill set.


As per research, 80 per cent of respondents indicated that they believe their company’s HR Skills are lacking. Experts and studies emphasise the need to upskill and upgrade the workforce and workplaces to be future-ready too. Cognitive flexibility, analytics, creativity, and social intelligence desired in the new normal are all Organisational Development (OD) Competencies.


Very often OD is mistaken to be limiting to Talent Development when it is far more strategic and entails planning and execution of a systematic change aimed towards specific goals or objectives. It is all-encompassing as it includes Training, Competency Development, Succession Planning, Culture Development, Employee Engagement, and Wellbeing, Enabling Change, Value Alignment, and Employer Branding and Internal Communications. 


I’d like to share an excerpt from the 3 Principles and Contribution, as shared by David Ulrich on HR Future Trends in 2021, to put things into context.


1.  There is a need for increased personalisation by leaders and the focus will be on emotional and  empathetic responses


2.   Redefining boundaries - where the employees (anywhere, anytime) who create value for the customer will be considered to be ‘at work’.


3.  People and organisation’s need to not just tackle uncertainty but harness it


Based on these principles, HR professionals need to be clear about their unique contributions to value add and create an impact on businesses. Hence, their contribution needs to be on the below facets:-


a)  Delivering improved individual talent: Employees will continue to be the key ingredients of any organisation.  There will likely be an increased focus on soft skills (e.g., goal setting, engaging people, respecting differences) and even more attention to the employee experience through meaning (believe), learning and growth (become), and relationships (belong).


b)  Reinvent organisation capability: HR and business leaders will be charged to build organisation capabilities and the right culture.  In our research, these organisation capabilities have 3 to 4 times the impact on business results that individual competencies (or talent).


c)  Create better leadership: Leaders will likely exist throughout an organisation at all levels who not only have the right basic leadership skills, but also the skills that create value for customers and investors.


Most of it falls in the lap of OD Function (includes L&D) . . . the systems collaborative approach backed by the humanistic values adopted by OD with the unique ability to harness uncertainty makes me ponder 'If Organisational Development is indeed the future of HR.’


The best way to describe this point is through a Welch term – ‘Hiraeth’. It represents the unrelenting existential tension between the ‘already’ & the ‘Not yet’. It’s a recognition of the fact that:


As Human beings (read HR), we are capable of doing something greater. Perhaps it’s time to stretch the boundaries within HR and upskill team members with these future skills.



An OD Mindset means working tirelessly on improving business and people experience, venturing into unknown territories, Innovative mindset, emotional resilience and intelligence, steering the company through change, digital literacy, social media proficiency, developing people competencies aimed at fostering the culture muscle which holds the potential to put an organization back on the growth trajectory.  


Why limit ourselves …. when we can develop organisations as HR!


Shikha Verma is a State Council Member of WICCI. She has 17 years of rich acumen in HR & Learning & Development space across IT and Manufacturing Industry. She has acted as a change agent in diverse businesses, spearheaded culture building projects, strategic planning &, standardisation of HR & Training processes & policies.


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