The last few years have brought about significant changes in the way businesses operate, and as we move forward, the landscape continues to evolve. While some companies are eager to return to a pre-Covid work environment, others, like Spotify, are embracing the Working From Anywhere initiative and exploring new ways of working.
As we forge ahead in this uncharted territory, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your organisation and leaders. It may feel tempting to revert to old ways of doing things, but making decisions lightly could lead to missed opportunities for growth and progress. Instead, focus on your focus, staying attuned to the pulse of your business, and being open to learning and adapting as needed.
This year, the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging landscape will be shifting its focus to Equity. HR professionals will be tasked with making systematic changes that have lasting impact, rather than relying on visible but reactive campaigns. As you navigate this new terrain, be bold and audacious, but also realistic and brave. Challenge your old ways and be willing to let go of your darlings, but always stay in touch with the business and communicate your intentions clearly to bring your people along on the journey with you. All management is change management.
With so many uncertainties, it’s harder and harder to make annual predictions or call out the biggest relevant trends of the coming months. It’s clear that the macroeconomic situation is the biggest driver for now, and this global headwind will consolidate people initiatives and investments, with a call to make them a bit less stretched and more sober. This need to streamline seems to make things more conformational, and whilst this is true to some degree, many HR teams need to make the realisation that there’s a necessity to carve their own paths of how they design and evolve their people strategy. And so therefore, we can still dare to say that we remain in the ‘defining’ years – a new era of HR.
Are we merely existing or are we truly living? This is a question that has plagued humanity since the dawn of time. We are told to chase our dreams, follow our passions, and strive for success, but what if success means nothing? When it comes to the success of a sustainable business, both business skills and engineering skills play a crucial role. Reprising and re-evaluating these skills is essential in an ever-changing landscape, and the ability to adapt and evolve places a central role. The key is to find a balance between technical expertise and business acumen, and continually pressure-test your ways of working, your ability to make decisions and execute and when needed refine your strategy.
With that in mind, it makes sense to be responsible for your own choices and prioritisation. By that I mean, checking your alignment with the business, carrying out a kind of ‘state of the nation’ that takes into account both where we as a profession should be, and where we, as partners to a culture-based business, should be putting our energy. In the same way every individual should remind themselves that staying in an organisation where they do not trust the leadership, agree with the mission, or are not onboard with the ways things are done, actually reflects badly on them.
As is already obvious to many, much of the focus for 2023 is going to continue to be on the macroeconomic environment. Some industries are struggling more than others, but in general, growth will slow down across the globe in 2023, where most countries are experiencing either recession or sluggish economies. That said, what is happening right now is new – to see rising inflation and almost certain global recession, but simultaneously experience very low unemployment numbers in comparison to other challenging economic times in history.
Decisions being made by many businesses are steered by the need to be prudent. Yes, a challenging macroeconomic environment does create anxieties for everyone, and a lot of companies will do their best to avoid making decisions that impact their employees. However, it’s important, as an HR professional and business person, not to bury your head in the sand. If you don’t think, plan and adjust for today’s situation, there will be more serious and difficult consequences down the line.
With financial equity being somewhat restricted in this environment, HR teams and managers might be thinking that there’s not a lot they can do. But there is an opportunity to put even more focus on building loyalty through company culture. There’s never been a bigger need (and opportunity) for you to put focus on the impact that your people strategy can have.
As HR Pros we might be a bit sick of the “upskill,” “cross-skill,” “offskill,” and similar skill-related buzz terms, but skills really are the currency for the future. The idea of continual professional growth needs to be at the centre of your strategy. This goes for the business and for individuals since there will be fewer and less linear career paths. We saw it in 2022 (and 2021) – a skills-first future is on the rise.
In today’s world there must be transparency of the skills needed and what support employees can get to acquire skills. Your role as HR is to help employees find new ways to expand their career portfolio and stay current for today’s world, whether that’s for work within your organisation and for expansion and evolution of your business competencies, or for someone who may be considering another role or organisation in the future. The opportunity to develop skill sets will serve your culture, and talent attraction and retention in the longer-term. We will see the brave lead with learning: hiring, promoting, and developing team members on skills.
