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Maria A. Georgiou on why one size does not fit all when it comes to HR

HR is a key driver of growth and competitiveness. As businesses increasingly recognise that their most valuable assets are their employees, the need for internal guidance has become clear.

Maria A. Georgiou, President of the Cyprus Human Resource Management Association (CyHRMA), explains how HR leaders not only enhance employee performance and job satisfaction but also lay the groundwork for long-term organisational success.

As a business grows, its strategies, structure and internal processes grow with it. Some employees have a hard time coping with these changes and companies experience decreased productivity and morale during periods of change. How can an HR department help employees in such situations?

It’s commonly acknowledged that we are living in a time of continuous disruption and change and this impacts the workforce in different ways. It’s important for HR to understand how the economic environment and the cost-of-living crisis are impacting people financially as well as emotionally and mentally. The economic environment is beyond our control but, as HR, we can support our people by ensuring fair and competitive compensation, keep them relevant and focused on their work through continuous feedback and upskilling mechanisms, provide benefit packages that allow employees to customise their benefits and better meet their individual needs and even help them enhance their financial literacy.

People want to be compensated fairly and be able to live a comfortable lifestyle.

At the same time, they are also very much looking for fulfilment, motivation, a sense of belonging and growth in their work. HR teams have a critical role to play at different levels. At a strategic level, HR can engage with the leadership to create the vision for the future of the organisation and align it with its purpose and mission. When people feel excited and motivated, they’re far more likely to embrace change. At a policy level, HR can devise policies which support inclusion and belonging and offer choice in terms of flexible work arrangements. Lastly, at a behavioural level, HR can ensure that the organisation’s values are aligned with its people’s day-to-day experience and the competency framework enables this positive working environment.

Emerging skills is another important area. According to the World Economic Forum, employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years. The Hopes and Fears survey revealed that the majority of workers do not have clarity on how their job requirements may change. If employees don’t anticipate or understand this, they may not be adequately prepared to acquire the new skills necessary to remain relevant and effective in their roles. This is particularly alarming for people whose jobs don’t require specialised skills, leaving them particularly vulnerable to job losses as skills continue to evolve and organisations augment (or replace) jobs with automation or AI. HR’s role is significant in ensuring that the organisation predicts and provides to everyone equal opportunities to upskill and reskill.

Would you say that there is a difference in the way HR operations approach today’s younger workforce compared to previous years? Is it a matter of adapting to the new workforce or cultivating a relationship of trust and mutual growth?

It is predicted that by 2025, Gen Z will comprise 30% of the global workforce and we know that most Gen Zers started their careers during especially turbulent times – the COVID-19 pandemic, extraordinary economic uncertainty and geopolitical unrest. The Conference Board’s Gen Z Rising 2023 study reveals how to best attract, engage and retain Gen Zers by re-evaluating starting salaries and increasing pay transparency, giving as much control as possible over where and when they work, developing a culture of safety and wellness that genuinely supports employees and respects their boundaries and needs, focusing on talent mobility and creating career paths with internal and external development opportunities, ensuring that leaders are living the organisation’s values in how they communicate with and treat their employees and allowing them to take ownership of their tasks and giving them autonomy to make decisions. I personally don’t find these important for all! It’s not a matter of having to adapt; it’s all about organisations evolving and becoming more agile, socially responsible and providing a place where people can grow, experiment, connect and deliver value to their customers, the economy and society. HR operations are already changing so as to be able to attract, engage and retain not just Gen Z but the whole workforce. Transparency, trust and mutually beneficial growth are the key ingredients for an organisation to be successful.

Emerging HR technologies are being designed to change the way employers screen, hire, onboard and manage talent. What is the role of technology in HR Management practices and in drafting practical and wise blueprints for flexible working?

Technology has enabled more flexible/hybrid working. As this way of working becomes more widespread, the structure of work in many organisations is transitioning from traditional hierarchical and functional structures to more agile ways, with an increasing use of project teams, specialists, external associates and contingent labour. This means that HR will need to reimagine its incentive programmes, performance reviews, skills tracking and employment structures. At the same time, organisations need to consider how they can best measure work productivity and outcomes in these environments. This places greater reliance on data analytics, to obtain a more in-depth analysis of the outcomes achieved and the resources and effort involved. Flexibility, by definition, means that one size does not fit all, so HR teams are expected to devise a framework for hybrid/flexible work and support teams to define how this will work for them, based on the business needs and personal circumstances of their team members.

How do you expect HR Management practices to develop over the next decade and what will be the dominant trends in this area?

It’s very difficult to predict how HR practices will develop over the next decade but we believe that current emerging trends offer us a good glimpse of the future. Among the most important ones, I would note the following:

● Wellbeing and mental health will be at the heart of the HR and Leadership agenda, with organisations devising targeted strategies and policies to support employees.

● Hybrid working, learning and connecting will be the norm, what the SHRM calls ‘Phygital’, with organisations repurposing the physical office to enable collaboration, creative thinking and connection. McKinsey also predicts that nine out of ten organisations will be combining remote and on-site working in the coming years.

● Greater emphasis will be given to the skillsets that people bring to their work and the ability to continuously upskill and reskill. We expect to see more skill-based attraction, recruitment, talent management and reward strategies.

● Specific human skills will become even more important. World Economic Forum research has noted that employers understand the increased importance of complex problem-solving skills in the workplace, as well as the rising importance of resilience, flexibility and agility.

● The war for talent will continue, with different parameters coming into play, including the social impact and responsibility of the organisation, its mission and values and the flexibility arrangements in place.

● As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) predicts, we will see People Experience Departments emerging with a mandate to focus on the lived experience of employees.

● Workplace Automation and AI will continue to evolve to take on repetitive tasks, with humans and bots creating a new technology enabled workforce.

CyHRMA Aims and Activities

The Cyprus Human Resource Management Association (CyHRMA) brings together over 600 members, who are professionals or students in the field of HR or Corporate Members. It is a member of EAPM, the network of the respective Associations at European level, and its aim is to provide support and representation to the profession and its members in Cyprus and to promote HR development. CyHRMA holds events and seminars for educational, updating and networking purposes, it publishes “People and Work” magazine and is represented on projects and committees that influence and shape the profession, such as the Cyprus Organization for Standardization. It also holds an Annual Conference, featuring high-calibre speakers who share their insights and experiences regarding key trends in the HR field.

This interview first appeared in the September edition of GOLD magazine. Click here to view it.

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