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HR-trends 2023 – Future of HR

What does the future of HR look like?

For the third time now, we set out to find the answer to this question through a study carried out in cooperation with Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Finland. As was the case with the two prior studies, the aim was to examine the impacts of changes in internationality, society, economy and working life on employer organisations and the work tasks and role of HR in organisations.  

Published at the end of 2020, the HRsuunta2023 study differs from its predecessors in that, due to the coronavirus outbreak, it was conducted in fairly extraordinary conditions. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were examined in a separate section.  

The study involved 176 HR management professionals who were asked about their views of the current state of businesses and how it is likely to change within the coming three years.  

In this article, we have collected five HR management trends that are expected to emerge stronger than before in the years to come. 

Trend 1: Responsibility is here to stay 

As phenomena, responsibility and sustainable development are by no means new, which is why it was unsurprising that they were once again brought to the fore. However, the results of the study imply that their significance will continue to increase in the coming years.  

The respondents expected responsibility and sustainable development to have a stronger impact on the decisions and business activities of companies in 2–3 years. 

Those who estimated values related to responsibility to become more prominent in business activities accounted for 79% of the respondents, which is 9% higher than in the previous year’s survey.  

Furthermore, the impacts of sustainable development on companies’ decisions were estimated to increase slightly more than in last year’s survey with regard to all areas (economic, ecological, social and human). 
 

Trend 2: Increasing importance of remote work and flexibility 

Many companies have adopted remote work arrangements only recently due to the COVID-19 emergency, and the significance of these arrangements increased heavily over the course of 2020.  

Of the 108 people who responded to the open question, 84 specifically mentioned that remote work arrangements had been established or expanded in their organisations during the emergency and estimated this to continue to be the case.  

As an interesting detail, half of the respondents estimated that remote work will increase the productivity of work within a span of 2–3 years. This was particularly true of respondents representing small companies with fewer than 50 employees. In addition to this, two-thirds of the respondents believed that flexibility with regard to working hours will increase in the coming years.  

Trend 3: Increasing importance of self-management and the individual 

For quite some time, self-management has been among the leading trends of working life. In practice, it means that responsibility is increasingly shouldered by individuals and teams.  

The results of the survey imply that employees will continue to gain more clout in the near future. The respondents estimate that, in the years to come, employees will have more say on a variety of matters, such as the content of work, system development and organisational changes. 

Conversely, executives and HR experts believe that employees will gain more influence particularly with regard to work methods and feedback practices. 

At the same time, the development of one’s own expertise will become more important than ever.    

As many as 76% of the respondents also estimated that employees will begin to assume more responsibility of their own learning. The majority of the respondents felt that, in the future, independent work will be supported more than before among employees. 
 

Trend 4: Digitalisation impacts things on many levels

The extraordinary conditions brought about by the pandemic have accelerated the transition towards digitalisation in many companies.  

The respondents estimated that developments in digitalisation, automation and robotics will have a significant impact on the facilitation of day-to-day HR work in 2–3 years by eliminating manual work tasks and streamlining and expediting processes and the processing of information.  

These developments will provide HR with more time to focus on other areas, such as planning, coaching and development, which will also serve to shift the role of HR management.   

The respondents found that social media will gain a more prominent role in the recruitment process, the building of employer image, and communications.  

In addition to this, the use of gamification and mobile applications were estimated to increase in the near future.  

  

Trend 5: Organisations will transfer their most important information to digital platforms

The fifth trend, which was already evident in last year’s study, is related to the location and digitalisation of information.  

As a significant departure from last year’s study, the respondents now found that electronic platforms, instead of people, are now organisations’ most important repositories of information.  

In the 2019 study, as many as 88% of the respondents stated that people hold the most important information in organisations. 

In the new study, 86% of the respondents believed that companies are increasingly storing the most important information in electronic platforms.  

The popularity of paper documents continues to decline, and it seems that there will be less and less need to deal with them.  

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are strong

The year 2020 was exceptional in many ways. The coronavirus pandemic gripping the world rapidly upended the daily routines and activities of people, businesses and organisations alike. Faced with the crisis, many were forced to work remotely, which introduced a variety of new challenges.  

In the survey, the impacts of the pandemic were clearly evident in the introduction of new measures and the increase of HR’s work load, reporting and digitalisation. The most substantial challenges were related to occupational well-being, orientation, training and the internal communications of companies.  

Even though the sudden transition to remote working arrangements required effort from management, personnel and HR, the responses imply that the extraordinary conditions also served to accelerate development in companies.  

The positive impacts of the emergency conditions include digitalisation, an increase in preparedness for change, more discussion about soft values and mutual appreciation, and an increased trust in HR management, which became more important than ever during the crisis.  

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