This is a scientific age where the technical advancements of everyday are catapulting the human race as a whole towards a remarkable future. Nonetheless the proper development of all such progresses, depend on the human touch, thus the importance of Human resources. However the major issues, that managers feel, are not within their direct control and therefore complicate the functioning of the organization most are those of Productivity, Job satisfaction, Turnover and Absenteeism – all of which are human centric. This highlights the fact that despite all the technological advancements, even in the 21st century, the proper and successful functioning of any organization depends largely on the employees i.e. the Human Resource and its proper management i.e. Human Resource Management.
Human Resource Management and the 21st Century
The second decade into the 21st century and experts still maintain and validate that it is the not the fixed asset rather the human asset that is key to the success of organizations. And the charge to take stock of both kinds of assets, make them work in harmony and thereby assure the success of the company is the work of the HR.
But before these goals are achieved successfully, there are a number of challenges specific to the contemporary age and the days to come, which must be handled effectively.
The first and fundamental contemporary issue or challenge to be addressed by Human Resource Management is the point which has been stressed on, in this paper from the beginning – Technology.
Figure 1 Top Three Global Trends for Business Transformation
Modern technology, especially the prowess of contemporary information technology has revolutionized every aspect of our work life and hence the CEOs globally believe it to be the factor which will have the biggest impact on their business organisations in the 21st century.
There are two ways the future of an organization can get affected depending on the way the issue of technology is dealt with.
One of the ways technology poses a challenge to the organization and thereby Human Resource Management today is, the speed at which newer and newer technologies are being developed and let out in the corporate world, they are outstripping our ability to use them, often by leaps and bounds. Thus, even though top of the line computers and programmes are being developed, those who have to use them, i.e. the human employees are not getting to develop the parallel skill set, at the same pace and in the absence of actual human operators with the requisite skills, all such technical advantages will rarely afford any competitive advantage to an organisation.
The other HR management and Technology related issue stems from the lack of the organisation’s ability to keep up with the contemporary technological developments and consequently the means to exploit the skill set of the most talented employees available, as elucidated below.
Knowledge workers of an organization are those employees of a company who add value to the organisation through their knowledge i.e. by working with their heads rather than their hands. The one way these workers can be further managed and aided to contribute according to their full potential is by providing them with the necessary means for their work – and these means include the latest technological developments available in the corporate world. Inability to keep up with the technical advancement of the contemporary world will lead to making an outstanding knowledge worker work with a rudimentary technology, which will not only hinder the workers contribution and make the organization suffer losses, but over the time it will also compel the worker to quit the company out of dissatisfaction.
- Managing Talent
Figure 2 Managing Talent and Improving Leadership
As pointed out in the figure above, ‘Managing Talent’ is one of the foremost issues of the 21st century and has been addressed as one of great global concern by the Third Report conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Association (WFPMA) examining the critical trends in people management, the Survey of Global HR Challenges conducted by PCW for WFPMA (2006) and the 17th Annual Global CEO survey by PCW (2014). The 21st century corporate world with all its advancement and competition is facing a sharp talent crunch – in U.S alone the skill intensive, knowledge based work available in the market of most jobs have only about 20% of suitable employees to meet them. The result is the same for other nations too, thus everywhere the companies are aggressively fighting each other for those experts who form only 20% of the available pool of workers. It also means that the companies lack the capabilities required to meet the future demands in terms of expertise.
- Leadership Development
As pointed out above in Exhibit 2 from the Third Report prepared by the BCG and the WFPMA (2012), the second notable challenge in the field of Human Resource management, felt globally is that of Leadership Development.
Leadership development also proves to be a critical challenge on the global scale, despite some inconsistencies in the local and limited platform. It is the leadership of an organisation which can make it or break it. Today in the face of intense competition and the above mentioned talent crunch, it is of utmost importance that HR professionals refrain from perpetuating the traditional training programs or leaving up to chance the development of today’s workers into tomorrow’s leaders. Today, Human Resource management has to actively take part in the process of nurturing and developing the capabilities of the company employees. This challenging task has the HR management occupied with the task of understanding the best ways to keep a ready stock of potential workers whose skills can be honed to develop leaders for future succession planning.
Today college graduates and the knowledge workers want to be empowered to learn and consequently take informed decision, while within their workplace. Most people do not want to be trained but rather learn, and in today’s world where company loyalty is a trait that is becoming harder and harder to find, while the company culture attracts a new employee, it is the challenging and meaningful work environment, that engenders growth and development, which retains them. The most common reason an employee leaves an organisation is because of the lack of respect from the direct supervisor. The only way HR management can overcome this issue and retain employees who are also potential leaders of tomorrow are, by continuously fostering learning and development, in an environment which is free from traditional training procedures, where the supervisors can play a supporting role and the new hires have a nurturing environment to develop their skills and capacities in.
- Strategic workforce planning
Even as early as in the 1980s, Human Resource Management’s role was largely reactive and not active. They waited for employees to leave, a gap to be created and only then did they get to work to fill that gap . However today the scenario has changed, and such an approach towards workforce planning is detrimental to the health of the organisation, given the intensive nature of the competition, the paucity in the number of high skill and knowledge workers, the HR management’s inability to forecast the supply and demand situation of workers in the present and future will harm the company greatly and even make it lose its competitive edge over others. As a result of this inability to forecast often an organisation is unable to match the workload with requisite worker base, as a result sometimes hasty and low quality hiring takes place, while in another sudden downsizing takes place. In either scenario it is the company that ultimately suffers as the first will lead to low quality work and low turnovers, while the latter will greatly harm the environment of the company and its image.
