The Challenges of Managing a Modern Day Workforce


Prakash Santhanam is a passionate and experienced global HR practitioner. He is a strategic talent partner who helps organisations move towards global excellence through talent attraction, selection, development, engagement and retention and executive coaching. We recently discussed the top trends he is seeing within the talent management field.


With the newer generations of talent entering the workforce, what should organisations be considering? 

Millennials and Gen Y will be increasingly leading the workforce in the next few years as more Baby Boomers leave. This raises a challenge for talent practitioners who need to develop readiness programs so organisations can best integrate the younger generations into the workforce. Simultaneously, organisations are under pressure to establish a knowledge management system that will capture and ensure the knowledge and expertise from the experienced Baby Boomers can be retained and utilised. 

Business leaders and HR practitioners should work on a team integration strategy between Millennials and Baby Boomers, to bridge the generation gap and ensure they can work together effectively. Reverse mentoring can be used as this can encourage reskilling and boosts creativity in the workplace. From a technological standpoint, as the newer generations embrace technology and vigorously absorb it, organisations should capitalise on this and can utlise their skills to help achieve business goals.  


How important is it for employees to upskill and reskill due to emerging technologies?  

With emerging technologies such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Internet of Things (IoT) and many more to come in the next few years, employers and employees need to start upskilling and reskilling within the digital world before it’s too late. The demand in different markets for talent with the appropriate skills will vary from country to country depending on the speed of adoption. However the rise of technology is unstoppable. Employees need to start upskilling themselves especially in organisations that place emphasis on transformation and organisational change management. Such upskilling can come in the form of digital learning or traditional learning but as long the employees are equipped with the required skills then they will have great potential for career growth regardless, vertical or horizontal or even taking a submarine approach!


With the rise in popularity of the Gig Economy will organisations need to offer more flexible working choices? 

Many from the upcoming generation seek to break free from the confines of full-time employment and instead freelance in line with the Gig Economy. With such trends, organisations need to implement solid predictive methods and a proactive approach to workforce management and their recruitment strategies. This may lead to a rise in the number of more short-term global projects. This creates a big challenge for organisations to manage part time and freelance employment opportunities, both in ensuring they have the talent to support the business as well as managing the business demands in line with Gig Economy. This trend also impacts employee engagement and employee loyalty, creating extra challenges for the business.


Is there an increase in businesses looking for potential employees with a wider skillset so they can cover multiple roles? 

I would say a BIG yes here. I have experienced headhunters and recruiters both internal and external hunting for potential candidates with multiple skills to cover multiple roles or at least a minimum of two. This is strongly supported by operating lean as organisations seek to cut costs and organisational structures become flatter. Employees are under tremendous pressure to equip themselves with the right skills and knowledge to survive in the job market. To be successful in the job world, one has to start taking advantage of integrating technologies and digitisation through analytics, big data and the Internet of Things (IOT). 


What needs to be considered when managing a diverse and global workforce? 

Aligned with the first trend, we are dealing with various generations working under one roof. We need to focus on our similarities, how we can benefit from each generations expertise and the results they can provide than looking at our differences. On top of that, taking into consideration that the world is getting smaller with digital convergence and cross boundary assignments, a diversified workforce is evidently becoming a default requirement. Nowadays, handling a diversified team is becoming the norm and managing cultural sensitivity and ethnocentrism (a pre-conception that one’s culture is superior to others) is definitely a basic requirement.


To attract and retain talent, is offering a competitive compensation package still the key? 

There is a strong correlation between this and talent retention. An on-going effort be it monetary or non-monetary is a must to retain talent in organisations. At one point, monetary benefits were a key deciding factor of employee engagement and retention, but with modernisation and rapid changes in business as well as the economy, nonmonetary is slowly taking a lead. Communication, motivation, recreation and bonding are three rising engagement pillars that are resulting in increased employee retention. There is a robust tie between talent performance and rewards efforts and I believe it needs a massive revamp or even a rebirth.


It’s clear that Human Resources has its work cut out for it as it meets the challenges of managing a modern day workplace and beanbags and table tennis won’t be a one stop solution.  As a recruitment professional, personally I see Employer Branding and EVP being increasingly important to attract and retain staff, with companies having to work increasingly harder to become an employer of choice. Meanwhile, one of the themes I am seeing from the HR roles I am recruiting for, is a distinct pivot to bite-sized, online learning for training and development, so I definitely see companies attempting to take advantage of improvements in technology and react to different styles of learning that the younger generations prefer. 


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