8 Key Trends For The Future Workplace That HR Leaders In India Want You To Understand

Organisations need to pay deliberate attention to employee wellness as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as mandates for successful talent acquisition.

In a world shaped by the ‘new normal’, companies are not only competing for market share and brand recall. Even as companies are endeavouring to position themselves as innovation leaders, they are competing for the best talent as well. 

The truth is, even as companies put in place the best policies, processes and infrastructure, innovation is a distant dream unless the people involved in using these are fully on-board. As employee expectations change, whether around rewards, work-life balance or their own life enrichment goals, organisational policies too need to adapt. This also means that organisations need to pay deliberate attention to employee wellness as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as mandates for successful talent acquisition.

Transforming HR to Support Innovation in The Future Workplace

As a platform that leads the conversation around women at work and champions the cause of diversity and inclusion at workplaces and beyond, Women’s Web, in association with Accenture India, had organised a roundtable on ‘Transforming HR to Support Innovation in The Future Workplace’ on April 7, 2022.

Outstanding women business leaders in the Talent & Organization function came together at this exclusive two-hour virtual roundtable in early April to discuss the changes in how organisations and employees are perceiving each other, the crucial need of attracting the right talent to accelerate innovation in business and technology teams, and the massive change these trends entail from the HR function.

Senior female HR professionals from leading organisations such as PhonePe, Flipkart, RBL Bank, Electrolux, and others participated in the virtual roundtable. The event was marked by a string of robust discussions and exchanges of insightful ideas and learnings. 

Here are some of the key trends shared by this cohort of leaders during the discussion that revolved around how human connection, the spark of engagement, and focused learning will be integral to innovation.

Culture will be key to innovation as well as talent acquisition

Organisational culture will remain the key driver of innovation as well as enhanced employee experiences. With the future of work being shaped by multigenerational workforces, hybrid workspaces, and flexible work models, the values and practices that guide and inform the actions of all stakeholders in an organisation will become even more crucial to attracting and retaining talent. 

Learnings and foresight on the expectations of the future workforce (i.e., millennials and the generations after them) are expected to play a significant role in reshaping organisational culture. Manmeet Sandhu, the Chief People Officer of PhonePe, underlined how “organisations and employees are engaged in a much more symbiotic relationship” while highlighting the importance of organisational culture and human connection. 

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In a world where businesses thrive on innovation, learning is not a choice anymore

Chhavi Bajaj, Senior Director, HR Transformation at Flipkart, elaborated on why learning is not a choice anymore. Given how her organisation is consistently dealing with evolving market dynamics and changing consumer expectations, she remarked, “We have people working next to robots, we have learners and trainers working side by side, learning on the job, on the shop floor. People are encouraged to leverage their learnings at work and this fuels innovation.” She also touched upon the shift from single-dimensional education to learning from real-time experiences, and emphasised learning not for the sake of learning but to generate new ideas that effectively resolve challenges and enable breakthroughs that align with self-actualisation goals at an individual level.

Upskilling at work is essential to align organisational goals with the individual ones

Swati Datye, Executive Vice President & Head, Employee Experience, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, D&I, Campus at RBL Bank, while speaking about why organisations need to help employees reskill and upskill, said “It is important to keep a future-focussed watch on what is coming up, and look at and be prepared for what lies beyond to stay relevant and keep up with leaps in new-age tech and the responsibility of the HR towards their organisation’s workforce.”

Learning & Development is a lot more than just the functional

The L&D spectrum across sectors is shifting from ‘how to do something’ to ‘how to enable the right kind of environment, curiosity and interactions that can nurture innovation.’ In these changing times, L&D should essentially address employees’ need to connect with like-minded individuals who care about a common goal, and unfettered access to information and learning resources. 

For instance, empowering employees in gaining confident cross-functional expertise through exposure and practice, and encouraging more informal conversations and elements of ‘play at work’ that aid not only in identifying individual capabilities but also in firing up neural pathways for new strategies, and building a sense of community at work may become new areas of core focus for L&D. 

The onus is not only on organisations, but also on individual employees to learn and upskill

Organisations can foster an environment of continuous learning and improvement, but it is up to the individuals as well to rise to the occasion. Thanks to technology, hyper-personalised learning has emerged as a very effective tool that employees leverage to create a personalised learning curriculum through regulated learning platforms, especially those in online/virtual mode. “Personalised learning is the way to go,” said Amit Gupta, T&O/Human Potential, Global Strategy & Consulting, Accenture. He also spoke on learning from adverse situations and how this knowledge can be used to turn the tables in challenging situations.

Work from home is part of the new normal, but will not be the whole story

Discussing the work-from-home factor, the participants mused about how as humans we are hardwired for building and nurturing connections. The loss of real-time human connection has contributed to waning excitement around work-from-home. This phenomenon builds into a generalised perception of lack of engagement and loss of interest, and in some cases, leads to ‘the great resignation’ itself. Manmeet highlighted how a lack of connection with colleagues and workplace watercooler conversations is impacting the birth of new ideas and innovation at work. “Create a sense of connection to encourage innovation. Without the spark of engagement, innovation will not happen,” she said.

Organisations will need to reimagine the hybrid workplace creatively  

While being physically present at work retains its conventional value, the role of the hybrid work model in bridging the gap between the great resignation, a looming scarcity of talent, and prospective human resources – especially women returning to work after a career break – is too impactful to be shelved under. 

The key to sustaining innovation while keeping up with the changing nature of work itself is to identify what can be done remotely and what requires real-time presence at the workplace. The right environment holds the potential to spark connections, creative confidence, and innovation. 

The future of work is not only a revolution of technology but also a revolution of people 

Around the world, people-centric firms that value employee happiness as much as the financial line is becoming increasingly successful. In this context, the onus is on the Talent and Organization function to make employees feel valued right from the time of their onboarding. Also, with AI-led disruption changing the landscape of work and job descriptions, employers who promote and enable reskilling have been better at dealing with the looming issue of the great resignation. 

Manoj Munjal, Managing Director, India Node T&O lead, Global Learning Offering Lead, Accenture spoke about the imminent need to be prepared to face upcoming challenges around human and culture perspectives, in this context. “Fresh approaches to work policies such as factoring in location-agnostic productivity will play a central role in driving successful businesses,” he said.

The speakers acquiesced that while innovation cannot be executed purely in a structured manner, learning will open up a win-win possibility that will enable employees’ capacity to ideate and implement new ideas while keeping the organisation future-ready with a workforce open to meet challenges head-on. 

Everyone agreed that the future of work itself will be driven by the shifting dynamics between employer and employee and the pertinence of designing work around people. 

Image credits Vardan Papikyan on Unsplash

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About the Author

Sindhu Priyadharsini Sankar

Sindhu is a writer and a mother of two. A self-confessed bibliophile and a movie buff, she finds relief and meaning in doodling, cooking, escaping to hill towns, and her friends. A big fan read more...

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