How can employers adapt to the changing future of work?

The future of work has become one of the biggest topics to impact employers of late. In fact, a lot of these future trends are already happening within organisations, and both leaders and HR professionals have had to adapt to these to ensure they don’t fall behind.

The tech sector is thriving in Ireland at present and we can also see growth in mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering. Along with responding to this growth, HR professionals have to contend with a number of other challenges.

We spoke to Suzanne McDermott, a HR partner at medtech giant BD, about the challenges and opportunities facing workplaces of the future.

McDermott believes that the war on talent has made the employment market more competitive. “Companies are being forced to look at how they both attract and retain highly sought-after talent,” she said. “Companies need to look how they are offering employees continuous upskilling and development.”

McDermott also said that as a medtech firm, BD is in a strong position to provide employees with meaning and purpose in their work, as the company contributes to illness management and prevention.

“Ireland has been extremely successful in developing itself as an internationally renowned centre for medical technology and, in this regard, we are well positioned to continue to attract talented individuals to Ireland.”

When it comes to the workforce itself, HR professionals have to be mindful of the wide range of employee profiles in today’s workforce. “Companies need to be prepared to embrace all generations and we need to be considerate of what we are offering in terms of the best work experience for all employees.”

In fact, 75pc of the workforce is set to be made up by millennials by 2020 and, with a number of Generation X and baby boomers still in the workforce, adapting to each generation is essential.

McDermott said that because BD is such a highly matrixed organisation, communication is a major part of its strategy. “We try to focus on leadership development on a continual basis. Leaders who are equipped to engage and give regular feedback are of paramount importance to us in running successful teams.”

Improving working life

McDermott said that it is becoming increasingly clear what is important in today’s workforce. “We know that a strong work-life balance, with flexibility and a focus on wellness, are all sought-after benefits.” With this in mind, it’s important that companies focus on the health and wellbeing of their employees, and pay attention to those benefits that really matter to them.

McDermott said some of the tools BD will be focusing on include access to learning, both e-learning and continuous development, as well as wellness programmes. However, she added that it’s not enough to simply have such programmes. “We need to offer enriching work assignments and experiences in order to engage and retain our employees.”

Attracting and retaining talent

“A key priority for BD’s HR is to attract and retain key talent,” said McDermott. “In other words, we must meet the needs of the business by ensuring key resources are in place to deliver our business objectives.”

She said that attracting people with the appropriate knowledge and experience is essential for BD and, as such, the team works hard to build integrated programmes to attract and retain talent across a wide range of disciplines, from scientists and engineers to project managers. “Key priorities for the year ahead are employee engagement, employee wellbeing, and reward and recognition.”

When it comes to making sure companies are adapting to the future of work, McDermott believes organisations need to think about data analytics. “I think data about people and our data analytics will become even more important to us in the future. It’s so important that we have informative and usable data to help us understand the talent factors that drive performance.”

With data at the centre of the future of work, companies need to ensure they are using this data effectively. She also said companies need to consider the impact of changes such as Brexit or GDPR.

Finally, McDermott said it’s important that organisations continue to examine how they can bridge the continued skills gap. “With Ireland’s economy continuing to grow, it’s important that we are planning for a shortage of specialised skills, and look at how we can utilise a more flexible model – for example, contract/contingent working.”

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