Article (October-2017)


HR practices- Challenges & trends in future

Dr. Manidipa Chatterjee

Designation : -   Asst. Professor

Organization : -  , Institute of Business Management, National Council of Education Bengal, (Under Jadavpur University, Kolkata)


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During the last 15 years, role of HR practices all over the world have undergone major transformation. This paradigm shift is not only in terms of increased importance of human developmental aspects in HR but also the modern days HR proponents have been able to free themselves from mundane routine, repetitive activities of personnel function locked in only board room meetings and instead focussed more on making the concept of peoples' management practices more meaningful and sustainable to gain competitive advantage.

With the advent of high technological innovation, application of information technology, designing of ERP system ingrained with HR software, it is becoming easier today to maintain human resource data bases, monitor and control the accessibility of manpower resources and develop the human potential as per the need of the time specific project both in the long and short run. So, HR team, world over try to re-invent the fundamentals of HR in a new perspective.

Challenges of developed and developing countries
Most of the developed countries like the USA, Germany and Japan are faced with the problem of aging population. Nearly 30% of their population are over the age of 60 causing the talent shortages. This situation would remain till 2050. So, these countries have to source the fresh human resources from other countries. Developing countries on the other hand have surplus young population which can be made use of to offset the shortages of labour force in advanced countries.

While the advanced countries would face the challenges of aging population, developing countries would have surplus young population. Thus surplus labour force of developing countries can be made use of to offset the shortage of labour force in advanced countries. But there are problems of inadequate skills, associated labour cost, cultural diversity, migration and immigration issues, brain drain & threats from the employees of the advanced countries.

Advantage India
Among the developing countries, situation in India is quite different. Just over 7% of the Indians are over the age of 60. This percentage will increase only to 12% by 2032. Indians will continue to be young and will see a swelling human resource of scientific, technical and professional talent. However, the rate of business growth in India outstripped the supply of talented human resources. So, Indian businesses are faced with the daunting task of attracting, retaining and developing people in a very competitive environment.

So, foreign MNCs would be expected to invest more on training, development and performance management of the workforce working in their subsidiaries in developing countries like India as well as educating the workforce in order to develop future human resource base in host countries. Recruitment and career advancement for HR professional in India will increase manifold provided they have requisite qualification, training and knowledge which are very relevant in today's context.

But apart from traditional HR roles blocked in only staffing, leading, training and team building activities what other unique roles companies are searching within the HR professionals of the new millennium? Let us point out some of them:

Companies try to locate the  prospective learner
Though super - specialized skilled and knowledge workers will be in high demand but companies are looking at people who are eager to learn and who can seamlessly move from one role to the other leading to job enlargement and multi - tasking. Apprenticeships training as well as massive open online courses or certifications are needed for those who want to stay relevant in the rapidly changing corporate scenario of HR.

Digitization & HR
All HR functions will have to employ analytics to understand the needs of people in a more customized, individual - specific manner and provide solutions through the use of mobile technology and newer platforms. Digital platforms and chat bots are needed for communication, continuous feedback and conducting employee survey. All automation of HR processes will thus reduce the effort spend in redundant processes and harnessing the skills and talents through diverse workforce can be done by encouraging creativity and unique diverse thinking abilities. People who are more proficient in using ERP and HR software modules with an added knowledge of people's management are the need of the hour to speed up efficiency in the system.

