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The New Year's Key Workplace Challenges

What HR and management professionals must consider going into 2017

The world is not all that predictable right now. Politically speaking there is an elephant in the room, which means that making predictions is challenging especially in business.  People once scoffed at the idea of a Trump win, and now that it has happened no one is quite sure what will happen next.  However, a few noted members of the iHR Australia team have drawn on their years of experience and expertise to place their thoughts for 2017 'fairly and squarely' on the table. So, what will be the key challenges and areas to consider for HR professionals and management in 2017 and beyond?

 

 


Our Managing Director, Stephen Bell is first and foremost an entrepreneur. He founded iHR Australia and World Learning Hub and has worked extensively in Australia and Asia. Stephen is also regarded as a leading thinker around workplace culture, conduct and behaviour. His Custodians of Culture programs continue to be a source of inspiration and a values compass to organisational leaders at all levels across Australia and Asia.


Tougher economic conditions will impact HR and L&D professionals

Australia is facing a productivity crisis in an uncertain economic environment not because we are vastly unproductive but because the boom is now over and people must be more productive. Put simply, organisations want just as much or even more for less. 2017 will bring with it a greater pressure on workers to perform.

Relatively high and inflexible salary and wage rates across many professional and semi-professional industries are problematic for a country that is losing opportunities because in so many fields it is just not competitive. As people are being expected to work harder and longer and to change their job functions, HR departments will be dealing with higher incidents of challenging behaviour that result from growing levels of anxiety, frustration and dissatisfaction. Expect increases in absenteeism, complaints about poor behaviour and work-related mental health claims.

The answer is to do your due diligence and get those policies, reporting procedures and compliance training programs sharpened. It won't hurt to be clear about culture and behavioural expectations and to build the resilience of your leaders.

HR and L&D professionals will also be presented with the challenge of producing more with less. These are not the ideal circumstances for achieving best practice, but it should be looked at as a great opportunity to implement simple, back to basics strategies that can be seen to make a difference.

As for government, the so called ‘attack’ on workers' pay and conditions, in particular the reform to penalty rates, may well gain greater momentum should there be continuing major industry ‘shut downs’. The values of jobs in some industries are growing daily.

A one-dimensional approach to learning will be problematic

Small, medium and large organisations that are really committed to the skill and knowledge development of their people will need to provide a range of learning solutions. One key reason for this is that the large differences in the ages of professionals in the workforce means that there is a wider range of learning preferences than ever before. While budgets and efficiency are typical reasons organisations are turning to eLearning as a prime learning methodology, there is a growing thought that some people learn better through an eLearning experience than in face-to-face training-especially if the eLearning experience is based upon cognitive loading principles. But the truth is, this isn't the case for everyone.

There is still a degree of scepticism among Australian learning professionals that eLearning can be a ‘be all and end all’ learning methodology which may be healthy. 2017 will see an increasing use of eLearning as a methodology, but wading through the good and the garbage will be a prime role of L&D people. At the end of the day, it's much better to have access to five quality-learning experiences than 200 that have no learning principles behind them at all.

In 2017, try diversifying the learning experiences available to your people. Don’t be constrained by their personal biases and do some simple analysis by age-group and function to determine what does and doesn’t work.

Political correctness versus the maverick workplace leader

 The election of Donald Trump was without a doubt a shot in the arm for the ‘free-stylist’ leader. This is the type of leader who calls his or her subjects to action on the basis of claims with little substance. It is the type of leader who appears to speak their mind without significant consideration for the impact it will have on others. Some would say Trump is just ignorant while others believe he is simply commencing work on his own political and social agenda. While I believe there is a question mark over whether or not Trump will even see out term one of his presidency, his election has signalled a growing resentment toward the ‘politically correct set’ and among people being forced to speak and behave in away far removed from their true feelings. This resentment also exists in Australia. (See the results of the 2016 election.)

Trump is first and foremost a businessman and his election may well give the nod to business leaders (and boards) across the western world to be a little less considerate or even backward in relation to what they say and whom they offend. If this extends to Australian workplaces, some senior HR people may find themselves walking the tight rope between supporting their chief and dealing with disenfranchised management teams and workers who have often been protected from ‘hard talk’ by a system that has demanded leaders think deeply before making public statements. For senior HR people, 2017 may well be the year of being the ‘meat in the sandwich’.

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