The CIPD’s latest research in association with Workday on the trends and challenges facing HR, has shown that economic shift, including globalisation and Brexit, is currently the most common driver of change in UK organisations. The report also predicts that economic change is most likely to hinder the achievement of organisational objectives over the next three years. But over a fifth of senior HR leaders (two-fifths of HR as a whole), feel unable to influence change in their people approach to respond to economic change.

Why is it that the biggest driver of change is also the area of change where HR professionals are least likely to be taking action? The uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process may be contributing to this current inaction. The CIPD’s autumn 2016 Labour Market Outlook, produced in partnership with the Adecco Group, found that just 15% of organisations had started to prepare for the impact of restrictions on EU labour – despite 42% of employers expecting such restrictions to damage their UK operations.

This climate of uncertainty undoubtedly makes planning difficult, but the CIPD is urging HR teams to be prepared for the potential reduction in freedom of movement and take immediate steps to manage any concerns among employees within their own organisations. In response to the Prime Minister’s speech on the Brexit negotiations, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, said:

‘Given the implications for migration, it’s more important than ever that businesses look ahead and plan their people strategies, and understand the skills and talents they need in order to ensure that that they are prepared for the future, regardless of what the final arrangements look like.’

This new research also reveals that the demand for flexible working and changing demographics are the second and third biggest drivers of organisation change, after economic transformation. Here at least, HR professionals feel in a stronger position to take action because, of all the key trends that are driving change, they say they’re most likely to help their organisations with: changing employer/employee relationships, social media, changing demographics and the demand for social responsibility.

Changing demographics cannot be viewed in isolation from the demand for flexible working. In fact, the ageing population is resulting in an increasing number of carers in the workforce and flexible working options are one way in which organisations can support and encourage carers to continue working. Many younger workers also value flexible working because of the improved work–life balance it enables. Managing a multigenerational workforce is challenging, but embracing equality and inclusion can give organisations a strategic advantage. Creating an agile culture that values all people and encourages effective collaboration between them can bring significant benefits, including increased innovation and more effective problem-solving across teams.

In response to this news about the trends that are shaping the future of work, the CIPD is urging HR teams to consider the following questions:

  • What steps are you taking to communicate clearly and consistently with employees regarding changes or potential changes to EU immigration policy?
  • Are managers equipped to respond to employees’ concerns regarding the implications of political or economic trends, such as Brexit, affecting the organisation?
  • Do you have a process in place to monitor economic and political developments and consider the implications for HR and your business?
  • What are the implications of changing demographics? What are the skills and training requirements for new generations? What skills will managers need?
  • How do your communication strategies, incentives, benefits policies and retention strategies reflect the changing needs and desires of your workforce? How do you know what your employees need to perform at their best?
  • What will your future workforce need and expect from their employer? How will your talent management strategy help your organisation attract, develop and retain the workforce it needs for future success?

Not only does this new research expose the key trends that are shaping the future of work, it also highlights the need for HR to adapt as the world of work evolves. To help HR prepare for an uncertain future, the CIPD is developing a set of principles that will enable HR professionals to make good decisions, no matter what the future may hold. These principles form part of the CIPD’s ground-breaking Profession for the Future strategy.

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About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.