Skill to handle diversity vis-a-vis employee engagement
A diverse workforce will include mixture of full - time and freelance employees, young and old irrespective of genders. Employee engagement within a diverse workforce is really a challenging task in today's globalized economy because there may be significant differences in engagement between different groups of employees.
Sometimes flexible work schedule is linked with employee engagement especially among women workers and line managers should practice sufficient interpersonal relationships among their employees in order to perceive their engagement at work. Sometimes it is noticed that employee engagement may varies with age and years of experiences. Again young entrants may be more enthusiastic and show greater engagement than their older counterparts. But as the nature of work are changing from "life - time employment" concept to "Temp Jobs", competency is the key word to sustain and again some of the trends in MNCs also reveal that employee engagement increases even after 60 reflecting the fact that only the most engaged will stay in the labour market rather than opting to retire.
Sometimes lower level of engagement among the disabled workers may be linked with workplace discrimination, unfair labour practices, lack of disabled friendly policies and lack of managerial awareness. Thus a leader has to build and nurture a culture where employee engagement and diversity are intertwined with one another and should not be looked in isolation. A leader should also ensure that there should be effective instruments to measure employee engagement in order to identify the gaps in performances. Employee themselves should identify their own gaps and the ways to address them. Leaders should be prepared to make changes in the organization processes, structure and influence the ways of thinking among its subordinates. This cultural change can enhance the prospects for those who suffered persistently due to biased promotion policies or are about to leave the company in search for more transparent greener pastures elsewhere.
Focussing on Performance management and developing KPI
Continuous dialogue for better performance management system will reveal every aspect of a worker's life starting from his entry to the company, his performances during the induction training, his working hours and reviews or feedback coming from his peers, superiors as well as from the clients or customers.
There is a special tool for HR to measure the human capital and it is called key performance indicators (KPIs). It helps measure to measure human capital outcomes, such as talent management, employee engagement and high performance. KPI also illustrates the firm's business, financial and strategic goals, and promotes partnership with senior management for organizational success. Nowadays, HR people integrated the traditional HR metrics to KPI which aligned with the cooperate objectives. The best KPIs should be able to reflect the human capital performances such as financial outcomes, performance drivers. At the same time, when determining strategic KPIs, it is essential to consider who designs human capital measures and how they are created. The best way to design a good KPI is to communicate with the company business managers who know the jobs the best in their own divisions.
Nancy Lockwood suggests 5 ways that can help HR to create a better KPI. It includes Involving HR in overall business strategy,
  • Enlisting leaders outside of HR to help develop the KPIs. 
  • Collaborating with business managers to ensure KPIs link to business unit strategic goals. 
  • Focusing more attention on links between people measures and intermediate performance drivers (e.g., customer satisfaction, engagement etc.).
  • Increasing manager acceptance through training programs and concrete action plans; 
  • Working with HR to simplify metric and automate data collection. 
Application of  data analytics and HR research methods
As companies become more reliant on technology, every step of the employees' life - cycle will be recorded. The extent of data available with the HR team will go beyond the date of joining and remuneration increase but it will also reveal the gaps in key result areas (KRA) and how to address or correct those areas through training.
As for example in a sales process, for instance if an employee is good in the first five activities, but data shows he is lacking in the negotiation skills  and taking too long hours during agreement closure stages with the clients, companies could offer training for the last two steps which are vital for a sales representatives.  Apart from training, data analytics will also enable HR to find out the reasons for attrition, client loss and future trends in manpower requirements. Thus Data analytics and HR research methods will facilitate more predictive analysis for better quality HR decisions. People having knowledge on data analytics as well as acumen on applying HR research methods at work place can be an asset for many companies in making strategic moves in future.
Skills to tackle employee grievances, work place bullying and harassment 
Most HR managers must remember that they should be easily approachable to all team members. He/She should be fair, impartial and responsive and when "things go wrong" people will seek their manager's assistance. Care should be taken to ensure that HR personnel should be aware about certain important provision of labour laws which are often applicable at workplace in India particularly when the company has to deal with diverse work force.
As for example in certain cases we need prior permission of the Government to allow female employees to work at night shift. Factories Act 1948 contains certain provisions for protection of women employees. Supreme Court of India has directed all organization to enact a policy prohibiting sexual harassment against female employees. To effectively prevent harassment & violence at workplace there need to have effective mechanism of grievance redressal. Again one common problem at today's workplace is the spreading of bad rumours and gossip. Particularly, in the age of information technology they can spread very first disturbing the tranquillity and healthy work culture. To curb rumours, gossips which generate negativity at workplace, notices should be displayed to counter the same or meetings with departmental heads and sharing the right information, identifying the culprit through intelligence surveillance can be the major steps that should be promptly handle by HR in consultation with other higher authorities.
The role of a manager irrespective of any department in handling workplace harassment complaints, complaints related to bullying and complaints regarding EEO (Equal Employment Opportunities) should follow the following steps:
Listening to employees and directing him/her to organization policies including grievance handling procedure.
  • Exploring possible options.
  • Responding to minor complaints informally and timely manner.
  • When necessary seeking advice from HR or the concerned person dealing with HR.
  • Guiding individual with serious allegations into the formal complaints handling process. (Usually run by HR or nominated manager or external agency).
  • Ensuring policy guidelines and instruction from HR to be followed throughout the process of investigation. 
  • Following up and implementing the recommended resolution as per the report of the investigation or domestic enquiry.
In start-ups, e-commerce, food tech and hi-technology sectors where skills matter more than experiences we see generation Y employees taking up senior roles. Some of these industries have emerged in last 3 to 5 years and most of the talent in this sector is also young in India. The management of the employees and setting of the right tone at work makes the role of a Human Resource (HR) manager unwavering and more challenging. But unless and until he/she become efficient and unique in applying the above discussed skills, HR will become a really "daunting task" in this fast changing new millennium.