The future of work will not be without conflict, report suggests

As uncertainty becomes the norm, HR leaders should look to build a more sustainable talent strategy with better L&D and a long-term vision.
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· 4 min read

Unlike the titular character in That’s So Raven, talent strategists can’t see into the future. But they can make informed guesses.

If current conflicting economic conditions are a sign, the year ahead is likely to be a difficult one for HR teams. Forrester’s Predictions 2023: Future of Work report predicts “a perplexing, talent-constrained recession” in 2023.

“We are navigating uncharted waters,” Forrester VP and principal analyst Katy Tynan said. “Some of the things that organizations would expect to do and get good results out of will actually have the opposite effect.”

HR leaders may have a tall task ahead of them. But the keys to survival—avoiding reactionary strategies, gauging employee sentiment, and supporting internal mobility—are well within their reach, Tynan said.

Look inside. Conventional wisdom suggests that, in anticipation of an economic downturn, companies should consider layoffs, hiring freezes, and other ways to reduce headcount or labor spend. But that’s not necessarily been the case this time around.

“Executives in different industries barely understand each other’s description of the talent situation,” Forrester’s report said, advising leaders to “steer a steady course and avoid reactive moves in response to the headline of the moment.”

A lot of HR policies and procedures are seemingly borrowed or adapted from decades of best practices. Today, that well of knowledge could be a bit less valuable.

“I think organizations are conflicted,” Tynan explained. “They can’t rely on the things that they have done in the past. They may know and be aware of the fact that some of those things will actually hurt them rather than help them, and so they’re struggling with that, and that's creating the conflict and the tension.”

Tynan said one of Forrester’s messages to clients has been “Don’t spend as much time asking what other companies are doing, but rather rely on primary research with your own employees, with your own customers, and and determine what your solution needs to be, as opposed to hoping to adopt someone else’s solution.”

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Forrester’s report suggested that in light of the uncertain economy, some companies may choose to decrease spending on employee experience, but cautioned against doing so.

“You will pay for it in labor retention and low-engagement costs,” the report said. And resist the urge to walk back work-from-anywhere policies, something Forrester expects 40% of hybrid companies may try to do in 2023.

“Don’t be one of the 50% of companies who will battle their employees and suffer loss of productivity due to labor unrest,” the report said.

Support your squad. According to the report, the looming threat of recession and the resulting talent constraints will lead some companies to focus more on what they can accomplish with their current talent, making internal mobility, automation, and reskilling potentially important elements of talent strategies.

In addition to prioritizing internal mobility, Tynan said boosting manager training can also help maximize talent.

Some 65% of companies spend less than $2,500 per leader each year, Tynan said, which  means “frontline leaders are not necessarily getting the support they need,” adding that “so much of the engagement of your workforce depends on the quality of those frontline supervisors.”

“The best bang for the buck for a lot of organizations is to look carefully at how they are supporting their managers, their frontline leaders,” Tynan said, “and how well those folks are equipped to drive engagement and to help make sure that the people on their team are able to be successful in their roles.”—AK

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HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.