5 Imperatives for HR Leaders to Tackle the Future of Work

October 28, 2019

Contributor: Mary Baker

HR leaders should focus on the big picture of what the future of work can and should look like in their organization.

While “future of work” may seem like a buzzword, the truth is that most, if not all, workplaces are rapidly changing as a result of evolving technology and the need to operate in an ever-more-digital environment. Companies are unprepared for these changes. A recent Gartner survey found that only 9% of CHROs agreed that their organization is prepared for the future of work. 

“Tackling the future of work requires organizations to plan for and leverage the changes in the way work gets done over the next decade, influenced by social, generational and technological shifts,” said Brian Kropp, chief of HR research, Gartner at the Gartner ReimagineHR Conference in Orlando, FL today. 

Gartner has identified five areas of work that senior HR leaders must focus on to drive future performance of the organization, employees and the community at large.

No. 1: Develop an AI ethics strategy

Gartner research finds that 75% of organizations are dramatically increasing their investment in analytics. In fact, the budget line item associated with talent analytics is the fastest growing within the typical HR organization. Data is increasingly used to make work-related decisions in talent acquisition and management and even workplace design. 

This increasing focus on talent analytics has led senior HR leaders to question not only how to collect data in an ethical way, but how to ethically use the data that is collected. Given the increase in AI in the workplace, these questions are important. Going forward, HR must drive an ethical AI and analytics strategy that trains leaders on real-world employee data misuse and builds roles focused on data and AI decision ethics.

No. 2: Rethink how employees develop skills 

Skill development is a major priority for most organizations, with 73% of CHROs reporting that building critical skills and competencies are top priorities. At the same time, the skill sets needed are changing significantly — nearly two-thirds of job postings had more than 25% of their required skills change compared to 5 years ago.

On-the-job training is the primary method being used to develop employees’ digital skills. Unfortunately, 47% of on-the-job learning opportunities are at risk of being automated and eliminated by AI. 

To ensure that employees still have the learning opportunities needed to develop the critical skills needed for today and tomorrow, organizations must audit existing learning strategies to understand the dependence on on-the-job training. Then HR must reimagine how skill development can and should be done to best leverage new technology while still providing employees opportunities to develop. 

Learn more: Reskilling the workforce

No. 3 Build an internal transparency strategy

Candidates have more information on employers and workplaces than ever before via sites like Glassdoor and Fairy Godboss, but employees don’t feel like they have that same visibility into their own employers. Gartner research found that 59% of candidates feel like they are well-informed about the company they’re going to apply to before they submit their application, yet only 40% of employees feel informed about their own employer.

Employees are calling for increased transparency from employers. To meet these growing expectations, employers must develop a strategy that goes a step farther than the current culture might allow. In addition, managers must be trained on how to operate in a more transparent environment where employees are privy to more information and the balance of power is shifting.

No. 4: Overhaul the role of managers for a new era

Gartner research shows that in 2010, the average company spent $471 per manager on training, which equates to more than $5,000 per manager over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, these efforts have achieved zero net improvement in the effectiveness of managers. As automation continues to permeate the workplace, the day-to-day life of a manager will change drastically; Gartner research shows that 69% of what a manager currently does will be automated by 2024. 

Progressive organizations are now asking how technology is fundamentally changing what it means to be a manager. Gartner recommends that HR leaders focus on three things as organizations overhaul their manager roles in this new era of work:

  • Determine which management tasks should be automated
  • Establish new expectations for managers
  • Design career paths for growth with fewer management opportunities

No. 5: Use AI to create access to jobs for those who have been left out of the labor market

AI deployment is widespread — more than nine out of 10 companies reported to Gartner that they have already made significant investments in the implementation of AI across the last couple of years. A recent Gartner survey revealed that 70% of CHROs expect investments in AI to replace jobs in their organization within the next three years. However, although jobs will be lost as new technology is implemented, technology will also enable access to jobs for people who have not historically had access.

To enable access to new talent pools, HR first needs to audit internal systems and practices for potential barriers to success. Then, the organization should look to implement technology that can create an enabling work environment for new entrants to the labor market.

“Organizations can achieve competitive advantage by thinking through and preparing for the future of work across these five dimensions, which will enable better talent acquisition and management,” said Kropp. 

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