The Future of Work: A Brave New World
The last few years have brought about sweeping changes in the way we work, and the winds of change are continuing to blow. As the WFH era brought on by Covid-19 comes to a close, organisations and employees alike are grappling with the “career FOMO” that comes with ‘back-to-the office’ or the flexibility of smart work. While companies may be pushing for a return to old ways of working, employees are seeking greater autonomy and flexibility. It’s a tricky balancing act, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
At Spotify, we’re embracing the challenge by evolving our “Working From Anywhere” initiative, which sets us apart from many other organisations. But no matter where your company falls on the spectrum, it’s important to engage in ongoing dialogue and experimentation with your people to determine the best approach for your business. This is uncharted territory, and the only way to forge a path is to be open to learning, seek input, and stay in touch with the pulse of the business.
Embracing Equity in Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging
2023 marks a pivotal year in the quest for greater equity in diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. It’s time for HR professionals to shift away from a focus on disparate programs and projects and put their energy into creating systemic change that will have a lasting impact. With everything under a microscope, now is the time to get creative and audacious in organising and structuring your business to have a real impact on your people strategy and employees.
I have a mantra that has served me quite well over the years: “challenge your chosen truth” – meaning it’s hard and scary but rewarding to break free from old ways of thinking and embrace the charge of change. But change isn’t always easy, and it’s important to stay grounded by communicating your “why” and managing expectations as you move forward. Focus on what truly matters, and don’t be afraid to let go of your darlings and make bold decisions. In this brave new world of work, staying in touch with the business and being intentional in all you do will be key to success.
Reprising and Re-Evaluating Skills
As the business landscape evolves, it’s important to keep an eye on the skills that are becoming more or less valuable in the job market. The old adage “adapt or die” has never been more apt. The truth is that technology and the way we work is advancing so rapidly that if we don’t embrace the changes and work to upskill, we will be left behind.
Now is the time to reprise and re-evaluate the skills you bring to the table including the way you reward skills. Identify any areas where you can upskill, both as a profession but also as an organisation. This could be anything from learning a new programming language to mastering a new project management method. And, if you’re looking to pivot, think about where you want to do it, and what skills you need to get there.
At Spotify, we value continuous learning, and we encourage our employees to embrace new technologies, learn new skills, and embrace new ways of working. Whether that’s through on the job learning, taking online courses, attending workshops, or simply asking questions, we believe that the more you know, the better you’ll perform in your role. So, if you’re feeling career FOMO, remember that you have the power to shape your own destiny. Invest in your skills, and be open to new opportunities – you never know where they might take you.
As the business world continues to evolve, it’s becoming increasingly clear that both technical engineering skills and business skills are critical to the success of a sustainable business. While engineering skills are important for the development and implementation of innovative technologies, business skills are necessary for the strategic planning and execution of these technologies in a profitable manner.
On one hand, having a strong engineering team with advanced technical knowledge allows a business to stay ahead of the competition and maintain a competitive advantage. However, without a strong understanding of the market and business operations, this advantage can quickly fade. Business skills such as financial management, marketing, and leadership provide the foundation for making sound business decisions that drive growth and profitability.
In today’s business world, it’s important to have a balance of both technical and business skills to achieve long-term success. Companies that prioritise both areas are better equipped to understand and respond to market changes, maintain strong relationships with customers, and create innovative products that meet their needs. Additionally, companies that invest in the development of their employees’ technical and business skills are more likely to retain top talent and build a strong, sustainable business.
It’s important to re-prioritise and re-evaluate skills regularly, as the skills necessary for success today may not be the same tomorrow. Companies that continuously invest in the development of their employees’ skills, both technical and business-related, are better positioned to stay ahead of the curve and maintain a sustainable business in the long term.
In conclusion, as we navigate the ever-shifting landscape of work, it’s important to stay intentional and focused on your goals. Continuously evaluate your approach, seek self leadership, and be open to learning and adapting as needed. With a combination of business skills, engineering skills, and a commitment to equity and diversity, you can ensure the success and sustainability of your organisation for years to come.