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Five Ways HR is Driving the Future of Work

We are on the cusp of a new dawn. Organisations are faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent the way they engage with human capital. HR has been elevated on the executive agenda, enabling renewed leadership commitment to meet with this moment of opportunity. The forced move to virtual working has proven successful in most cases. It provides a fertile ground for seeding new ideas and fresh perspectives.

HR leaders are reimagining how and where work gets done and have embraced new thinking and action. In our discussions with hundreds of HR leaders in the past few months, we’ve identified five key themes that are top of mind as HR shapes the future of work across the globe.

1. Listening to Employee Voice

Virtual working is at its highest level in history and the spotlight is shining on how work gets done, with existing processes and systems being deconstructed and reviewed. Business models and talent strategy are being reimagined in ways that align with employee experience, technology, customers, markets, and the new reality caused by the pandemic.

Many people are enjoying working from home, but for others there is a preference to work onsite because they enjoy the social interaction, collaboration, the tacit learning and change of scenery it provides. Or often there is not the right quiet space at home and people find it energy-sapping to be isolated.

At ChapmanCG’s recent virtual “People and Culture Lab” in the US, Susan Podlogar, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at MetLife, discussed the importance of employee voice. We need to be releasing the organisation’s energy through the voice of its employees. Susan stated:

I fundamentally believe that the problems are so complex you cannot do these things top-down anymore. You have to percolate voice upwards towards outcomes in the system.

Employees and their leaders are having more intimate and transparent conversations and getting to know each other on a whole different level. There’s an informal authenticity that has arisen and employees are liking and craving it. It’s an increase in their voice. We are seeing it come through pulse surveys, focus groups, team surveys, engagement surveys and the elevation of ideas generated in 1-1 weekly meetings with managers.

2. Talent Attraction and Retention

A big upside to virtual working on a global scale is that it provides unprecedented access to global talent. Certain talent pools are not able to relocate to their employer’s location. Securing hard-to-find talent may become easier if there are fewer geographical constraints. This could have a profound effect on the quality and quantity of talent available to an organisation as well as the cost of that talent. It provides greater access to diverse talent in international locations, people with disabilities, single parents and caregivers for whom it would be advantageous to work from home.

Among everything that is happening, leaders can never be complacent about flight risk of their best talent. There is always retention risk in any organisation and top talent are still being headhunted and taking new roles. Susan Podlogar highlighted that employees are assessing all the decisions their employers are making, the values behind those decisions and whether they are feeling like your most important asset. They are assessing whether we care about their opinions, how much we care about their health and safety and how authentic we are. As such, leadership is still of crucial importance in attracting and retaining talent.

Leaders who can balance high IQ with high EQ, demonstrate empathy and navigate this ambiguity when there is no playbook, are creating differentiated value for the organisation.

Susan Podlogar

3. Digital Transformation

We’re seeing a vast acceleration of digital transformation. Entire businesses, including the HR function, need to operate collaboratively and digitally. Great advances have been made by progressive organisations in driving efficiencies in HR services, HR operations and talent acquisition. We have appointed a number of global heads of HR digital transformation recently to fast-track HR’s digital optimisation in relation to ecommerce, social media, employee collaboration, employer branding and linking the internal and external communications information flow.

Good progress has been made and there is renewed interest in talent analytics and bringing HR and talent insights to the table. HR plays an important part in this but it’s bigger than just HR – it’s about using data in context and using it to drive change and efficiency.

4. HR’s Role across “People and Places”

Mary Bilbrey, Chief Human Resources Officer at JLL, also shared her perspective at ChapmanCG’s Virtual People and Culture Lab in the US. She described her role as including both “people and places” which includes human resources and JLL‘s own corporate real estate. More than 80-90% of the organisational cost structure falls into one of those two buckets. While real estate and facilities have not previously featured much as part of an HR leader’s role, it is emerging as an area where HR can add significant business value.

Mary noted that the workplace remains an important place where people want to come together to collaborate, be creative and have social interaction. The office space of the future should enable greater collaboration, innovation and creativity where you can be together with your colleagues.

HR will have the employee data to be able to lead and recommend the best mix of facilities moving forward. Companies may choose to transform their real estate to a portfolio of space solutions that may include traditional leases, flexible leases, co-working spaces, virtual work and company owned offices. HR could collaborate with office design and real estate groups to reimagine and develop fit for purpose office spaces.

5. Well-Being vs Burnout

For the most part, employees find working from home enriches their lives as they can allocate commute time to family and engage in other activities. However, for some it’s not really working from home, it’s more like sleeping at the office.

Working from home can be more stressful then the office. It can be tempting to work outside one’s normal working hours, particularly into the evening, while managing home responsibilities, which can lead to stress and burnout for some people. More attention may be needed where employees are spending too much time seated at the desk, prolonged time staring at screens. Being frozen at the desk for 8-10 hours causes fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances and other health issues. Less in-person interaction can also be energy-sapping for some people.

Research revealed in the Bersin Academy’s paper “2020 Trends Report: Wellbeing at Work, More Important Than Ever”, concludes that “work is making people sick.”

Virgin Pulse created a useful framework to track and measure the success of its well-being programs against a variety of indicators.

The “Value on Investment” (VOI) framework includes four levels of measurement:

● Level 1: Well-Being Behaviours

● Level 2: Well-Being Outcomes

● Level 3: Benefits Impact

● Level 4: Business Performance and Productivity

This level of sophistication in well-being is exciting and innovative. In Virgin Pulse’s case, the data has proven that investing in well-being is a critical business and talent strategy.


The coming years will be a time of unprecedented change and creativity. Traditional constraints on work such as office location and lack of technology to support virtual working will be diminished. HR Leaders continue to unleash their commercial-mindedness and creativity, and this is helping build more resilient and efficient organisations and ensure people have a healthier and more sustainable work life. HR leaders are playing a vital role to envision the future and inspire optimism that the future of work will be better than the past.


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