Open any social networking app today, and the memes are all about how 2016 gave us much tougher times to deal with than other years in recent history. Sure, most of the memes are for entertainment purposes only, but even in the HR space, while 2016 saw the emergence of trends such as analytics, and workplace flexibility, companies were still navigating the new waters of millennial workforces, work-life integration and more through the year.
Most companies were left playing catch-up with tech disruptions, a workforce whose needs were so different from all others previously known, the increased importance of customised people actions, the move from talent management to people management. So, the scope for these trends, and more, to come into their own in 2017 is immense.
Will 2017 be any clearer or calmer for HR than the previous year? Possibly not. Here are the certain changes that we can expect in 2017.
Technology, in all forms, is constantly challenging our assumptions of what HR can and can’t do. Automation is making us realise that many of our processes are redundant, and can be automated to free up time for meaningful work. This is a good move, as it will help us focus clearly on improving employee experience. Of course, automation and the digitisation of HR cannot completely replace an HR role, as the human touch and thought process for intelligent people decisions will always be crucial to any company and its employees. The use of tools and apps for easier connect and engagement will see an upward trend in the coming year as well.
With a greater influx of millenials into the workforce, all previous assumptions of what works to keep employees engaged and motivated are breaking down. More and more, we’re dealing with a blended workforce, where full-time and part-time employees cohabit the same space, but whose needs are completely different. Therefore, we need to move towards creating journeys and experiences that are based on what we know about our people.
While the last year was big on data collection and building data warehouses, the coming year will focus on mining that data for meaningful insights. Data analytics for customised, personal employee experiences will be the norm. Therefore, the understanding of ‘what works for one employee may not work for another’ is integral to elevating the HR role. Slowly, we will then move into the role of HR consultant— known for people expertise, rather than mere execution of tried and tested actions.
To provide a mix of benefits, we have the traditional C&B package, as well as a unique employee discount programme called InfyGold+, where employees can avail of exclusive discounts at various brands, by virtue of just being Infosys employees.
At Infosys, we have already started delving deeper into the massive amounts of personnel data that we store, to see how we can provide customised learning & development, growth and career programmes for our employees.
Compensation & Benefits
In the space of compensation & benefits (C&B), 2017 will see a trend towards the building of a total rewards programme, rather than disparate pieces of C&B co-existing in the same space. Interestingly, a few articles predict that ‘nice-to-have’ benefits that drew employees to workplaces in the recent years may not work anymore. For instance, many companies introduced perks such as pet-friendly spaces, open working environments, free meals, in-house yoga and sessions. to draw in the millenials. But the move towards wanting traditional benefits, such as good health insurance, retirement plan, comprehensive C&B packages, is taking place.
We recognised this trend early at Infosys, and in a bold move taken after over a decade, we re-introduced restricted stock units to a select group of employees. We plan to increase the number of recipients in the future. To provide a mix of benefits, we have the traditional C&B package, as well as a unique employee discount programme called InfyGold+, where employees can avail of exclusive discounts at various brands, by virtue of just being Infosys employees.
Every little bit counts here. Of course, health and wellness programmes will continue to be important, and will be considered as a part of the total rewards programme of the companies, with mobile apps making information dissemination easier. At Infosys, our Health Assessment and Lifestyle Enrichment (HALE) initiative tackles areas of concern in employee health and wellness (both mental and physical), and is well-received by employees.
Some other trends that are expected to make early entries would include an on-demand workforce to handle peak loads of work. Just as people have become comfortable using shared transport with on-demand cars, employers will start looking at on-demand hiring of workforce for specific activities that regular staff cannot fulfill. A whole new outlook on HR practices will be required to cater to this kind of employee.
Another trend that is bound to make its presence felt is enhanced employee experience, using digital and virtual technology. The ability to enhance experience as well as economise on delivery cost will define how investments in this space will happen.
So, while we laugh at the memes of people being tackled head-on by life in 2016, we must recognise that 2017 might be no different if we don’t recognise the signs of disruption and change in HR. Trends become reality only when we make the conscious move to change our ways of working, and embrace technology to make our lives, and those of our employees, simpler and more meaningful.
(The author is senior vice-president & head-HR, Infosys.)