The Digital Age Would Transform the HR Function in Unimaginable Ways.
We have well and truly entered the Digital Age and it is time for organizations, business leaders, and the Human Resource (HR) Managers to start preparing for the Workplace of Tomorrow.
To start with, future workplaces would be very unlike what they were and are now and this has to do with the revolutionary changes in business, politics, society, and other aspects of our world driven by technology and peopled by a generation of workers and professionals who are very different from their predecessors.
Indeed, while this was said at the onset of the services revolution as well when experts pointed out that the phasing of the Industrial Revolution and transitioning to the IT (Information Technology) paradigm would trigger changes in HRM strategies, what is different now is that the very concept of a Physical Workplace seems to be receding with virtual working, freelancing, remote working, and distributed office spaces.
Thus, for the first time in our history as species, workers and professionals would not be tethered to the physical locations and constrained by geography and instead, the Workplace of Tomorrow would be radically different from the previous iterations of the business models and business cycles.
A New Social Contract is Changing the Employer Employee Relationship
Next, the very concept of the Employer Employee relationship is undergoing a Radical Change as professionals and workers alike need not necessarily be on the rolls of the businesses they work for or employed as full time and permanent employees.
Instead, the Workplace of Tomorrow would have part time workers, Zero Hour Contracted Professionals who are paid by the hours they work and not full salaries like before, Freelancers who divide their time working for multiple businesses.
Above all, a New Social Contract between businesses and professionals where benefits such as Social Security, Healthcare, and other Welfare oriented payouts would be replaced with purely transactional and commercial agreements where neither the employer nor the government is responsible for such benefits and instead, the workers and the professionals must pay on their own for such arrangements.
In addition, for the first time in the history of business, firms such as Uber and other Unicorn Digital Economy businesses need not even need their workers to report to specific locations or even meet their HR managers and others in person and instead, workers and professionals in the Digital Economy firms would be well and truly “faceless”.
How HR Professionals Can Prepare for the Workplace of Tomorrow
Therefore, the HRM professionals need to prepare for such newer forms of Employer Employee relationships. In addition, even the nature of the HR profession would be drastically transformed as use of cutting edge technologies such as AI or Artificial Intelligence and Big Data driven Analytics would make recruitment, training, performance management, and other sundry HR functions automated.
This means that there would be downsizing of the HR Function to the extent that only those staff who are absolutely necessary for higher value adding work would be retained and those dealing with mundane and every day functions would be rendered obsolete.
In addition, the HR professionals who work for Digital Economy firms would no longer deal directly with complaints of Discrimination, Gender, and Racial Harassment, and other such aspects and instead, would only be intermediaries between the law enforcement and the faceless workers when such cases erupt into the public domain.
In case you wonder whether we are exaggerating, think of the instances of such cases from freelancers and remote workers in firms such as Uber where all that the complainants can do is to interact virtually with HR professionals who then ask them to report their grievances where the latter would be facilitators instead of resolvers.
Preparing for a Racial and Gender Diverse Workplace
Having said that, not all Digital Economy firms would be faceless and in those firms where earlier era relationships remain, the HR function would still exist, except that they are now expected to play a different role.
This can range anything from dealing with the fallout of Social Media driven #MeToo movements to acting as intermediaries between the Automated HR Systems and the Employees. In other words, the HR function would be both anonymous and public facing at the same time.
To explain, the HR managers would be more visible to the external world and anonymous to the internal stakeholders.
In addition, they would be expected to liaise with the employees whenever Digital Disruption and Automation renders the workers obsolete or nudges them towards retraining and re-skilling. Apart from this, the Workplace of Tomorrow would be more diverse in Gender and Racial terms as more numbers of women and racial and sexual minorities would be recruited.
This calls for sensitivity on the part of the HR managers who would then need to Walk the Talk as far as these aspects are concerned.
Above all, future HR managers would be expected to also deal with Social Justice and other concerns as the widening pay gap between the Top and Bottom layers of the organizational hierarchy can lead to Workplace Dissent.