As we head into the final weeks of the year, thoughts start to turn to what 2017 has in store for us. While on a personal level we may be considering lifestyle changes or travel plans, 2017 will also inevitably bring change and developments in the world of HR.
My crystal ball is a little dusty, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write down some of my HR predictions for the year. Here, in no particular order, are some of the themes I think we will see emerging during the course of 2017 – and some thoughts on how we might begin to tackle them.
Increasing competition for talent
Let’s start with the obvious. The competition for talent is going nowhere. For employers to attract – and, critically, retain – that talent, the employee value proposition we’re delivering needs to be absolutely first class. When it comes to EVP, there is no one size fits all approach, and those organisations really standing out from the crowd will be those continuously innovating and refining their proposition in order to be unequivocally viewed as an employer of choice.
Ignore your employer brand at your peril. In a world where the internet provides full and frank feedback at the click of a button, job seekers will be using sites such as Glassdoor to make a snap decision on whether they want to come and work for you. Get your employer brand delivering, create an EVP which is head and shoulders above the rest, and you put yourself in the best possible position to come out victorious in the ongoing war for talent.
An important component of your EVP is going to be your willingness – or otherwise – to embrace flexibility. Whether it’s location, working pattern, or role definition, an expectation for increasing levels of flexibility in the workplace is becoming the norm, and it is those organisations who are fastest able to embrace this who stand to gain the greatest competitive advantage.
Instead of focusing on all of the reasons why increased flexibility can’t work for your business, start thinking about all of the reasons why it could. The numbers of people wanting and willing to work a standard 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, fully office based, are diminishing by the day. If you and your closest competitor are both offering the same role, same package, but they are willing to offer the flexibility that you won’t… you are automatically reducing the size of your pool of candidates before they have even walked through the door. Flexible working is here to stay. Now is the time to lead the way with it, not follow in the slipstream of others.
Perhaps somewhat cynically of me, I find it hard to believe that the naval gazing which seems to be an increasing characteristic of the HR profession will be going away any time soon. I don’t know of any other profession where the question of whether that profession has a seat in the boardroom is debated quite so frequently or vociferously. My frustration here comes from the fact that, surely, if we spent more time focusing on delivering value to the business, and less time debating whether we were delivering value in the first place, then that seat around the boardroom table wouldn’t even be called into question.
In 2017, it would be great if we could all spend less time arguing the relative merits of the value HR adds, and more time simply delivering as a profession. People are an organisation’s most important resource; HR is the function responsible for the resourcing and delivery of those people. If we don’t think that responsibility means that we justify our representation at the very highest level within the business, then we are arguably in the wrong profession in the first place.
The traditional organisation hierarchy is crumbling, and with it comes both the opportunity – and the expectation – that more and more ownership and accountability will be driven bottom up rather than top down. Look back 20 years, and feedback, appraisals, objectives, training, development… all of this would have been spoon-fed to employees by their line managers. Now, we live in a world where employees want, and expect, ownership in these areas, and with this comes an enormous opportunity for us to capitalise on. By sharing this ownership, employees can share in the creation of a set of objectives they truly believe in. Feedback can become a continuous, 360-degree process – not something which is delivered top down and only once a year.
When it comes to training and development, a shared ownership of this means that employees are taking accountability for not only their own learning, but also the learning of others. By actively participating in both the design and the delivery of training, they become greater invested in the outcome, start to champion the process, and the training and development process becomes holistically embedded in the organisation in a way that it will never truly be when solely led from top down. This is what being a true learning organisation is all about.
Employees are crying out for the opportunity to take on increased accountability and ownership. 2017 is your opportunity to really start to deliver this for them – to the benefit of both employees and employer.