It goes without saying that globalization is the permanent reality of the corporate world today. In order to maintain their competitive edge companies and organisations have to branch out to other nations, outsource their work or offshore their factories; also as the other side of the coin of globalization, employees from diverse cultures will also be recruited in the organisation both at the home country as well as elsewhere. Thus, all organisations irrespective of their sizes will have to deal with the challenges of operating in a market without boundary. The most fundamental issues of operating under the influence of globalization will be recruiting and selecting employees in many different country markets; adequate training as well as evaluation of the abilities of those workers; working within a new country means working within a new culture thus implying the need to understand and adapt to those cultural differences and subsequently working them into the work ethics; and finally the laws and regulations of each and every country the organisations work in, the HR Management will have to make sure that the organisation is made completely aware and brought up to date with all such laws of operation.
Recommendations and Resolutions of these Issues
- Technology - With regards to the issue of catching up with the pace of technical developments, unless the Human Resource management works actively to take advantage of the technology revolution and hone the skills of the respective employees accordingly, the organisation will lose its competitive edge in the market and therefore suffer.
While with regards to supplying the top of the chain technically developed products to the knowledge workers, the Human Resource Management will have to be vigil and ensure that workers are supplied with means of their functioning which are complementary to their skill set. Not only is it necessary to update the skill set of the existing workers to meet the ever changing industry standards, but it is also equally important to meet the standards of the extraordinary and advanced knowledge workers.
- Managing talent - For managing talent effectively, the Human Resource Management will have to start from within, first. It is not ideal to keep running behind talent that exists externally as it leads to bidding wars and often low quality hires, the resources within has to be honed. They, the management, will need to train and develop their existing employee base first so that they can respond to any challenging role of tomorrow, whether that role is similar to their present one, or is that associated to a position of significant seniority. Apart from it the company’s overall image in the market will be the greatest attraction to those coveted few, the expert knowledge workers, and here it is the reputation of a company which creates its image.Company reputation is a result of various factors including its ability to keep up with the technical demands of today, meeting the talents with adequate and complementary technological backing, a fair treatment of existing workers and a good work environment . Along with these if the HR Management is able to introduce a system that rewards merit i.e. a system of meritocracy, as well as a policy where rather than dismissing workers whose skills become dated, the same are trained and their skills reoriented to suit the current work demands i.e. valuing the humans, it will attract and retain the best of talents within the organisation successfully.
- Leadership Development - In the contemporary age, the HR professionals are expected to make available the necessary processes, frameworks, viewpoints, and tools required for the selection, honing and advancing the future leaders of their organisations, thereby making them strategic business partners within their companies. All over the world, leadership development has been recognized as one of the most important and significant strategic initiatives to ensure that, organisations are able to hold on to or retain the correct employees, that the organisation’s internal culture supports and encourages enhanced performance which can lead to a better market position and that the organisation experiences long term viability by fostering the talents of all its managers and other employees to enable them to take over the leadership roles of the future, rather than hinging the whole responsibility and viability of the company only on the CEOs and senior executive successions . The HR management will have to be especially careful about fostering a nurturing and learning environment in the organisations, in the place of the age old traditional training regimen, where supervisors and new hires will have an amicable relation, thus the former enabling the latter to learn with the help of supportive tools and means. High performing organisations have recognized the fact that, leadership is much more than just steering the business effectively, leadership is about nurturing, energizing and challenging the employees to make them more productive, confident and active – and this is the key to success, thus the prime focus of HR Management.
- Strategic Workforce Planning – It is difficult to forecast workforce demand and supply conditions correctly even during normal conditions, let alone trying or volatile conditions like global meltdowns. In the face of such uncertainty the HR Management can effectively handle the high spurt and sudden lull in the supply and demand of workforce by a variety of means. The employees can be allowed to work overtime during the high demand work situations and then bank on those overtimes earned, during a drop in the need for work and consequently workers. During high work periods, if necessary, third party workers can also be brought in on a contractual basis. However during a lull in the demand for workers the working body can be made available throughout the company globally, so that if there is a drop in work demand somewhere and spike in another, the gaps can be filled internally, by existing employees wherever possible. And finally a very important issue here is that of downsizing, the HR management can take care to see that rather than letting go of existing workers, there can be a slowing down of fresh recruitment. This way the purpose will be served without hampering the work environment or the company image.
- Globalization – The organizations and their HR managements are reconciling themselves with the demands of globalisation that is evident, but there are aspects which need constant attention and updating and will continue to need the same in the future as well these are the need to be culturally significant and sensitive in each of the markets they operate internationally. Workers from different nations have different cultural needs and wants, and it is the HR management’s duty to see to it that the company environment is not antagonistic to that. The management will also have to train and nurture the diverse pool of employees it taps into as a result of globalization, and this too must be done with sensitivity. The employees will also have to be incentivised culturally, thus it is evident that under the impact of globalization, the HR management will have to be culturally relevant and attuned wherever they function. Apart from this, the management has to be completely aware about all laws concerning their organisation, in each and every foreign market they deal with. Any lapse here can land the company into any number of legal hassles.
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