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How to embrace the evolving role of the HR department as remote work becomes the norm

How to embrace the evolving role of the HR department as remote work becomes the norm

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Automation and technology are changing the way we all work, especially in light of the restrictions placed upon many of us, due to the pandemic. The HR department is not immune to these changes, many of which are here to stay, and has had to adjust and embrace the introduction of new technology and automation. Three experts explain how HR departments can embrace these changes.

Darren Beck, Managing Director of CallCabinet

While COVID restrictions may not be around for much longer, their impact will be felt long into the future. One of the biggest effects of the pandemic is the shift to remote and hybrid working, with many employees now only expected to go into the office once or twice a week, and some working from home permanently. The success of this hybrid system has been largely down to reliance on certain technologies, including cloud and access to portable devices like laptops and smartphones. The king of all these technologies, however, is video calling software.

While video calls played a role in the working environment pre-COVID, they were not seen as essential. Instead, workers would travel to see a client in person or have a face to face conversation with a colleague in the office. Now the technology looks set to be a fixture post-COVID, and this will inevitably have an impact on HR.

Firstly, the HR department is tasked with managing the entire employee life cycle from recruiting, onboarding, training and offboarding, therefore those working in the department have to be prepared for sensitive conversations with current and future employees. With more employees now choosing to split their time between the office and home, it is essential that compliance is met when conducting a HR meeting. This means being able to record HR-related video meetings for review if required, especially where there could be future legal implications. The same is true of transcription of video or audio.

Such a decision was made in the finance sector back in January when the Financial Conduct Authority ruled that financial services organisations must record all communications while working from home.

As mentioned, the HR department also plays a major part in the hiring process. The circumstances of the past year, combined with the growth of technology like video calling software, have meant HR departments are no longer obligated to hiring employees from a specific location. Instead, they are now able to interview and hire employees from anywhere in the country and in some cases abroad, allowing them to expand the talent pool and bring on board the best in the business without the restrictions posed by long distance travel or international borders.

Technology will continue to affect every part of our professional and personal lives even as we exit the pandemic. From what we have seen so far, it has allowed those working in HR to work more efficiently, while ensuring they can continue complying with regulations and privacy policies in a changing world. As long as HR departments continue to move with the times in terms of technology such as video calling software, they will be in a good position to succeed.

Samy Abu Aishah, Head of Human Resources – Middle East South, SAP

Human resource (HR) managers across Middle East and global organisations expect to be faced post-pandemic with a bifurcated workforce of remote and on-site workers, creating challenges balancing employee needs, organisational goals, policies and culture.

A recent survey by Oxford Economics, the Society of Human Resources Management and SAP interviewed HR leaders across 10 countries.

The report found that despite employee readiness to learn new skills, few HR leaders are planning to invest in learning programmes for reskilling and upskilling over the next 12 months. Outside of the United States, only 38% of respondents plan to invest in these programmes.

While HR leaders across the globe ranked maintaining productivity as their biggest challenge, it’s critical that we do not lose sight of long-term strategies around learning and reskilling, diversity, equity and inclusion. The urgency for more agile processes, easier access to data and the ability to support remote work is accelerating Digital Transformation. It’s critical that leaders develop a culture of continuous learning and inclusion. This will enable workforces to drive needed transformation projects, even during a period of unprecedented change.

Many respondents said they were likely to recommit to corporate culture and value, and practise inclusive hiring and promotion, such as adjusting wages or salaries to address pay inequities or changing structure or benefits to foster inclusion.

Challenges to maintain productivity could delay long-term planning in reskilling

• Maintaining productivity given new ways of working is ranked as the biggest challenge for HR leaders
• Remote collaboration tools will see the most investment
• Organisations are taking a buy-versus-build mentality, with most hires in the coming months expected to be new to the organisation
Remote work persists, creating a two-tiered workforce
• Organisations globally agree that remote work will be a talent magnet in the coming years and is viewed by many as a long-term investment.
• However, many respondents say their employees can work from anywhere but do not have the technology or environment they need.
• Service and field workers, general staff and customer service workers are less likely to have the environment or technology to work remotely

Alice Grasset, Head of Marketing – Middle East and Africa, Salesforce

The past year has fundamentally changed the way we work in the Middle East. Just as digitisation is transforming our companies, with the help of technology we can become more connected, find more balance between work and home, and create more inclusive workplace in-office and virtually.

To build a better workplace that is innovative and inclusive of all, we must consider how we improve the employee experience, how we ensure fairness for everyone, while prioritising upskilling for the changing nature of jobs. Here are three ways that we can implement new technologies and arrangements both creatively and responsibly.

1) Prioritise employee engagement

More than ever companies need to adapt quickly and create more relevant and engaging employee experiences wherever they are – just as we would for customers.

In an all-digital world, one of the greatest challenges which companies face is maintaining their culture. As our working styles become more hybrid, forging a shared sense of purpose and belonging will become increasingly important. Just as data can help make faster and smarter decisions to benefit customers, intelligence gained through surveys and other forms of engagement can assist in building team togetherness and implementing initiatives that prioritise wellbeing.

2) Encourage flexibility and ensure fairness

Trust and flexibility are key to a work from anywhere strategy. While flexible working arrangements can offer greater life-work balance, if not implemented with care these changes put at risk hard-won progress in the fight for pay and workplace equity. During the pandemic, for example, we’ve seen women shoulder an even larger burden of child-rearing responsibilities at home. This has created a disproportionately negative impact on their advancement in the workplace. Just as businesses have a responsibility to create an equal, fair, and inclusive environment in-office, it is imperative that this experience translates virtually.

3) Cultivate a culture of continual learning

Just as the all-digital world we live in presents employers an opportunity to transcend traditional boundaries and tap into new pools of talent, it also requires us to further invest in hard and soft skills. In the digital economy, every company is going to need teams which can leverage new technologies fast. Increasingly, too, they will rely on individuals who can solve complex problems, challenge the status quo and engender a shared sense of purpose among distributed teams. To get the best out of people, leaders need to cultivate a workforce culture of continual learning and development in line with business needs.

Building a better world than we had before

By using this opportunity to build a better workplace, we can provide meaningful roles, prioritise reskilling initiatives and inspire teams with a common value set.

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