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What’s in store for HR in the new decade?

Priya Sunil takes on the role of soothsayer to identify the trends that will shape the workplace in 2020 and beyond.

The past decade brought about so much change – the pressing demand for skills that barely existed previously, new technologies that shaped how workplaces function, and more. So what’s in store for HR leaders in the new decade? Through multiple conversations with industry leaders, as well as our news analysis, I’ve summarised some of the key HR trends for 2020.

EX won’t just be on HR’s agenda

The employee experience (EX) will continue to be a critical focus in 2020, with companies looking to deliver a compelling experience that differentiates them from the rest.

How can this be done? By taking a holistic, multi-partner approach. Delivering a fantastic EX is not just a job for HR professionals, but for all key stakeholders and line managers, be it from marketing, technology, operations, or CX. So, if you have a couple of leaders in the organisation who aren’t walking the talk as well as they should be, perhaps it’s a good time to understand why and reinforce what your employer brand stands for.

Concurring with this approach is Stephen Choo, Senior Solution Strategist, Asia Pacific and Japan, Qualtrics, who says businesses that frequently listen to, and act on feedback from employees, will be rewarded with greater engagement, productivity and performance, particularly key for businesses undergoing major digital transformations.

Businesses that frequently listen to, and act on feedback from employees, will be rewarded with greater engagement, productivity and performance.

HR to eat, sleep, breathe the business language

Don’t say you haven’t heard this one before – going into the next decade, it is imperative for HR leaders to operate as true partners of the business. That, according to Grace Yip, MD, Head of HR, Accenture ASEAN, requires HR to focus on two key priorities. “First, focus on enabling a digital-ready workforce. This includes rethinking how work will be done and how jobs should be reshaped. This also involves large-scale reskilling of the workforce in an accelerated manner.”

The other, more foundational, priority is for HR to completely restructure the way it operates. Yip explains: “Bringing together design thinking, data fluency, storytelling, critical problem-solving skills and embracing new ways to harness technology to solve for experience, efficiency and effectiveness are things that business leaders expect from HR practitioners.”

With HR teams being a critical pillar for companies to navigate the choppy waters of a digital reality, these focus areas will likely become the new way of life for HR.

An ethics charter a must for employee privacy When one of the foremost global authorities in the field of people analytics raises the question of employee privacy, it’s good to take notice and listen. In our interaction with UK-based David Green, MD, The People Analytics Program, Insight222, he pointed out the growing need for an ethics charter to mitigate risk around the use of people data, as well as for driving benefits to the workforce, will become a prerequisite for the increased adoption of AI and machine learning in HR.

“The good news here is that according to research from Accenture, 92% of employees are open to the collection of data about them, providing they benefit personally,” he says.

Green also predicts a continued rise in personalisation and personal analytics to support decisions around performance, career and wellbeing.

Wellbeing will take centre stage

Research by Willis Towers Watson in 2019 identified four key priorities of employers in Singapore over the next three years, and incorporating wellbeing into the organisation’s overall benefits strategy was among the top three. The good news is this shift in mindset may help HR teams to push the agenda for wellbeing, without constantly haggling for time, investments and resources.

Apart from simply focusing on physical wellbeing, we also anticipate employers to expand their focus to address emotional, financial and social wellbeing. So what this means is that while standing desks and beanbags may not go out of style just yet, HR leaders and line managers will be training to proactively look for signs of a lack of wellbeing and take corrective action. Does someone seem like they could use some advice on saving more per month? Those are things that might become part of any people manager’s agenda.

A mature approach to the mature workforce

Against the backdrop of greater economic uncertainties in 2020, employers are hiring more cautiously, preferring to hire on a shorter-term basis as opposed to full-time roles, according to Huishan Lim, General Manager, FastJobs Singapore.

At the same time, HR leaders will continue to should, therefore, explore more innovative policies to hire and develop talents, considering the latest trends in digital disruption as well as the rise of more flexible models of work.

In tandem with this shift, Lim expects to see more companies in Singapore hire from the mature worker segment as the retirement and re-employment age is set to gradually increase by 2030. Jobs will continue to be redesigned and HR policies reassessed to ensure they stay age-friendly. As such, she believes HR leaders should stand to gain from being receptive to the opportunities afforded by a more inclusive workforce and doing away with the perceptions surrounding challenges around hiring mature workers.

On the topic of generations, a newer addition to the workforce – the Generation Zs (Gen Zs, born after 1995), are known for their deep understanding of technology, as well as their communication skills, having grown up in the social media era. While my team and I can say we’re pretty familiar with this group (I’m a Gen Z myself!), many employers are still just in the beginning stages of understanding them.

In line with that, employers in 2020 can expect to leverage more on this group’s technology skills, familiarity with social media and exposure to good customer experiences to drive several business outcomes, Sangeeta Sakhrani, Human Resources Director, PRecious Communications tells us.

“HR leaders can ensure that this new generation can participate in reverse mentorship programmes. It provides an opportunity for them to support the older workforce, especially those re-entering the market after retirement.”

Adding on to what she says, we believe reverse mentoring will indeed go a long way in bringing together the varying strengths of the different generations, to create better synergy for a more cohesive multigenerational workforce.

HR Budgets are expected to increase in 2020

Rounding up the conversations, Arlene Wherrett, VP & Managing Director, Sage Asia shares that HR budgets are expected to increase in 2020, according to the Gartner 2019 HR Budget and Staffing Survey, despite the slowing global economy.

“This is a time where business and HR leaders should invest in reskilling the organisation and enable employees to leverage technology in the age of digital disruption. This allows them to reduce lost productivity from repetitive administrative tasks and focus on higher value-adding activities.”


This column was published in Human Resources Online’s January-February 2020 edition of the Singapore magazine and will soon be published in the Q1 edition of the Malaysia magazine. Read the story in the magazine below:


Human Resources Online is on Telegram! Follow us @humanresourcesonline or click here for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region.

Photo / 123RF

Priya joined Human Resources Online as a Journalist in 2018, driven by her passion for writing and an avid interest in reporting the freshest news. In her role, she works across all content spheres, including the daily HR Bulletin and regional print magazines, and is an active contributor towards shaping conversations on social media.

On weekends, you’ll find her spending time with her family, friends and her dog, or buried deep in a motivational read.

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