As We Wave Goodbye to 2022, What Human Resource Skills Will Managers Need in 2023?

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As We Wave Goodbye to 2022, What Human Resource Skills Will Managers Need in 2023?
21
Dec

As We Wave Goodbye to 2022, What Human Resource Skills Will Managers Need in 2023?

As we approach Christmas and the end of another turbulent year and the beginning of a new one, it is apt and timely for us to sit back and look back and reflect on a turbulent 2022 for work, employment, organisations and human resource (HR) practitioners and managers and HR management (HRM). This turbulence stemmed from the continuing Covid days and then ‘living with Covid’. The implications of Covid’s global pandemic and its impact on the world of work, especially during those ‘lockdowns’ and ‘work from home’ orders, have led to debates around ideas of a possible post-pandemic management (see Rowley, 2023). Also, all this has now mingled with powerful economic headwinds and high inflation and strikes that people seem to have forgotten can happen. The uncertainty that has been engendered is a critical context.

Partly as a result of the above, HR has had to deal with a twin threat of changes in both worker ‘numbers’ (recruitment and retention) and ‘engagement’ (motivation). These are encapsulated in the ideas and debates around not only the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Reshuffle’ in terms of people quitting jobs, but also the emergence of ‘Quiet Quitting’ (or a form of ‘work to rule’ from an earlier era) and the changes in people’s working ethics that this implies. This area includes feelings of a possible ‘push back’ from the ‘hustle’ cultures that had seemingly become so prevalent in many workplaces globally. This phenomenon is even debated in other countries, not only the US, but ranging from ‘Freeters’ in Japan, slackers’ in South Korea and the ‘tang ping’ or ‘lying flat’ and ‘bai lan’ or ‘let it rot.’ movements in China (see Rowley, 2023).

Given all this, what can we iteratively learn to help us going forwards in terms of the skills for HR practitioners, managers and HRM?

Despite the debates around the robustness of supporting data on the above, the post-Covid world of work has changed. The Gadarene rush of blithe, unsubstantiated assertions by some CEOs for the need for people to return to offices full time is naïve. This is because much research actually shows that paradoxically the expected ‘benefits’ of office work are often a chimera. Indeed, the negotiating skills of HR managers and executives when dealing with other managers, executives and CEOs in this area would be enhanced by explaining and showing exactly what sort of workplace arrangements and people relationships might hinder or aid the oft sought innovation and new idea behaviours Here they could use support from the theory of the importance of ‘weak ties’ (Granovetter, 1973) to illuminate and illustrate their arguments.

Furthermore, a forced return to full time, in-person office working is not what many people want according to many surveys and much anecdotal evidence globally. The offer of hybrid working is proving so important and alluring to so many, especially in certain sectors and age groups. While many surveys may continue to show the most important factor in recruitment and retention is pay, other issues appearing very high in the rankings are around flexible working, meaning, work-life balance and so on. We should not be surprised at this as the experience of often successful ‘working from home’ orders was ‘eye opening’ for many and has meant people want to retain - or be given - some form of flexible working, which is now seen through the lens of ‘hybrid’ working, which covers a whole spectrum of location (home-satellite-office) and time (hours/days per week, month, etc) (see Rowley, 2023).

To this area of reformulated work, we can add in dose of inflation-related pay demands – for ‘extrinsic rewards’. HR responses to this could be creative and restructured around offers of a judicious mix of more cost effective ‘extrinsic rewards’, such as hybrid working of course.

In terms of the top skills that both HR managers and practitioners will need in order to be successful with all of the above in 2023, the following points are useful. Following Katz (1955) we can usefully see ‘skills’ as a multi-dimensional and temporal concept. First, skills can be seen in a trio of not only (1) ‘technical’ but also (2) ‘human’ and (3) ‘conceptual’ – and as part of this last category I would add the need for ‘critical thinking’. Second, over an organisational hierarchy, the exact ‘mix’ composition of this trio in a person’s overall skills package evolves. Basically, Katz (1955) argued that as a person’s the role develops from a ‘junior X’ to a ‘senior X’ to a ‘chief X’ then the commensurate ‘technical’ side declines while the ‘human’ and especially ‘conceptual aspects become more ever more important.

This has implications. First, the Covid crisis forced many people to act as ‘accidental managers’. Interestingly, from a Katzian (1955) perspective, the evolutionary (1), (2), (3) sequence was reversed to some extent for such managers. These managers and their experiences and new skills and any requirements for more (2) ‘human’ and (3) ‘conceptual’ skills training and development should not be forgotten as we continue to learn to ‘live with Covid’.

Second, we can assume HR operates with a plethora of (1) and (2), which leaves (3) as the type of skills required to be enhanced for 2023 - and beyond. This is because of the above context of fresh forms of working and inflation. Yet, actually managing a hybrid workforce brings its own demands and need for skills and new ways of thinking and operating, exacerbated if it is a mixed workforce with full in-office staff. Also, strategically, displaying and using such conceptual skills and critical thinking around such issues can help HR towards its nirvana - to clearly show relevance and added-value to organisations and businesses.

References

M. Granovetter (1973) ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol.78, No.6, pp.1360-80
R. Katz, (1955) ‘Skills of an Effective Administrator; Harvard Business Review, Vol.33, No.1: pp.33-42
C. Rowley (2023) ‘ “Back to The Future”: Post-Pandemic Work and Management’’ Personnel Review (forthcoming)

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