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Future work: what will be the great trends in human resources in 2021


There are two phenomena that converge, one structural: the advance of exponential technologies with the progressive increase in automation and the other circumstantial: COVID-19 and all its implications in the world of work

Very possibly, these times that we are going through, will be remembered by all those who work in talent management as one of the most intense and exciting that they have lived in their entire career.

There are two phenomena that converge, one structural: the advance of exponential technologies with the progressive increase in automation and the other circumstantial: COVID-19 and all its implications in the world of work. Together they imply a modification of almost all the variables and generate a need to understand, more than ever, the role that people play and the need to generate the conditions so that they can develop their activities in contexts in which they can give their best and contribute to business results in a substantial way.

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And such is the importance of the area from now on, that in the recently published report of the World Economic Forum entitled Jobs of Tomorrow, Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy emerges within the select club of the seven professional sectors with the greatest opportunities. People and culture is one such prime segment with excellent omens (the remaining six are data and artificial intelligence, care economy, green economy, engineering and IT, product development and sales, marketing and content).

The report highlights four aspects to consider regarding capabilities: digital mindset, relentless customer focus, enabling advanced technologies, and streamlined and agile ways of working.
The report highlights four aspects to consider regarding capabilities: digital mindset, relentless customer focus, enabling advanced technologies, and streamlined and agile ways of working.

It is clear that it is not just a fad issue, but it is here to stay and continue to grow in the coming years. However, there is something that was evident: the evolution of the role of the area, from business partners to business players, positioning itself at the very heart, not as a marginal sector, but at the center of decision-making and as an actor protagonist.

But as the Deloitte report highlights, The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward, Human Resources must expand its scope of influence and focus area to effectively manage human and mental capital. If the traditional look was limited to the collaborators and the function itself, its focus should be extended to the organization and the entire workforce of the entire ecosystem, sensibly widening margins and expanding into many other spaces throughout the value chain.

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EThe same report highlights four aspects to consider regarding capabilities: digital mindset, relentless customer focus, enabling advanced technologies, and streamlined and agile ways of working. A concrete clear roadmap, from mindset to modality and focus. The big question in this direction is how each of these concepts are applied in the concrete reality of the professionals in the area and is deployed in each activity.

During 2020 we have worked like never before, without pause, not a day, and on topics that would never have been seen a few months before
During 2020 we have worked like never before, without pause, not a day, and on topics that would never have been seen a few months before

To make it explicit, Deloitte itself calls it Exponential Human Resources, and specifies what are the competencies required to be able to perform successfully: in search of meaning, customer-centered, team igniter, innovative thinker, integrator, entrepreneur, action-oriented, digital total, data obsessed, ambidextrous (present and future, strategic and operational).

Again, a very clear picture of what is expected of each one, what they have to know how to do and how to do it to be able to meet the challenges. We can visualize how the answers that brought us to the present will not necessarily take us to the next level and how each one must quickly learn new skills so as not to quickly become obsolete and become part of the past.

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What are the priority themes for 2021?

It is clear that the Black Swan, called COVID-19, drove a sudden change and a turn of almost 180 degrees
It is clear that the Black Swan, called COVID-19, drove a sudden change and a turn of almost 180 degrees

During 2020 we have worked like never before, without pause, not a day, and on topics that would never have been seen a few months before. The priorities changed from one day to the next and energy quickly had to be put into aspects such as health, safety, hygiene and protocols, which were not on any of the agendas.

It is clear that the Black Swan, called COVID-19, drove a sudden change and a turn of almost 180 degrees. Given the information that we have at the moment, and assuming no other Black Swan comes forward, some of the key issues in 2021 will be focused on:

New talent management strategy model. To the traditional “Build, Buy, Borrow”, build from within, acquire from the market, temporarily borrow in Spanish, the fourth B is added, “Bot” related to the coexistence between people and robots.

Work spaces and their adaptation to the new dynamic realities that we are going through. In what way do we adapt offices and plants to new demands, new work patterns and new ways of collaborating that are quite possibly hybrids. If we add the new distancing requirements to distributed and remote work, substantial changes are definitely being generated. Finding out how social capital will be boosted and innovation fostered are big questions to answer.

If there is anything that COVID-19 has served for, it was to demonstrate the true capacity that companies have to respond quickly to external threats
If there is anything that COVID-19 has served for, it was to demonstrate the true capacity that companies have to respond quickly to external threats

Upskilling and reskilling for the future of work, scalable learning. Improve the skills, competencies and capacities of all employees and re-train in new ways all those who are potentially marginalized with the advancement of technologies. Finding ways to include everyone in the new scenarios (another concrete manifestation of diversity and inclusion) and provide the tools to each of the collaborators in order to facilitate their employability and insertion in the labor market.

Agile organizational models. If there is something that COVID-19 has served for, it was to demonstrate the true capacity that companies have to respond quickly to external threats. And, precisely, it was the companies that had agile and dynamic cultures, structures and processes that have offered the best answers. Definitely, what will come will be from faster to faster, but with the appropriate direction so as not to turn it into haste and, additionally, more and more transparency. This is where agility must serve the purpose. Designing meaningful, transparent, inclusive, and agile cultural models is a topic that will occupy much of the time on the agendas of high-impact leaders.

Technology such as the great engine and data analytics. Applying artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, among many other new technologies, to the different talent management processes in order to automate everything that is possible, minimize time and resources and innovate. In the same way, the analytics of the data of each of the people will be increasingly applied to the decision-making process, minimizing biases and trying to make them less and less subjective.

We have had the great opportunity to reaffirm that no matter how technological our age becomes, ultimately, as humans, we need the human touch.
We have had the great opportunity to reaffirm that no matter how technological our age becomes, ultimately, as humans, we need the human touch.

New significant experiences of employees both virtual and face-to-face, throughout the employee’s journey. The pandemic required revisiting the traditional activities from the incorporation process and on boarding, to the after office and the end of the year parties. The great challenge that will arise is to design a whole new route with high-impact interventions, in which the human is increasingly present and generates memorable moments, sharpening creativity in its design.

As we can see, the acceleration of change invites us to constantly rethink the role of people as a critical success factor, and we have had the great opportunity to reaffirm that no matter how technological our era becomes, ultimately, as humans we need the human factor. Because no robot has emotions, no feelings, no dreams, or illusions. It cannot be empathetic or compassionate.

* Alejandro Melamed is a Doctor in Economic Sciences (UBA), international speaker and disruptive consultant. Author of several books, including Time for the Brave (2020), Design Your Change (2019) and The Future of Work and Future Work (2017).

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