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Dolene Sechele | Wanted: Strategic human-capital management

Dolene Sechele | Wanted: Strategic human-capital management
24-03-23 / Duty Editor

Wanted: Strategic human-capital management

The workplace is a vastly different place to the one our parents knew. In the past, it was accepted that people left their emotional concerns at home, and a ‘command and control’ style of leadership was the norm. The new world of work compels organisations to rethink their employee value propositions and how they attract and retain talent.

This, as well as cost pressures on salaries and recruitment drives, are being felt by human capital professionals everywhere. As a result, HR managers and directors are increasingly required to help companies manage these challenges while faced with a range of external issues, such as rising inflation in a volatile, unpredictable world.

Two trends that will define the workplace in 2023

  1. A focus on holistic wellbeing. Wellbeing came to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic as people struggled to cope with anxiety, social changes and the shift to remote work.

There has been no return to normality since then, and employers are taking a leading role in helping their employees to manage their wellbeing holistically. This in turn drives talent acquisition, since people are looking for human-centred workplaces where they are valued for who they are and allowed to live their purpose.

  1. Rising cost pressures. An inflationary environment means greater cost pressures. Human-capital professionals have to overcome this while seeking and retaining the talent companies need to remain and even become more competitive.

Wellbeing challenges for employees and HR managers

Aside from anxiety stemming from the pandemic, lockdowns and going back to work, many employees are struggling to set boundaries.

Prior to the pandemic, not many of us were as focused on our physical and mental health – working long hours and not taking leave weren’t unusual. However, this has taken its toll, particularly at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Old Mutual and other companies are now emphasising the importance of active rest, not working outside business hours, and not burning out. We use technology to monitor and measure things like burnout risk – in fact, we have a dashboard that indicates to managers what percentage of their team members are at risk. Managing such risk is part of their performance scorecards.

Attracting and retaining talent

The ‘war for talent’ has not abated – if anything, it is becoming more critical.

We know recruiting and replacing people is more costly than retaining talent, so the challenge is to be creative with the resources we already have. Coaching and mentoring employees can be done at relatively low cost, creating a virtuous cycle of knowledge transfer that broadens the skills base.

We know that developing people can drive retention, especially among younger staff members who are looking for opportunities to grow and do meaningful work.

Using technology to improve outcomes

Organisations are increasingly using technology to manage people as well as data. A significant development is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the hiring process, although this has been controversial because of the bias built into algorithms.

AI isn’t developed in South Africa, so diversity and inclusion may get lost, but technology can only improve, and the possibilities are exciting.

However, this technology should only be seen as a tool – we don’t want to lose opportunities for human interaction, and we want to make sure employees still have and develop soft skills in the workplace. A decline in social skills leads to a decline in workplace performance, which leads to mental-health issues.

Human-capital management must always be intentional and strategic in reminding people about organisational culture, which may have been diluted by remote work and real-world disconnection.

*Article written by Dalene Sechele, Executive: Corporate Engagement, Old Mutual Limited. This article featured in the Old Mutual Corporate Resource Hub

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