In the last year, the world has been shaken by the covid-19 pandemic, with many employees and organisations having been thrust into home and digital working. This is set to shape the future of the contemporary workplace, and in turn, global HR practices.
However, even without the pandemic, the landscape of global HRM is set to change, taking on new and different forms with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-based HR tech, and increased need for equality and diversity in the globalised context.
The rise of AI
AI is one of the most talked about areas surrounding global HRM; indeed the future is set to be both digital and human but it is the extent to which AI will shape HR and the future of work that remains a moot point.
The 2018 World Economic Forum Report posited AI as a major driver of change, in addition to machine learning algorithms and the adoption of big data and people analytics. These are all set to play a role not only in the HR function, but in organisations more broadly.
Notably, the CIPD has also identified a number of 'megatrends' shaping the world of work, and it is important to acknowledge that changes in the wider context, global HRM and organisations are developing and emerging in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
Ultimately, organisations need to strike a [profitable and ethical] balance between responsiveness, agility, and sustainable strategy making.
Cloud-based HR tech
Cloud-based HR systems are already shaping global HR and are set to further revolutionise HR data management and people analytics. Mercer, the American asset management and consulting firm, anticipates that cloud-based HR tech ‘can convert the HR department from a muddled bureaucracy to a business driver’ (Mercer, 2021)
Particularly in the current period of increased home and remote working during the covid-19 pandemic, this is also set to shape the future of global HRM in the years to come, as organisations better understand the potential benefits of home and remote working.
In turn, there will be new and different opportunities for the rise of cloud-based HR tech. HRM systems can be fully accessed online by employees and managers, regardless of location or time zone.
For many, cloud-based HR has been a key organisational survival tool during the covid-19 pandemic. It has enabled HR practitioners and organisations to carry out day to day tasks, access data, as well as arrange specific responses such as furlough leave from any location with an internet connection.
Equality and diversity
Equality, diversity, and inclusion is not only one of the most pressing issues for contemporary organisations, but is also an area where there is still much to be done, particularly surrounding social mobility.
In their seminal text, Healy, Kirton and Noon (2010) note that social class, which is currently not a protected characteristic or covered by legislation, but is increasingly of concern and importance, also ‘forms a constant intersectional backcloth to our understanding of inequalities’ (2010, p.2).
It is noteworthy that several large organisations such as PWC, KPMG and Accenture, amongst others, are building social mobility into their strategies, with the recent creation of a social mobility employer index from the Social Mobility Foundation.
Engagement in employer-led social mobility is something that organisations, particularly in the UK context, need to take heed of as a part of their suite of equality and diversity efforts, particularly given that data suggests that socio-economic diversity also matters to clients.
Nevertheless, businesses should engage in diversity and inclusion because it is the right thing to do morally and for social justice, rather than solely for the business case.
Digital and remote working
The last 18 months or so have been transformational and unprecedented in terms of the [albeit oftentimes forced] uptake of digital and/or remote working. This is set to shape future terms of global HRM immensely, even being presented as ‘the new norm’.
There are a vast array of views on the changes pertaining to and impact of digital, remote, and flexible working. What is most clear is that more hybrid models of remote working, where employees work both at home and in the office, will shape the future of work and future trends in global HRM considerably.
There will be effects on corporate cultures as a result, as well as new and different costs incurred. In their recent analysis of remote work (2020) McKinsey Global Institute found that ‘hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the wake of the pandemic, mostly for a highly educated, well-paid minority of the workforce’.
It is evident that for many organisations (around half reviewed in the aforementioned report) there is little or no opportunity for remote work.
The adoption of remote work, as well as increasingly digital working, is highly contextual and industry specific. Nonetheless, it's one of the key trends in the future of global HRM, which also present challenges for work-life balance employee wellbeing (Sullivan, 2021).
The expectations and experiences of many employees, and indeed employers, have changed. However, in terms of business continuity, the ability for organisations to respond quickly but also sustainably to such changes will be key.
Organisations at the top level, and global HRM alike will need to exercise agility, market responsiveness and be innovative in how they proactively ensure diversity and inclusion in the post-pandemic globalised world.
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Check out Dr Emily Yarrow's previous post on the rise of the gig economy.
Healy, G., Kirton, G., & Noon, M. (Eds.). (2010). Equality, inequalities and diversity: Contemporary challenges and strategies. Macmillan International Higher Education.
Mercer, (2021) Cloud-Based HR systems: The Forefront of HR transformation. Source: https://www.mercer.com/our-thinking/hrt-cloud-based-hr-systems.html (Retrieved: 27/04/2021)
Sullivan, K, "Remote Working: How Do We Communicate in an All-Digital World?" (2021). Communication. 2. https://ir.library.illinoisstate.edu/urs2021com/2