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What to expect for HR in 2024: Key trends and best practices

What to expect for HR in 2024: Key trends and best practices

In this feature, four HR leaders share key trends taking over this new world of work, and how they are staying prepared.

The workplace of the future is no longer a potential reality; it is here now.

It is the start of a new era, one characterised by innovation and resilience. We’ve surpassed the challenges of the pandemic, generative AI has ingrained itself in the workplace, and employee sentiments have changed.

HR professionals must therefore grapple with the uncertainties that come with such transformative shifts. This includes staying abreast of regulatory changes, cybersecurity concerns, and ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI.

Moreover, the shifting sentiments of employees necessitate a more nuanced approach to talent management — traditional models of engagement and retention may no longer suffice, and HR needs to proactively understand and respond to the changing expectations of the workforce, possibly through flexible work arrangements, holistic wellbeing programmes, and a renewed focus on diversity & inclusion.

As we look to the months ahead, HR must brace for yet another wave of transformative shifts — but what exactly are we preparing for? And how do we prepare for it?

Arina Sofiah speaks to leaders from MBSB Bank, Toys”R”Us Asia, Temus, and Prudential to explore some best practices in the industry.

To start, Farid Basir, Chief People Officer, MBSB Bank anticipates an increased focus on three areas for the year ahead:

  • employee wellbeing
  • continued integration of AI in HR processes, and
  • ⁠a rise in remote work strategies.

In response, MBSB places emphasis on upskilling and reskilling, flexible work policies, technology adoption, and an agile methodology, to enhance collaboration and efficiency within the workforce. This, the leader notes, has grown in importance as the organisation leverages an enlarged entity following a merger & acquisition carried out in 2023.

In this feature, four HR leaders share how they are staying prepared for this new world of work.

Toys“R”Us Asia

Angel Kwok, Chief People Officer, Toys“R”Us Asia anticipates three prominent trends that will influence the HR industry in 2024: AI, business transformation, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

To that effect, with technology becoming increasingly integrated into all parts of businesses, the people team at the retailer of toys, games, leisure equipment, and educational products has implemented AI programmes to streamline and automate previously time-consuming and complex processes.

By doing so, the team has been able to free up more time to concentrate on tasks that directly benefit its employees and its company.

“Furthermore, we understand the importance of adapting to the fast-changing industry landscape and continuously improve and transform.

“For example, as Toys“R”Us expands into the kidult market, we are actively engaged in upskilling initiatives to ensure our employees remain equipped with the necessary skills and minimise any potential skill gaps. This strategic approach ensures that employees remain adaptable, capable, and ready to navigate the ever-changing demands of their roles.”

Next, as an organisation that prides itself as customer-centric and responsible, Toys“R”Us is also committed to contributing to a better world for its customers, Kwok notes, highlighting ongoing CSR programmes such as toy donations, financial contributions to school renovations, and fulfilling the dreams of sick children.
Looking ahead, as it intensifies such efforts, Toys“R”Us Asia’s focus will be on implementing an even more comprehensive CSR programme that is aligned across all its markets and is unique to its industry.

Internally, Kwok affirms a dedication to creating an “even more” family-friendly working environment for its staff. Currently, the organisation provides childcare leave, family-invited functions, and has in place initiatives that ensure toys are shared with its employees’ families through various channels.

“By doing so, we aim to foster a sense of support and not to mention fun for our employees and their loved ones!

“We believe that by actively participating in initiatives that make a positive difference, we can create a better world together", Kwok concludes.

Temus

In the rapidly evolving landscape of HR, Melissa Kee, Chief People Officer, Temus spots several prominent trends that are poised to shape the agenda in the coming year.

First, she cites the increasing utilisation of workforce analytics and the growing importance of digital literacy are set to redefine how HR functions operate. “This shift enables HR professionals to leverage data-driven insights for strategic decision-making and places a premium on cultivating digital skills within the workforce.”

Another significant trend is the enhancement and widespread adoption of AI in the workforce, wherein the autoamation of routine tasks presents HR with an opportunity to refocus on people-centric priorities.

However, Kee cautions: "The challenge lies in preparing for this transformation and defining what future jobs will look like. HR leaders must actively work to avoid structural unemployment, ensuring that talent is brought along on this journey of technological evolution across all industries.

“The emergence of new jobs in the field of AI, for example, introduces new value chains for businesses as we work with professionals who now possess new skills and capabilities that help harness advances in the fields of large language models machine learning, and prompt engineering, among others.”

On the other hand, the leader adds, the augmentation of roles in diverse industries to incorporate the use of AI, from healthcare to creative, legal, and talent management, places a heightened emphasis on becoming digitally proficient and data focused. With low barriers to entry through 'no code' and 'low code' approaches to adopting and harnessing AI, the HR function is challenged to take the workforce on a continual and adaptive learning journey.

As for actively preparing the workforce for these trends, a key strategy for Kee is enabling employees to acquire basic AI literacy skills, to transform the perception of AI technology from a probable job risk to a tool that will help them evolve in tandem with tasks automated by technology.

“AI in fact, can aid us on this process—it can help us deliver more value to upskilling, by democratising learning and growth opportunities for every individual talent.”

At Temus, for example, the team is developing an AI-enabled platform that seeks to hyper-personalise learning and development paths and enhancing the individual employee experience

AI has the potential to serve as talent managers for everyone by offering new levels of transparency and means where employees will be empowered to take charge of navigating their careers with a focus on building future skills.

