A 2018 article compared HR managers to high school assistant principals who nothing more than paper pushers and pointing those who broke the rules. Although we still see this behaviour in some companies in this region, it’s time to prepare for 2020. Does your company understand what HR trends are laying ahead?

Technological advances

Millennials are the first generation that does not remember life without the internet. For them, technological advances are a normal part of life. Other generations may not be adjusting immediately to new technologies. Organisations have to implement technology that works for everybody and every area (e.g. recruitment, training, benefits).

Technology will continue to find ways to offer services not only for medium or large sized organisations, but also to SMEs. Smaller organisations will look at affordable self-service solutions for repetitive activities, freeing up resources to work on more meaningful initiatives and activities, similar to what  larger organisations have already implemented.

Combat constant connectivity

Employees are increasingly mentioning their struggles of constant connectivity. For many organisations in this region, working with a virtual team is part of their daily operations. They are connected via email, regular phone calls, WebEx, text messages, Slack, What’s App, Skype, Lync, Trello, Yammer 24/7.

Line managers may say that messages don’t need to be replied to after working hours. What is after working hours when the team is located across different time zones? Employees often feel compelled to reply no matter what time of the day.

To provide employees with an opportunity to recharge, organisations need to create a framework outlining their approach to after hour work. Progressive ones are linking their offline time to their wellbeing programmes. Studies have shown that employees lower their stress levels when being disconnected from work. Employees can pursue other interests and hobbies and refuelling for the next workday.

Meaningful people analytics

As technology advances, we’ll see a continued focus on people analytics in 2020. While compensation & benefits professionals should possess analytical skills, other HR professionals need to become familiar with data.

This will need to start with the basics. Today, too many companies are complaining that their HR systems are not linked and are producing inconsistent reports. HR systems need to record clean data which can produce dashboard overviews within one click. Without clean data, HR scrutinises its own trustworthiness amongst business leaders.

HR professionals must learn to analyse (larger) data sets and turn the information into compelling stories. Anecdotal stories did not suffice in the past and will not be enough when partnering with different business stakeholders. Hard evidence that not only looks at the past but can also be predictive will be increasingly in demand.

Focus on Emiratisation

2020 will see the expansion of Emiratisation programmes. At this time, organisations may be required to employ Emirati talent under specific circumstances (e.g. mainland companies, certain roles) only.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) is currently assessing the candidate companies for the Emiratisation Award. Recognising pioneers in Emiratisation in the UAE’s private industry, organisations are encouraged to integrate Emirati and expat employees into the private sector.

Businesses can implement initiatives like flexible working schedules (e.g. part-time, remote work), create individual learning and development plans and/or establish relationships with local education providers for their Emirati employees to make a start. In many organisations, the same approach is implemented for the entire workforce, although Emirati talent may be given preferential treatment.

Organisations which already have a defined Emiratisation strategy in place are encouraged to review the MOHRE assessment guidelines and expand their offerings as it fits their culture and company. New initiatives may be piloted before they’re rolled out in a phased approach to the different locations.

Skills shortages, upskilling and development

While the population grows, many of our clients are still not finding the specialised skills they need to drive their business forward. Korn Ferry has been reporting that, in addition, high performing employees are still in demand.

Organisations need to become creative to fill the skills gaps and upskilling has often been mentioned as an option. Upskilling may work for roles similar in nature. It’s unlikely that it’ll solve the skills shortage currently experienced around the globe.

Multiskilling individuals and cross-training employees will require more attention in 2020. Companies are need to invest in personalised learning and development plans that also consider the individual’s aspirations. Especially Millennials require a link between the organisation’s mission and their personal values. While this may be more apparent in their daily work, it will need to be a consideration for their development, too.

As companies are preparing their current employees for the future, they also need to consider the younger generation. Working with universities and schools, organisations have an opportunity to create brand awareness and influence the curriculum. The region has seen legislative change to allow students legally working as an intern. Over the last few years, more organisations have created internship programmes as a way to pro-actively recruit graduates. Local hospitals like Mediclinic have also expanded their initiatives to now offer medical clerkship programmes.

Personalised total rewards

The days of one compensation and benefits package for all employees are gone. Yet, we see too many employers ignoring it. They wonder why their employees have left when they’ve been paid a competitive basic salary. Still, employees’ needs haven’t been met!

Companies need to understand what their employees need and value. A flexible approach to personalise total rewards needs to be established. As the Middle East may not have the tax benefits associated with flexible rewards given in other jurisdictions, cafeteria style benefits may not be appealing.  Nevertheless, businesses are urged to differentiate and to adjust their HR value proposition accordingly.

Wellbeing as an engagement driver

As wellbeing plans mature in the region, we’ll see the move from just nutrition and yoga classes to holistic and strategic wellbeing programmes.

Small companies will implement initiatives as a tool to attract and retain staff. Evan Tunis commented that “Corporate wellness programs aren’t just being used at shiny big companies like Apple. Organizations are seeing the value in leveraging healthcare to both lure talent and streamline a costly expense.”

Wellbeing programmes which address deeper issues and also include financial literacy have proven an increase in employee engagement, productivity and company sales. Combined with a deeper understanding of medical claims data and people analytics, HR teams can create a business case to introduce a wellbeing plan. Working with the medical insurance provider, HR teams can also make the case to incentivised healthcare. The savings from the medical premiums can be moved back into extended wellbeing programmes which in return increase the revenue for the organisation.

Opportunity for strategic HR

All these trends have one thing in common: They provide a unique opportunity for HR to be more strategic.

2020 will be the year where HR managers can shake off that image of paper pusher and rule enforce. It’s their opportunity to show a closer alignment to the business. HR teams across the region need to understand the business and become more commercial like never before, if they want to be seen as the trusted advisor.

For too many years have we witnessed HR complaining that they don’t have a seat at the board table. Yet, they were unable to move beyond the “huggily lovely” part of HR and speak tough business language.

Rotational placements in the business can shape HR’s thinking and raise commercial awareness. Mars has been a long standing advocate of spending time in HR or the business before moving into a leadership position.

In summary, 2020 will see the increased need for customised HR programmes. HR teams will need to be more comfortable with the change new technologies will bring. 2020 will be a chance for HR teams to drive their organisation forward by implementing forward-looking initiatives, addressing the upcoming needs of the organisation.

How prepared are you for 2020? Utilise the last quarter and create the best start into the new year for your company. Contact us and find out how we can help you link your HR strategy and initiatives to the 2020 challenges.