Challenges facing HR managers in volatile business environment

World requires leaders who are versatile and adaptive. FILE PHOTO | NMG
World requires leaders who are versatile and adaptive. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Businesses today are operating in a very uncertain time. Indeed the acronym VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) has been coined to describe the kind of disruptive environment that managers and leaders have to contend with as they run organisations.

It is against this backdrop that critical human resource issues arise. Top among them is the issue of sourcing manpower to serve the needs of the organisation into the future.

The sourcing must not only ensure diversity, but it should also consider localisation of such talent within sites hosting the business operations.

Global companies are therefore supposed to ensure that communities that are hosting their operations offshore are included when sourcing talent but again not at the expense of the requisite skills that might come with expatriating certain specialised talent.

In Kenya, we have seen communities rising against global companies demanding inclusion of local talent at all levels of the organisation. Having a perfect harmony is therefore a challenge for HR managers.

Sourcing must also not only be transparent but there must be meritocracy to ensure that the right skills and talents are recruited.

Attracting top talent, therefore, remains a key challenge for businesses especially with intense competition across sectors.

Beyond traditional benefits and incentives, HR managers are now being challenged to think outside the box into flexible schedules, stake options, profit-sharing and ways of creating an experience for the workforce to stay committed and engaged.

As businesses leverage technology into their operations to build effective customer experience and robust systems, the challenge is the resultant effect of automation on human resource.

Increasingly, technology and artificial intelligence are being used to undertake certain mechanical and repetitive tasks thus threatening certain jobs.

The key challenge for HR managers is the dilemma of whether to reduce the headcount with increased automation or to upskill their talent as they prepare them for the next higher level contribution and how to justify the decision not only to stakeholders but also to the society in view of increasing scrutiny and reputational stakes.

Talking of reputation, the other challenge that HR managers have to contend with is the increasing need to create an exciting work experience for their employees and equally executing its business as a good corporate citizen. The two are critical not only for effective recruitment of top talent, but also employee engagement for business results.

Making the workplace an experience enables companies to entrench their business culture and values in the workplace and also leverage on the same to recruit and retain top talent.

To this end, the emergence of a gig global economy is increasingly becoming a new challenge for businesses and HR managers who have to contend with the dichotomous situation of just having the work done rather than employing people versus employees who are seeking diverse skills set and experiences.