This office worker is about to become more vital to Aussie workplaces

·4-min read
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This business function is set to have a greater say in the company strategy. (Source: Getty)

Your colleague from the HR department will likely have a greater say in the future of your organisation post-COVID, according to new research.

LinkedIn’s newly released Future of Talent report, which surveyed more than 3,500 respondents across seven countries in Asia Pacific, found that 90 per cent of Australian businesses believe the human resources department will play a greater role in the post-COVID world and play a key role in streamlining and formulating the company strategy.

The importance of the HR function in developing business strategies has risen from 41 per cent to 56 per cent, the report revealed, with the pandemic seeing HR take on greater responsibilities in employee safety and wellbeing, and training and development.

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HR will also have to step up as workforce diversity becomes a greater priority for organisations, and companies hire for skills rather than experience.

And it appears diversity is becoming a growing global focus: a recent HireVue survey of 1,100 hiring leaders in Australia, the US and UK, saw 100 per cent of respondents name diversity, equity and inclusion as either extremely or very relevant.

And with businesses forced to pivot quickly in order to survive during the pandemic, companies will be increasingly seeking out remote workers, LinkedIn found.

HireVue’s report also noted that nearly half of hiring leaders were looking to expand the recruitment pool by hiring for remote roles, and Deloitte analysts have said virtual working and intuitive-to-use systems accessible from any location were the new expectation in the post-pandemic world.

And nearly two-thirds of Australian companies (62 per cent) are tapping internal talent to fill roles to encourage loyalty to the business, with good communication skills, problem-solving and time management named as key skills needed from internal hires.

LinkedIn Australia senior director Adam Gregory said the pandemic has forced organisations to overhaul the way they manage and hire new talent as roles evolve, with organisations increasingly hiring for skills instead of experience.

“HR has been instrumental in driving this shift as organisations increase their focus on diversity of skills and talent,” he told Yahoo Finance.

COVID made businesses ‘absolutely dependent’ on HR: Gartner

Chief HR officers and HR leaders were at the “forefront” of business’ strategic and tactical responses and business continuity plans, said Aaron McEwan, a senior executive at global research advisory firm Gartner.

“As a humanitarian crisis first, HR had to protect the health and livelihoods of employees … The pandemic was a workforce crisis second,” he told Yahoo Finance.

In many incidents, such as at Australian unicorn company Atlassian, organisations had just 48 hours to transition to a fully remote working arrangement, which demanded a shift in work patterns, processes and systems on a “whole new scale,” McEwan said.

“Boards and CEOs were absolutely dependent on their chief HR officers and HR teams to navigate both the humanitarian, health and workforce aspects of the pandemic.”

The pandemic was also an economic crisis, and many businesses had to furlough employees and organise redundancy packages at the height of the recession.

Now, HR leaders are dealing with ensuring workers’ mental health and wellbeing, as well as outlining what the ‘hybrid’ work model will look like.

“[It’s] something we are viewing as astronomically more disruptive than the initial shift to work

from home and likely the biggest disruption to work and organisations since the first

industrial revolution,” McEwan told Yahoo Finance.

“This new way of working will not only change work and workplaces but will alter how societies and economies function.”

HR’s next challenge

But as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus crisis, HR leaders will need to ensure they don’t lose their seat at the top table, said BoldHR founder Rebecca Houghton.

“The trick now will be to maintain that relevancy and influence - something many HR leaders struggled with pre-COVID,” Houghton told Yahoo Finance.

Business leaders will discover a competitive advantage in leveraging existing talent, she added, especially as Australia’s international travel ban remains in place.

“This will mark a shift in the way we view talent - from relying on what they have done to assessing what they can do,” she said.

Organisations’ HR departments should focus on personalised development plans, mentoring and peer learning as traditional learning approaches are rejected in favour of “something more experiential and networked,” she added.

And a company’s reputation as an employer will also become both a competitive asset as well as a risk, Houghton said.

“Everything about your business is now transparent and verifiable – the truth is out there. Shaping a great brand is far easier than shaping a great culture, excellent leadership or top-class career opportunities, but you can't do one without the other without it biting you in the butt.”

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