HR’s Role In Building A Workforce For Digital Future

The coronavirus pandemic threw countries and businesses – small and large scale – into turmoil as it brought about many new problems. Even the risk assessment and preparedness of many firms couldn’t capture the magnitude of upheaval caused by the pandemic. Survival during this period depended on the willingness to embrace a digital future and the astuteness of HR to make this happen.

Seeing as HR was unfamiliar with the challenges caused by the pandemic, here’s how HR had to reinvent themselves and assume a new role to prepare for a workplace transformation.

Systemic thinking – for organizations to survive during the pandemic, they needed to reorganize with speed and ability. A digital transformation was going on in the world of work and organizations needed to incorporate this quickly and as efficiently as possible. Through its increased influence in decision making, HR can facilitate collaboration, communication, and communication across various units. As such, HR reinventing, proportioning, and reprioritization of business goals to reflect the problems the pandemic created became a necessity.

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Company culture – within every firm exists some cultural and traditional practices that guide decision-making, employee behavior, and work ethics. Maintaining these in the digital future of business is essential for maintaining productivity. As the responsibility of maintaining company culture falls squarely on the laps of HR, the pandemic gave HR first-hand experience of what to expect in a digitally transformed future of work.  Maintaining organizational culture among employees through the conduct of culture assessments took precedence.

Leadership – the digital future for organizations requires strong and competent employees because the quality of leadership determines success. As already presently experienced, the digital future of work will involve many employees working remotely, and competent leadership will determine productivity. The pandemic accelerated the need for more competent leaders. By creating attitudes that maintain focus, ensure connection, and guarantee continuity, HR should develop leaders in various capacities.

Talent strategies – the success of companies depends on many variables. One variable that is of utmost importance is the quality of an organization’s employees. In a study carried out among 600 executives across 20 industries, it reported that organizations are more likely to keep their top talents for superior performance when their business strategies and talent were aligned. Also, an organization’s digital future depends on having employees who are competent in computing and digital skills.

Social capital – firms rely on the amount of goodwill they can muster among various aspects of the community and within their employees. When these stakeholders feel a sense of community and common purpose, the firm can run its affairs smoothly and effectively. Having a lot of social capital can also determine the digital future of business. By developing teams and facilitating various mentorship programs during the lockdown, HRs can help organizations build, sustain, and maintain social capital among employees.

Employee wellbeing – all through the early days of the pandemic, there were myriads of reports about employees developing mental health issues. This problem was not unconnected to the job uncertainty that followed the widespread retrenchment of employees. Companies used worker lay-offs as a cost-cutting strategy to stay afloat. The WHO reports that, globally, companies lose over a trillion dollars to the ineffectiveness of employees caused by mental health problems. Employee mental health could be a threat to the effectiveness of the digital future of work. It is the responsibility of the HR to ensure that employees were in their best minds – physically and mentally – by creating employee assistance programs to facilitate healthy living.

Work-life balance – employees have always clamored for a flexible work schedule that helps them maintain a healthy balance between their office hours and free time. While a few organizations had started to give their employees some leeway in terms of flexible work-hours and remote working, the majority of companies didn’t offer these to their employees. The pandemic forced a digital transformation that made all these a necessity for survival. HR should use this opportunity to expand on the benefits of helping employees maintain a healthy work-life by providing for childcare and additional work-life options.

Engagement – as most employees now work remotely, creating and facilitating an engaging work environment could prove daunting. Yet, the digital future of work needs to keep employees engaged irrespective of location. Through the use of feedback loops and quick surveys, HR can understand areas in which they need to focus their efforts to improve engagement.

Moving forward…

HR had a lot to do with the survival of the world of work throughout the pandemic. However, despite this, many company executives continue to doubt the strategic value of HR professionals, according to a report by KPMG – The Future of HR in the New Reality. In the report, over 80% of CEO’s confirm HR played a leading role in their response to the pandemic, most especially through its efforts to stage a massive remote work campaign that raised HR’s business visibility and contribution.

Throughout the disruption period caused by the pandemic, company executives relied on HR to rally the workforce. Yet, executives fail to see HR as a value driver. According to the KPMG report, 60% of the CEOs surveyed classify HR as administrators.

This report by KMPG comes from a survey carried out among 1288 HR executives from 59 countries – India inclusive – and other territories. The survey was carried out in July and August, and the HR executives surveyed come from 31 industries, including asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, healthcare, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology, and telecommunications. The majority of the respondents to the survey come from the largest economies in the world.

The report by KPMG, which shows that HR still hasn’t been accorded the level of importance it deserves shows that HR has to be bolder in proving its strategic worth to senior decision-makers. For this to happen, it must develop employees for the digital future.


  • HR needs to re-invent to add business value by building a workforce for digital future | PTI | November 21, 2020
  • HR’s compelling new role in response to the coronavirus | Trace Brower | June 7, 2020
  • Mental health and substance abuse | WHO

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