What does the future hold for HR directors?

by HRD16 Oct 2017
In the future, HR directors will increasingly become “curators” of the office, with responsibility for enabling an atmosphere that inspires millennial workers.

Moreover, there will be greater HR ownership of the physical workplace as HR becomes more focused on the employee “experience”. 

That’s according to Unispace’s research featuring interviews with more than 100 HR directors around the world to assess the role HR now plays in workplace decision-making and design.

It found that a key to future success will be ensuring millennial workers are “engaged with the workplace” and are able to collaborate. 

Another significant finding is that there will be greater HR ownership of the physical workspace, according to Unispace global design director Simon Pole.

“This is reflective of a change in perspective from ‘human resources’ to responsibility for the employee life cycle and experience, and a growing sentiment that employees are internal ‘customers’,” he said.

The interviewees stated that a focus on employees is reaching new heights that were previously reserved for customers. 

Indeed, a Fortune 500 company HR director said it is “really heartening” that people are starting to talk about employees as ‘customers’ of the organisation.

“They actually are; we refer to them as the first and most important customers,” said the the HR director.

Moreover, the increasing importance of employee experience was raised by one interviewee: “I think more and more HRs are looking at the general experience of work.

“So, our intention of inspiring this debate absolutely feeds into taking a more active interest in how the buildings are set out, how people work together, how they meet, how they engage. Does the building help or hinder that?”

The research also asked the HR directors if they foresee greater HR ownership of the physical workspace.

The results from around the world found 80% said ‘yes’. However the responses of the individual countries was varied, with Australia the strongest response (86%), followed closely by New Zealand (85%), then the US (73%) and Europe (67%).

Culture, employee engagement and sharing knowledge are all substantially affected by a change of work environment, according to the interviews with HR directors at American Express, Juniper Networks, DLA Piper and Dexus.

Even though wellness, talent attraction and retention are less affected, there is still a significant perceived correlation between these areas and changes in physical space. 

Pole also said they have identified a clear consensus that workplace culture, employee engagement and knowledge sharing are all substantially impacted by a change of work environment.

“Similarly, while wellness, talent attraction and talent retention are less affected, there is still a significant perceived correlation with a change in physical space,” said Pole.

“These findings highlight the immense opportunities organisations have to realise strategic HR objectives if they engage with their people during any workplace change.” 

According to most respondees, the key physical factors that can influence staff performance included having the right spaces to do the ‘job properly’ including providing adequate meeting areas.

This was followed by technology / connectivity and access to colleagues inside and outside the office.

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