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Contemporary trends in human resource management

By Jatinder Singh

Under the dynamic scenario of upturn-downturn-upturn with changed management culture, HR policy planners have made certain innovative decisions to cope with these trends. Most of the time, the quintessence of HR culture in every organization is created by the top management and employees are keenly re-engineering themselves to accommodate multi-cultural complexities. HR outsourcing, the evolved manifestation of cost-cutting has unnerved traditional HR practices. The trends and its nuances have undergone a sea change right from recruitment and selection until the process of exit interview.

Currently, training and development has become a core competency of HR functions and HRM policymakers are quite obsessed with it. These trends make contingencies of PEST (political, economical, socio-cultural, technological) factors easy to cope as perceptions, behaviour, motivation and leadership processes have become trendy and contemporary.
This new HR has become a critical player for the challenges of business alike wherein the HRM trends of 2010 are going to be entirely different from 2008-09. Global recession has ramshackle almost all organizations with resulting strategic shift in HRM practices. Recession era was marked with intensive downsizing programs like retrenchment and layoffs. The year 2010 is all about HRM benchmarking, multi-tasking and optimum workforce utilization.

Emerging trends

HRM personnel are no more staff people; they have graduated to line employees participating in strategic planning and decision making process in all functionaries at all hierarchical levels. HRM is now perceived as the catalyst of change rather than record keeper or compensation calculator.

Hiring, engaging and retaining key employees have increasingly become difficult. So HR practitioners are making job changes in order to make work processes more functional than structural. Some innovative maneuvers like self-managed teams, flexi work schedules and work from home are now in place in service industry.

Talented employees are most sought after, always on the radar of competitors, and sometimes become easy prey for hunters and poachers. Nevertheless, they are the most valuable assets – more than any other management resources. The Principle of 20/80 holds true with employees too -- 20 per cent of the key people manage 80 per cent of organisation’s key activities. Hence, in this dynamic time, retaining and engaging talent has become the primary job profile of HR managers. To motivate and make them committed, this workforce is given challenging independent projects. This boosts their self-esteem, confidence and morale. Last but not the least, a fine balance between recruiting talent with layoff plans for the average performers can be planned steadily.

Think global act local. This jargon is heard at most of the board meetings. There is a growing realization of the sensitivity and scalability of international business assignments. Estimate says that MNCs contribute about 50 per cent of world business and 70 per cent of global GDP. Cross-cultural and global HRM practices deal with diverse employees – parent country nationals, third country nationals, and host country nationals. Handling diversity where “employee is the king” requires mind boggling and ‘think out of box’ strategies. If done unprofessionally, it results in high expatriate failure rate. Expatriate failure is the yardstick for measuring efficiency of HR department in an MNC. Higher rate of expatriate failure expose inefficiency of HR department.

Apart from geographic diversity there exists demographic diversity like difference in age, gender, educational background and work experience. Strategic handling of diverse employees can foster creativity and innovation. Thus HRM personnel should mandatory undergo inter-cultural training, irrespective of size and maturity of business. This will ensure skilled handling of diverse employees. Some of the organizations have resorted towards diversity mentoring programs to manage issues of expatriates and their families.

Wellness at work

Globalization has resulted in 24x7 work culture which necessitates unscheduled working hours, frequent traveling, multi-tasking and rigorous deadlines. These aspects drain the employee physically, mentally and morally. Imbalances between personal and family life results in deterioration of relationships with heightened stress and anxiety. These infirmities can be tackled by some interventional health, wellness and spirituality programmes which can uplift spirit, infuse confidence and curtail lifestyle diseases. In fact, most of the corporations have started spiritual-based leadership programs to instill moral, ethical, personal, family and social responsibility among employees.

In most of the organizations all the four generations are working together. On the one end of age spectrum there are veterans and baby boomers while on the other end there are Gen Xers and Gen Yers. Gen Y has matured in the turbulent time of information, communication and technology. Gadgets like Blackberry, iPod, iPad, MP4, etc. rule their life. This vibrant, creative and innovative generation is wrongly termed as slackers. But do not forget that they are multi-taskers who can work in any environment even with a little domain specific training.

This is the generation who can read e-mail on their mobile phone while riding a car and munching a burger. There is a symbiotic relationship between technology and Gen Y. Gen Y spends much time on internet to hone up their skills. Google is their dearest friend. They love to tweet; they are the users of MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites for scaling their knowledge and also for making meaningful connections. Loyalty has take a back seat for Gen Yers as they do not want to stay in a job for a long time, on an average not more than 2 years in one job. They have read stories of financial bungling like Enron, WorldCom, Satyam, et al. This financial pandemonium has closed their chapter on organizational loyalty. Moreover, they do not believe in annual performance appraisals. They want instant gratification like instantaneous feedback and recognition. In a precarious situation wherein a 22-year-old working with 60-year-old, is bound to create conflict. Their forerunner, Gen X, baby boomers and veterans recognize them as bunch of young, restless, spoiled brats.
Therefore, it is essential to understand Gen Y. The HR culture should become accustomed to their needs and wants so as to build high performance teams for future. The will create dynamic intergenerational workplaces.

Contemporary global meltdown has changed HRM practices. HRM need to strike a strategic balance between organization’s and employee’s aspirations. Application of HRD and OD interventions is the call of the day for better employee management. Traditional HR functions like recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, employee welfare, compensation benefits, etc. were usually related to homogenous groups. Modern organizations have heterogeneous set ups, so HR policies needs to work on patterns innovate techniques like flexi work schedules, fostering team work, promoting multicultural and intergenerational workplace beliefs, leadership building and decreasing work-related stress. To become a winner, organizations need to become more adaptable, resilient, and global. In this manner, HRM practices need to be vibrant and crucial as the workforce is becoming more diverse and skilled.

The author is professor, Rai Business School, New Delhi.