After so much disruption, where does HR go from here?

Finally, HR leaders are setting their sights on the future, Spring HR Tech speakers say.
By: | March 16, 2021 • 3 min read
(Image: Adobe)

In 2019, HR leaders were all about disruption—they wanted to reinvent and reimagine people practices for the future of work. Then came 2020.

“Now, they’re saying, ‘Please, no more disruption,’ ” said Melanie Lougee, head of employee workforce strategy at ServiceNow during a Tuesday session at Spring HR Tech, a free and virtual conference running through March 19 (click HERE to register).

Melanie Lougee

Of all the disruption in the last year, the rapid shift to remote work was likely the most impactful for many organizations. In a recent survey by ServiceNow, more than half of employees said their organization had taken the right steps to help workers manage the stress of remote work—however 60% still projected that the employer would ultimately put business continuity over workplace safety, so the employer-employee relationship certainly isn’t all rosy, notes Gretchen Alarcon, vice president and general manager of ServiceNow.

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That dichotomy sets up a unique imperative now for the C-suite to balance employee experience with business objectives like never before. More than 90% of executives surveyed by ServiceNow said COVID forced the company to rethink how work gets done. Now, however, Alarcon said, it’s about solidifying those changes for the long-term: How do you make it sustainable? How do you use the new methods and strategies created in the last year to accelerate business transformation? What are the new ways to work?

“While organizations were able to make changes very quickly, there’s actually a strong belief that what’s going to happen now is going to be a lot more work,” Lougee said. About half of employers and employees surveyed by ServiceNow said transitioning to new ways of working will be more of a challenge than the last year, while about 60% of both groups said companies don’t have fully integrated systems to manage the needed digital workflow for these new environments.

“The new workplace really is the digital workplace,” Lougee said, meaning it needs a “digital backbone.”

Spring HR Tech runs through March 19—click HERE to register.

Lougee and Alarcon offered three guideposts any successful digital workplace needs to prioritize:

  • Maintain connection: Employers need to deliver targeted, personalized communication. Reskilling is done in the flow of work. Leaders have to actively listen to employees, focusing on the “moments that matter.” The organization should meet employees in their workspace of choice, whether that’s on a mobile device or through a platform like Microsoft Teams.
  • Modernize the employer-employee relationship: Invest in intelligent and personalized digital employee headquarters to give employees a shared sense of belonging when not in an in-person setting. Increase the use of productivity tools for organizational alignment and mobility. Allocate cost savings from changes in real estate spending to home office stipends, and invest unused travel and conference savings in childcare and eldercare programs.
  • Support productivity from anywhere: Deploy workspace reservation capabilities. Use a “corporate Geek Squad” to support employees. Rely on electronic document management. Combine service centers under a digital headquarters to give employees one place to go for assistance.
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These shifts will necessitate stronger collaboration among HR and other business units, Lougee said.

“There aren’t very many moments that HR can do alone,” she said, noting that partnerships “between technology, policies and the physical workspace are bringing together organizations that haven’t worked together as closely in the past. We have to work together going forward.”

Related: Read more Spring HR Tech coverage here.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.