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6 Months and 1 Pandemic Later – A Reflection on our Trends 2020

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In December last year, we published our annual trends. Now that we are six months and a pandemic into the new decade, it is time to reflect on our predictions.

Our insight article started with the statement “transformative change for HR is only going to accelerate, putting ever more pressure on HR to continue its transition”. We couldn’t have been more right and more wrong at the same time.

2020 is certainly not shaping out as anticipated, and embracing a more dynamic and complex world is no longer a choice for HR, but a necessity. We have long been faced with major challenges, and to a certain extent we have even responded to some of them. But the global pandemic has accelerated the need for fundamental transformation and it has put HR into full disruption.

Our Thought Leader, Fabiola Eyholzer, is giving us her take on the different predictions we made for 2020.

1. Scaling Efficiency Gives Way to Scaling Learning

We – HR, managers, and employees alike – had to adapt and learn fast; that much is for sure. However, we have not had the chance to dive deeper into the mindset shift needed to understand that the mantra of efficiency is standing in the way of learning, and with that in the way of creativity and innovation. We still have a long way to go on this front, and I believe the current pandemic is putting so much pressure on the system, that many organizations will actually dig deeper into efficiency and cost management rather than allowing them to embrace scaled learning as important stepping stone towards adaptability and agility.

Score: 5

Why? The need is higher than before, but we have moved further away from actually getting there.

2. Psychological Safety More Important Than Ever

Remote work, remote collaboration, and remote leadership have put extra strain on building trust, and creating a space where people feel comfortable speaking up. Building relationships and team bonding must be part of the virtual workplace too. It is not all about coordination and task management. It puts pressure not only on leaders, but also on HR to ensure regular and trust-building check-ins happen.

Score: 2

Why? It is important, but will take a back seat for now.

3. HR Owns Business Agility

This is an interesting one. Our industry is evolving but not everyone will evolve in the same way and certainly not at the same speed. I believe it will separate the wheat from the chaff. We have already seen, and will continue to see, very different reactions from HR folks. Some will face the current challenges heads on and move forwards driving Business Agility, while others desperately cling to the past, the known. It certainly is a scary time to dive into the world of the unknown unknowns, but there has never been a better or more pressing time to do so.

Score: 7

Why? We got it right to say responsive organizations with a progressive HR are going to pave the way, but we may have lost some hopefuls along the wa

4. Bracing for (Growth) Recession at All Fronts

The threat of a recession in 2020 had hovered like a dark cloud long before the pandemic, and we estimated the global outlook to be “precarious”. I wish we had gotten this one wrong. We were hoping for a growth recession, but alas, we will be hitting extremely hard times going forward. Unfortunately, we have not seen the worst yet, so the pressure is on for HR to do its part in navigating us through it.

Score: 10 (sadly)

Why? It is a phase of unprecedented challenges and we need to be ready for it – at least as ready as we can be.

5. Redesign for Accelerating Team Performance

The shift from managing to accelerating performance is no longer a choice but an inevitability. Things like annual goal setting are a thing of the past; things are simply moving too fast for a highly predicative and prescriptive approach.

To get through the recession (and to become more agile overall), we need teams that can evolve, deliver, and pivot fast. Accelerating team performance is imperative, and it falls upon HR to engage in talent enablement and set the teams up for success, something that is being made more difficult with remote work.

Score: 10

Why? Performance Management cannot sufficiently drive accelerated team performance. After years of tweaking the process, it is time to rethink the approach altogether.

6. HR Tasked with Humanizing Work

Technology is taking over more routine jobs. During a recession, organizations usually make changes to and investments in their technology, not their people. We don’t think this pandemic will be an exception. This leaves us with the question, what type of work are we humans good at? What type of work requires curiosity, creativity, imagination, emotional intelligence, social intelligence? Shaping the organization for this type of work will continue to be a key mandate for HR. However, it will inevitably challenge our thinking and beliefs, forcing us to rethink our people approach. This is about embracing the human economy.

Score: 9

Why? Humanizing work is imperative for an organization’s continued success. But it takes dedication and an appetite for change to do it.

7. Bringing Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to Life

Now more than ever, companies need to know what they stand for, and what they offer to their employees. The value proposition, or more accurately, how you uphold the values you stand for, may need to be adjusted, and efforts intensified to match the new situation. Having said that, it will probably not be a core topic. Working from home has the potential to widen your talent pool, in which case a strong EVP will help you attract great talents!

Score: 1

Why? Companies are unlikely to pay much attention to the EVP for some time.

8. AI Levels Playing Field for Diversity & Inclusion

We have known for a long time that a more diverse workforce is more successful workforce. A team is more innovative and delivers higher value when they can build on different experiences and perspectives. Not only is embracing diversity of thought and creating an inclusive workplace the right thing to do, it is smart business. The current political and pandemic climate require all of us to take economic, social, and moral responsibility. It will take dedication and concerted effort to make this happen, and while Artificial intelligence (AI) will not solve everything, it is a step in the right direction.

Score: 7

Why? When used correctly, AI is an enabler of Diversity, but given the current situation, organizations may be reluctant to invest in it.

9. Harnessing the Power of Predictive Analytics

Most organizations have accelerated their use of quick surveys to understand and monitor employee satisfaction and stay connected with them throughout the lockdown. It is applaudable, and I hope HR will continue to reach out to employees in this way. After all, happiness level is a leading indicator of performance.

As to the surveys used to measure performance and output during the pandemic, I would be cautious on how to interpret the data. This was not business – nor life – as usual. The past months were unprecedented, and the data may not necessarily be a strong indicator of virtual working during more normal circumstances.

Score: 8

Why? We reached out to people more frequently and started to rely more on data to navigate unchartered waters. It is a step into the right direction.

10. HR Hits the Books Again

When we look at the training and certification market for Agile HR we observe an interesting phenomenon. Before COVID-19 there was a clear trend to learn more about agile and its impact and potential for HR. This has changed during the pandemic: Companies who view learning as a key investment are using this time to continue or even intensify their learning efforts, whereas more traditional companies view it as a cost and have stopped any form of training.

Score: 4

Why? The need to become more adaptive and agile has accelerated with the pandemic, but the ones who need to learn the most invest the least; not so of the more proactive ones.

It continues to be interesting and we are curious to see what trends will materialize in the next six months. Hopefully by then we will have a better understanding of what the new normal looks like.

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About JLS - Agile HR Transformation Consulting

JLS is a woman-owned, global transformation consultancy with a passion for building more robust, responsive, and innovative businesses through Agile HR.