“We are also starting to leverage AI recruiters for tasks like volume hiring.”

For instance, Kee elaborates, an AI recruiter can efficiently handle large numbers of CVs, scoring candidates based on experience to improve productivity and reduce the risk of biases in performance evaluation or job placement.

“We are excited about the effectiveness and productivity gains that these AI solutions will bring to the table, such as cutting managerial tasks by half, and significantly reduce administrative and operational work by the HR function to focus on higher value tasks. “

Managing speed, accuracy, consistency, and cost savings in these new systems, will continue to be paramount in effectively integrating AI into recruitment processes.

To keep pace with the dynamic nature of jobs, a proactive and collaborative approach is crucial. This involves embracing risks, and a level of experimentation and trial and error to manage change in a nebulous environment.

It also involves playing within an ecosystem approach to innovation for a sustainable change and impact.

“As no company is an island, it is essential that we maintain deep connections with our other partners in technology and government, and the clients that we work with, to navigate new factors of change and risk.”

In essence, the evolving trends in HR underscore the importance of proactively addressing the impact of AI on jobs, fostering digital literacy, and creating a culture of continuous learning to ensure the workforce remains resilient and adaptive in the face of technological advancements.

Prudential Singapore

Neetha Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer, Prudential Singapore, shares four areas to take note of.

Digitising the employee experience with AI

One important area the team at Prudential Singapore, a life insurance company, is focusing on is to digitise the employee experience and enhance productivity using AI productivity tools, such as Microsoft Co-pilot. And it has shown progress in different ways — for example, a communication graphics email which usually takes two days to complete can now be done in minutes; and a job description which usually takes 30 minutes to write can now be done in five minutes.

“This removes the drudgery from work, allowing employees to focus on value-adding tasks, and improves wellbeing and productivity.

“We have also started training our staff on AI and productivity tools to analyse and visualise data better, as well as how to write better prompts,” Nair says.

Wellbeing

Another key area to note, Nair shares, is that employee wellbeing will continue to be a driver of sustainable performance, thus emphasising the need for organisations to balance employee and organisational priorities and productivity.

“At Prudential, we strongly believe in this and have seen very encouraging outcomes on increased psychological safety, energy, productivity, and resilience.”

Hybrid work

A third area highlighted by the leader is that hybrid work models will continue to evolve, with companies offering greater flexibility to attract and retain talent. In that vein, the team at Prudential believes flexible work arrangements (FWA) are the future of work and, according to Nair, has been on such arrangements since before COVID-19 made remote work the norm.

“This made the transition to full remote working during the pandemic much easier, and we continue to see the benefits of FWA for our employees.” Currently, the organisation has in place ‘Flexi-Time’, where its 1,200 employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere at any time. As part of this, acknowledging the importance of face-to-face time, it has also recommended a ‘1+1’ approach – one day in the office with their team, and one day that employees can choose to attend other meetings. Teams are encouraged to discuss with their managers and find what arrangement allows them to best deliver business requirements.

Other such initiatives include PRUAnywhere, which allows employees to work from a variety of co-working spaces around Singapore.

“With hybrid work arrangements, maintaining human connection remains important, especially for those who may have just joined the company. We are mindful of this, so managers play an important role in ensuring that teams meet regularly for work meetings or gatherings to make new colleagues feel welcome and integrated.

“We also hold regular recreational company-wide events like dragon-boating and spin classes which create opportunities for employees to meet others outside their department.”

Major events such as townhalls and business updates are also recorded and have in-person and virtual attendance options.

Upskilling and reskilling

As Nair emphasises, upskilling and reskilling employees is crucial to help us adapt to changing requirements in the skills economy. Specifically, enhancing employees’ technology, data analysis and critical thinking skills will become increasingly important.

Prudential saw the value in upskilling and reskilling employees early on.

In 2016, it invested in technology and digital training for employees, and introduced design thinking and agile processes as part of its innovation efforts. These efforts laid the crucial groundwork for a quick pivot when the pandemic accelerated the digital transition.

Some of the learning tools available for employees include:

  • Access to e-learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, to encourage self-directed learning.
  • PRUFaculty – a platform for peer-to-peer learning from employee subject matter experts – where employees can learn from their colleagues on topics such as taking charge of their career and communicating with impact.
  • Employees can also leverage platforms such as the Career Conversion Programme and internal mobility opportunities within the Prudential Group to grow their skillsets and career.

The unanimous sentiment is undeniable — if you have yet to hop on the AI train, you may be missing out. Once a novel concept, AI has since seamlessly woven itself into the fabric of our daily work environments. Its impact is not just technological but transformative, influencing how tasks are executed, decisions are made, and the very nature of roles within organisations.

In navigating this tech-focused landscape, the symbiotic relationship between technology and humanity is crucial. It is also important to keep up with evolving employee priorities, emphasising not only professional growth but also holistic wellbeing and a meaningful connection to the workplace.

All in all, the future necessitates not only embracing innovation, but harmonising it with a profound understanding of the human element, thus cultivating a workplace that thrives on the equilibrium of progress and wellbeing.


Lead image / Provided (L-R Angel Kwok, Farid Basir, Melissa Kee, Neetha Nair)

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