Notes for the forerunners of professionals keeping it all together.
Human resources (HR) are a mainstay department for most organisations when it comes to retaining a steady workforce. From the hiring process to employee termination, HR is a multidisciplinary field that is the driving force behind employee professional development.
Naturally, HR professionals are up-to-date with the latest working trends in order to apply the relevant amendments to their own organisations. This is because the working world rapidly evolves, and with-it workplace priorities.
The past few years presented an unprecedented workplace change; indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic shifted the workforce from their comfortable office environments to lesser equipped home stations. HR professionals accommodated their everyday processes to suit this new world of work, managing interviews virtually through video conferencing software, and transferring their paperwork through digital mediums to suit their remote job.
Arguably, a lot has changed for HR jobs in Malta and globally. Most manual labour handled by humans are nowadays converted to computer systems. The physically people-driven role has transferred into a more digital one, facilitating workplace needs through largely online platforms. These changes urged new meaning into what HR constitutes today, where below outlines the larger industry amendments.
The Home Office
Perhaps one of the most visible changes introduced to HR professionals and the workforce generally is the transition to remote work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Albeit the notion of flexible work arrangements was not unheard of beforehand, the pandemic kickstarted a predominance of remote jobs with little policies in place to support employees.
Further, the pandemic introduced its own factors to employee wellbeing, including heightened anxieties and social isolation. HR professionals became inundated with constructing concrete and fair remote workplace policies to support employees for the short and long-term.
It is true that not all companies were able to introduce remote working (for numerous reasons, for instance the nature of healthcare workers requires physical contact). The ones that have are already certain of maintaining current work from home practices or employing a hybrid model of work altogether. This means that, where possible and available, organisations will require HR policies in place to sustain the new working society and ensuring their needs are met whilst reaching organisational goals.
Reinventing Best Practices
The global shift to remote work led typically papered processes to disappear with immediacy; recruitment and onboarding practices converted to support digital platforms, and many a time HR professionals met with prospective employees virtually. Performance reviews, exit interviews, and other managerial duties also took the brunt of this shift—relying on digital transformation, and forgetting regular human interaction altogether.
More uniquely, people management will also transform as many workers continue their remote jobs after the pandemic. It’s difficult for HR professionals to check in on employees or view how productive their home-life truly is, leading to current questioning on how to remain connected with our colleagues without disturbing one’s privacy. Whilst different organisations apply various methods, there may be further use of technologies to keep the workforce connected.
Perhaps one of the most important values lost with remote work is related to communication and social interaction. The little ongoings’ of chatter between workplace tasks, the walk to a common kitchen to make another cup of coffee, were all familiar and appreciated interactions that soothed a long working day. Because of the pandemic, many of us work at home alone, reducing these opportunities.
Nevertheless, many organisations are already creating innovative means to sustain human interaction between workplace calls. Whether this means virtual lunches and other similar activities, alongside regular team meetings that are not necessarily task related, HR professionals are grasping onto the importance of communication to combat social isolation. Togetherness, especially when circumstances appear dire, is a value all professionals should attend to.
Engaging Employees Online
Wherein the past new employees would enter their work environment, meet the team and celebrate their accompaniment, nowadays, this cannot occur through virtual means. HR professionals are entrusted with curating a selection and onboarding process that guides employees and makes them feel connected with a team from the start of employment.
Further, HR jobs will have to reinvent these processes whilst ensuring virtual employee engagement is positive and sustains over time. They should measure engagement levels from time to time, understanding the different components that collectively improve engagement, such as work-life wellness and wellbeing. Networking opportunities in general will have to be created to support human connectivity as far as possible, involving employees and making them feel like they're part of a greater team.
A consistent finding in recent research has opened the doors for learning and development, where the pandemic shuns a light on a digital skills divide, necessitating the need for learning platforms that prioritise reskilling and upskilling initiatives. Generally, employees want to grow within a company, and whilst increased compensation is important, personal training that is purposeful is a great achiever in employee retention.
For HR professionals, skills training is effective when targeting two main areas:
Data literacy: as many best practices transform to suit a digital medium, HR jobs in Malta and beyond need to provide training in technical skills in order for professionals to keep up with current workplace trends.
Industry knowledge: HR professionals should be wary of current business trends across industries to supply and accommodate to present employee needs. Deeper understanding and improved business acumen will lead HR professionals into fostering a positive workplace culture.
Upskilling has inundated workplace professionals with opportunities to maximise employee potential. Similar for other roles, common upskilling areas include improvement towards digital skills and technical integration, whilst remaining up-to-date with business trends.
Becoming a Purpose-driven Leader
The pandemic has undoubtedly wrought havoc on people’s lives, where individuals have faced loss and grief whilst succumbing to the social isolation granted by lockdown regulations. Typically, when employees are feeling run down from work, they approach their HR department for support. It’s now more than ever important for HR professionals to accommodate the needs of employees and support mental health practices.
On top of this, organisations have been forced to amend their policies to support remote work with little to offer in short-term circumstances. They too require the support of HR professionals to help construct people-driven policies that support both the needs of workers and the company. HR professionals have been pushed to the frontline, facilitating wellbeing matters whilst handling business requirements, often needing to navigate the novel workforce themselves.
With this in mind, HR professionals are invaluable in ensuring everything that comprises an organisation is kept in order. Naturally, they’re often familiar with current business practices and the quest for employee wellbeing reiterates the need for HR departments to remain on top of trends. Professionals must be committed to purposefully amend policies to support worker needs and remedy the challenges brought about by Covid-19. HR professionals at the end of the day are leaders in their own right and integrate organisational with employee support to foster the success of everyone’s personal and professional development.
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