‘Platformization’ of the economy, personal data protection, quality of life at work and overall health: these are all issues that HR will have to deal with.
How do we ensure that tomorrow’s work environment is ‘sustainable’? Our current system has reached its limit and companies need to ask themselves the right questions about their ethical behavior and their actions, driven by legislation.
Creating a new ethical social model
We are experiencing a paradigm shift with new types of jobs and the emergence of ‘extended’ companies, drawing on an ecosystem of talent (freelancers, slashers, experts, etc.). The new business models must be set up so as not to marginalize the various contributors, who are service providers and not employees and who do not have the same rights to social protection or a stable and regular remuneration.
An Uberization of the economy has emerged with the launch of collaborative platforms, such as Uber and Airbnb, putting workers in a difficult position because their freelance status does not provide a legal framework with respect to labor law. They are reduced to simply selling their wares. The platforms, on the other hand, have obtained an interesting and prosperous business model, with no fiscal or social constraints..
The job insecurity of new workers has raised concern. For example in France, in January 2019, the Paris Court of Appeals recognized Uber’s responsibility towards its drivers and decided that they were indeed linked via an employment contract.
HR will need to address these issues to avoid creating a significant salary gap between employees and external contributors in entrepreneurial mode who also create profits for the company. This new role for HR can also contribute to the employer brand Policy and attract talent.
A more ethical skills management approach
HR departments will also need to address, in the interests of fairness and equal treatment, the issues of skills management and training. How will they develop the skills of their employees and external contributors, so they can ensure in the long term that they have sufficient expertise to embrace changes and cope with business developments? HR will have to facilitate access to training for all, both internal and external, and thus avoid being perceived as indifferent to the fate of freelancers who help bring profits to companies.
Another question: how will HR capitalize on the expertise and knowledge of external contributors? They will have to anticipate the capitalization of knowledge in order to take advantage of the experience acquired in the company, despite mobility or the departure of key talent. How knowledge is capitalized will have to be reviewed and companies will have to be increasingly agile, adaptable and resilient to handle the constant changes related to the projects with teams comprised of employees and freelancers.
Ethical and ecological challenges are related
A responsible approach to environmental protection is another example of ethical behavior required. If companies want to attract the younger people entering the labor market who take an interest in ecological impact, then they will have to focus on economic, social and ecological goals, and show that they are not only interested in the financial aspects. For example, in 2018, 13,000 young people from French high schools signed an Ecology Manifesto, which stipulated that they would never work for companies that pollute the environment. Companies are often surprised by young people who do not hesitate to leave if their values are not respected and who are looking for work that will better serve the common good. Today, HR needs to rethink its Employer Brand so that it takes into account companies’ striving to become more responsible.
Finally, HR needs to address the ecological impact of digital technology. People are beginning to realize that digital technology has a significant carbon footprint, though many companies have yet to deal with this issue.
Allow for new appropriate work methods
An ethical HR department will be revealed through the implementation of new work methods, with a great focus on the quality of work life and more generally on the overall health in the workplace.
More than ever, companies must ensure that work-life balance is respected. This is reflected in employee’s ‘right to disconnect’, but also in the development of telework, especially favored by new generations. The increased use of IT tools leads to overload and ‘infobesity’, which can also be a stress factor. HR must make sure that employees are not over-exposed to these factors, since this would be counterproductive.
These are important questions that HR must deal with in its new ‘social’ role in companies of the future!