Between ‘Phirtual’ And ‘Nework’: New Priorities For HR Managers

1 Giu 2021

Laura Colombo  |

Forbes Human Resources Council  | | Membership (Fee-Based) | Leadership

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist.

In an inevitably changed future, companies will need to be among the first to adapt to transformation in the relationships between employers and employees, especially in the search for talent. The global pandemic has brought training and retraining to the forefront as a tool to restart with new skills and a new mindset.

Undoubtedly, those who personally deal with human resources will have to consider that the company-worker relationship will be built on new foundations, regarding both the organization of work and the skills of the people involved in the company or project.

But what is happening that is so disruptive?

Physical and virtual workplaces meet and modify each other to create new forms and dimensions (a “phirtual” environment) and so do the worlds of work and networks, which are increasingly interconnected and linked, both in terms of relationships and activities, giving rise to “neworks.”

These new paradigms stimulate people to interact, collaborate and learn from each other in an exciting context by developing strategic approaches that integrate the physical and virtual dimensions in change processes. The phenomenon is having a major impact on HR and employees’ skills.

Top HR Priorities Of 2021

A Gartner survey of HR professionals has identified the following as the industry’s top five priorities for this year:

1. Skills: 68% of respondents feel the need to build employees’ critical skills and competencies.

2. Change: 46% consider organizational design and change management top priorities.

3. Leadership: 44% prioritize the need to build current and future leadership as a priority.

4. Future of work: 32% are concerned about the future of work.

5. Experience: 28% are focused on the employees’ experience.

Regarding the top priority, employee skills and competencies, the alarm comes from the fact that most of the skills required in the new context have drastically changed compared to what was needed before the pandemic. Moreover, the new skills required in the post-pandemic world of work are constantly increasing and imply the need for continuous and massive retraining, which not all companies have been able to support in the last year. 

The Role Of HR: 360° In The Business Development Process

To address and overcome the skills gap, it is clear that first and foremost it is the qualities of an HR professional that need to change.

Managers are asked to increasingly specialize in fields where new work trends require new skills, both specialist (such as those related to the management of digital platforms and big data) and soft skills (for instance, emotional intelligence). This will lead the HR manager to have a role that is increasingly open to other business units: HR personnel must have a general manager’s mindset to understand the contexts and act as marketing managers to develop — within the company and facing the talent market — the value proposition by bringing out the company’s exclusivity factors (i.e., the elements that make the difference between working for one company versus another).

Certainly, training and retraining are the levers on which to focus, and it must be done quickly and continuously. Moreover, training goes from being a teleological process in predefined cycles — in stages of an individual’s professional life — to becoming a constantly developing flow that accompanies the person with steps that are more concentrated and shorter in time (micro-courses) but constantly distributed over the whole career (continuous up- and re-skilling).

Those With A Plan B In Their Pocket Will Win

The emergence of remote working has decisively changed the paradigms of work organization. Even the most traditional companies have realized that the management of employees must pass through a new form of collaboration, a sort of physical and attitudinal “nework,” in which home and office will merge into a “phirtual” place where the employment contract may not be the first choice.

The important factor to consider is engagement, which means establishing a pact of sharing with those who work for the company by creating a bond that aims at maximum commitment and loyalty for the brand. The company offers a more sustainable life and benefits plan that is truly attractive for talent. This implies an organization of the company in which the evaluation of staff moves definitively from the quantity (of hours worked) to the quality of output (objectives achieved and performance attained).

Rather than focusing on efficiency, companies now need to redesign their organizational models and make leaders and employees resilient, so that they are able to deal with any further sudden emergencies while still being mentally equipped with a Plan B to adopt.

New Tech: A Bet For Everyone

A modern company in the post-pandemic scenario must be able to make decisions guided by the collection, study, analysis and interpretation of data. It is therefore important to be familiar with and know how to make the best use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality or blockchain.

More importantly, it is essential to have the right sensitivity to interface with Generation Z, the latest cohort to join the workforce, made up of talents that can determine the success of a business. Generation Z are new resources who bring fresh air and energy out of the box, but they ideally ask for a corporate environment where sustainability, well-being and respect for diversity are values that are truly addressed and experienced by the business. HR is being asked to address them with innovative solutions — even bordering on the contradictory — and by adopting entirely new communication metrics.

Successful companies know how to find the time and resources to design development paths for their people. This is a particularly important and strategic challenge that can be met through training. Ultimately, training must be professional, technological and social, and have the individual at its heart.

Laura Colombo

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist. Read Laura Colombo’s full executive profile here.

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist.