The workplace is changing rapidly as the millennial generation moves in to replace retiring baby boomers. Rapid advances in technology have upended the nine-to-five workday, and your employees may be scattered throughout the city, or even the country, as telecommuting becomes an increasingly viable option. Proven policies and procedures of the past may be established as best practices and part of your training and company culture, but it is a mistake to view them as unchangeable given the evolving business environment.


A new role for HR

The function of human resources, whether managed by a separate department or bound up in the business leader role, is moving beyond its traditional tasks of implementing personnel policies and dealing with benefits, union issues and pensions. HR professionals know the employees, their strengths and weaknesses. HR is in the best position to recognize and anticipate skill shortages and potential morale problems. This knowledge has become invaluable to strategic planning as the new environment demands a shift in focus from policy to people.


Transparency and flexibility

Going into 2016, the trend in HR is towards transparency and flexibility. Employees are not content to function as unthinking cogs isolated in a cubicle. They need to be engaged, have accessible managers and need honest communication from the top of the organizational chart down. Hierarchical titles are softening to take advantage of a workforce that is motivated by professional development opportunities and career growth. Molding job definitions around employees’ skills makes for a better fit. This trend includes training outside of specific job titles. Mentoring programs will ensure the skills and knowledge of the retiring generation are passed down.

Flexibility needs to extend to the working day. If employees’ work-life balance is off-kilter, productivity suffers. Offering flex scheduling, telecommuting, job-sharing and other alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five will lower stress levels and impact the bottom line with a more productive and healthy workforce.


New data required

Much of the traditional HR chores are now automated with human resources software. This frees up time to focus on the larger picture. Collecting workforce data, such as employee engagement and satisfaction levels, multi-rater feedback evaluations and social media interactions has become a critical task in the new workplace, and this task falls to HR.
Change isn’t always easy, but failure to recognize and embrace the conditions of the new workplace can be the death of an organization. A review of your best practices may reveal they are best left behind. Your employees and HR department are your best resources when updating policies. Keep the conversation open, and you will learn from the ground up what works and what needs to be shelved.
This article was written by Gillian Burdett for Small Business Pulse


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