As the primary conduit between employers and employees, HR professionals have played a critical role over the past 18 months. When the pandemic first hit Australian shores, there was no rule book. Employers and employees alike were forced to rapidly adapt to a newfound world of remote work, isolation, and the blurred boundaries between home and office.
The challenges of the pandemic have caused both businesses and employees to profoundly reimagine themselves. For employers, this is leading to a realisation that the workplace of the future will be a hybrid office blending the digital and the physical. For employees – those who have experienced the work-life balance benefits of remote work – it is leading to the expectation of flexibility in where and when they choose to work.
Businesses who fail to understand this reckoning and force a shift back to pre-pandemic ways of working risk experiencing first-hand a global phenomenon being dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’.
Earlier this year, research from Microsoft found more than 70 per cent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue and 40 per cent are considering leaving their roles if that flexibility is not offered. More recently, a survey from the Committee for Sydney found the majority of employers (51 per cent) expect their employees will only return to the office three days a week.
With a flexible working IT infrastructure now in place – and the clear expectation the hybrid office will now become the norm – organisations face a new challenge: how to build a future-oriented digital workplace that is productive, creative and which can be sustained for years to come?
Nutanix recently commissioned a series of IDC InfoBriefs on the future of work and digital workspaces. Findings revealed the new challenges facing HR leaders and recommends they focus on three key areas: ensuring secure employee access throughout every touchpoint, ramping up employee experience, and wellbeing metrics.
Secure access at every touchpoint
Employees have quickly adapted to remote work. For many organisations this now provides opportunities to access talent in new markets, which is particularly beneficial for knowledge-worker focused sectors that have struggled with persistent talent shortages.
Innovative technologies can be used to support new workplace demands – particularly as organisations look to create borderless, and reconfigurable teams, or integrate online-enabled freelance staff in day-to-day operations. Workspace, desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) models will continue to drive higher remote employee satisfaction, providing more secure and manageable remote-working environments while ensuring access to all the data and applications needed to work productively.
The IDC research also shows that by 2023, 40 per cent of workers will utilise gig-economy platforms and talent marketplaces to offer their services and digital skills, fundamentally changing HR policies, processes, and tools. Their research suggests that in the world’s largest organisations, more than 30 per cent of the workforce will consist of flexible or short-term contract workers.
To attract and adequately support such staff, enterprises will require systems that deliver a single, portable, and secure online digital identity for each team member, enabling extended access to business systems, content, data, and applications across business entities. This requires appropriate levels of access to core applications and data – such as CRM, ERP, and analytics – and will be largely hosted in hybrid multicloud environments to deliver uptime and access, no matter where an employee is located.
Ramping up employee experience
Digitising employee experience is one area that 60 per cent of enterprises are heavily invested in this year as they seek to transform the relationship between employers and employees. This includes finding ways to foster greater productivity and creativity from staff.
At a technical level, organisations should look to hire workers with specific skill sets and experience from multiple pools (such as remote, gig, and new generation staff or career pivoters and those that have reskilled), to support business critical initiatives. Once onboarded, ensuring they have access to the right tools and systems will enable them to complete projects faster and with better quality business outcomes – no matter where they’re located.
Keeping a pulse on well-being
On a more human level, organisations must also look to well-being metrics as a key way of fostering more productivity, creativity and solidarity among teams. HR leaders must help create a workplace culture that is focused on health, empathy, trust and empowerment and which is open to diverse staff across all geographies and demographics. This is particularly crucial for attracting millennials and Gen Z employees – many for whom the idea of flexibility is now a non-negotiable.
Hire by considering all facets of a person: their technical skills and career history, as well as their life experience and culture. Be mindful of unconscious biases and look for people that are a “culture add”, rather than a “culture fit”.
The future workplace requires profound cultural changes and engagement efforts beyond a HR leader or their digital counterparts. HR should work alongside IT, bringing teams and systems together to create lasting, positive digital employee experiences that aid innovation. Success in hiring and retaining next-generation talent hinges on it.