“Metaverse will be a pillar in the way we work,” Amit Das

The pandemic has resulted in a mindset change among employees and organisations, focused on long-term business sustainability, anti-fragility and the total wellness quotient for individuals shares Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Company

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A big change in 2022

The pandemic presented an opportunity to build a digital workforce. We all know that the biggest barrier for any transformation is the resistance to change, and the current pandemic inadvertently brought in the urgency for that muchneeded change in organisations. We have been hearing about the ‘new normal’, ‘phygital workplace’ and ‘hybrid work’ for the last 20 months. When we look at the larger picture, I believe we are moving towards a future where the Metaverse will be a very strong and important pillar in our way of working and interacting with each other, whether at the workplace or in our personal lives.

While this is a change that we may not witness immediately in 2022, we will move towards this reality at an extremely fast pace.

Another big change we will witness in 2022 is a greater emphasis on ‘customisation’ and ‘personalisation’ at each and every employee life cycle touchpoint.

The one-size-fits-all approach that HR has been stuck with for a while now, will give way to an N=1 future, where the needs of every individual are different, and hence, every problem that HR resolves has a personalised solution. This will require HR to build the mindset of a ‘solution architect’.

Voice for change among employees getting stronger

For a long time, businesses have had a myopic focus on incremental growth and productivity. The pandemic has resulted in a mindset change among employees and organisations, focused on long-term business sustainability, anti-fragility and the total wellness quotient for individuals.

During the current period of resilience and recovery for organisations, employees continue to be anxious. This has increased the demand for personalised focus and catering to their needs with a customised approach, which has obviously accentuated the ‘employee voice’ with greater demand for transparency. Since people have an innate drive to make their voices heard, no matter the circumstances, not providing employees with a platform to express themselves will not suppress negative emotions.

This will only compel employees to seek out alternative and rebellious means of making themselves heard, which could be detrimental and damaging to the employee morale. It will also have potential adverse impact on the employer brand. Organisations need to proactively build channels that focus on transparent and authentic communication, invest in collaborative technology tools, inculcate a capability-building mindset in the organisation and actively transform their engagement agenda to focus on the total wellness quotient.

Change in leadership development programmes in 2022

Neo leaders will require specific leadershipdevelopment programmes to build new skills required to enable this massive transformation for themselves and their teams. Also, since the definition of leadership is volatile, organisations are not sure of what competencies they are looking for, for future success.

The so called ‘success profiles’ are becoming irrelevant, since the competencies which gave success in the past, will no longer be valid going forward in the new normal world of business. This challenge is compelling organisations to develop a shared understanding of the future competencies.

The future leadership competencies will hover around ‘connected leadership’, ‘cognitive flexibility’, ‘digital dexterity’, ‘resilience’ and ‘empathy’. Therefore, the ‘future ready leaders’ need to demonstrate ‘agility’, ‘boldness’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘humility’.

Great resignation a disguise of great movement

The buzz around the ‘Great Resignation’ or the ‘Big Quit’ has primarily brought focus on the fact that burned-out employees moved on from their jobs, while the eager job seekers looked out for refreshed opportunities. While workforce anxiety and discontent with the current status in the disruptive business environment, is a significant factor behind these quits, a different perspective has also emerged — on how employers can leverage this phenomenon as an opportunity to press the refresh button and attract the ‘right’ talent.

Rather than merely being a ‘Great Resignation’ in which people simply quit and walk away, the current disruption is seeing swarms of employees move around the job market. They are seeking a refreshed work-life integration and making thoughtful choices based on other intangible elements of the ‘Total Rewards’ framework — which is beyond tangible compensation — at the core of their decision-making process. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that much of the Great Resignation is a Great Movement with employees shifting track and moving to organisations that align with their individual purpose.

This is also a period when organisations have an opportunity to redesign their Total Rewards offerings to continue looking attractive to current and prospective workforce. Such organisations have taken this opportunity to re-optimise and rearchitect roles, find better ‘culture-fit’ candidates and provide opportunities to internal talent through enhanced roles and responsibilities, while still focusing on their employer brand attractiveness.

“Neo leaders will require specific leadership development programmes for massive transformation”

Gig driven by choice or business challenges

The Future of Work comprises three equally important dimensions —‘work’ (what can be automated), ‘workforce’ (who can do the work), and ‘workplace’ (where is the work done). Most organisations in the past have focused on the ‘work’ dimension, evaluating opportunities to automate and augment workforce through technology. The focus or action on the other two dimensions, however, seems to have been inadequate. The recent pandemic situation, more by compulsion rather than by choice, has forced us to move to different workplace models, and in some situations, workforce models as well. Rapid increase in digitisation in developing countries has led to the penetration of digital work platforms, which are likely to play a critical role in shaping the future of the gig talent ecosystem. As more and more companies undertake business transformation to make their processes more technologically driven, the share of gig workforce is bound to go up.

A gig economy is also cost-efficient for companies, given that they can accommodate temporary workforce, according to the customer requirements or business needs, leading up to saving administrative and compliance costs that they would otherwise incur if they choose to hire full-time or regular employees.

This is especially true in cases where business models do not involve the engagement of permanent workforce. This relationship is rather symbiotic, and both parties have equal freedom to look for options that cater to their needs. Therefore, a gig economy bestows upon this workforce, the flexibility and independence to be able to expand into new markets and create a talent pool for employers to choose from. The rapidly accelerating growth of the gig economy represents one of the most significant and all-encompassing challenges.

The fundamental question is whether companies can demonstrate the agility to lead the change in culture, programmes, processes, and policies — originally designed for full-time employees — to a new era where more of the work is being completed by a talent portfolio increasingly represented by contingent workers. The growth of the gig economy and associated talent platforms have blurred the legal definitions of the terms ‘employee’ and ‘employer’ in ways that were unimaginable in the past.

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