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Career management 4.0: The hybrid workplace edition for Industry 4.0

Is the hybrid workspace really the big bad wolf for HR? Can it be tamed? HR needs to assess the changes that a hybrid workspace brings about for employee development, commitment, engagement, and productivity to formulate a better solution

Published: Jan 11, 2022 04:41:50 PM IST
Updated: Jan 11, 2022 04:55:10 PM IST

Career management 4.0: The hybrid workplace edition for Industry 4.0Understanding the changes that a hybrid workspace brings about for employee development, commitment, engagement, and productivity would be a first step in assessing the challenges
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In the last year, the word ‘unprecedented’ has been thrown around callously and abundantly that we have all become saturated. Now maybe we prefer to be in times that are ‘precedented.’ However, workplaces today are still grappling with planning the nuances of working in a hybrid setup. For a majority of businesses globally, strategising for a hybrid and remote working space is an unprecedented challenge. It is ‘all hands on deck’ as far as the HR department is concerned. A crucial part of high-performance work systems in HR is the career management system in an organisation. From socialisation to career planning to career counselling to succession planning to career mobility and training support, the career systems serve several strategic purposes for the organisation and its employees. 

What is the whole fuss about?

Is the hybrid workspace really the big bad wolf for HR? Can it be tamed? Understanding the changes that a hybrid workspace brings about for employee development, commitment, engagement, and productivity would be a first step in assessing the challenges.   

Welcome aboard, here are your headsets and coffee mugs

Organisations that have a focussed strategy of developing an internal talent pool—with employees who are indoctrinated in the culture, have symbiotic value systems, and a high potential to evolve as future leaders—would place a lot of emphasis on their socialisation process for the new members. Those who joined their organisations in the last year have had virtual welcomes. Some organisations such as Netflix, PwC, Facebook sent goodies and welcome kits for a work-from-home setup to their new hires. Others tried to create more appealing orientation sessions by connecting management trainees virtually with senior leaders across the globe, which would not have been possible in the pre-Covid era. In a hybrid setup, the socialisation process takes a major hit, which in turn, has effects on the organisational culture. Organisations have found novel ways of explaining their policies, processes, and systems to the new hires; gamifying the basic information about the organisation, its strategic vision, values, and key personnel.  

However, such information sharing is a part of the orientation toolkit but not the entire process. Socialising new hires to the culture has a higher purpose of aligning their values and goals to that of the organisation, introducing them to the expected norms and codes of conduct, helping them acclimatise with their peers, and guiding them to the desired path of progress in the organisation.   

Moving across a career lattice v/s climbing the career ladder

The inevitable winds of change are blowing in the workspaces with the changing dynamics of modern families, evolving demands of newer generations in the workplace, the proliferation of technology, alternative work arrangements, and an optimistic emphasis on having a multicultural, inclusive, and diverse workforce. In such a scenario, the concepts of career success and career planning have also undergone a major transformation. The old guards would recommend staying for a long time in the same organisation to understand its inner working, gain tactical information, forge strong networks, and rise as a leader within the ranks, displaying loyalty, commitment, and engagement as the sought-after competencies. Organisations, however, may be willing to accommodate the need for autonomy, variety, agility, and the need for challenge and excitement of the millennial generation who prefer protean and boundaryless careers.  

Millennials and Gen Z, the future of our global workforce, prefer looking out for exciting and interesting job profiles that add value rather than just the employer brand or the longevity of their stay with the organisation. In such a scenario, the conventional norm of climbing the career ladder one step at a time may seem too slow and not everyone’s idea of the right career move. Thus, enter the concept of a ‘career lattice.’  

A career lattice is a more adaptive, less traditional, way of managing careers since conceptually, it means extending infinitely in any direction. Having flexibility and agility at its core, the career lattice model is more suited to the ‘Industry 4.0’ model in today's knowledge economy.

The debate of work-life balance has undergone a whole new meaning when ‘home’ and ‘work’ are now the same places.

Organisations need to understand that the newer generation of employees is also thinking of a ‘career-life fit’ along with ‘job-value fit’ and career lattices are apt demonstrations of this shift.

Where do we go from here?

The discussion on the future of work and the evolution of career management is lengthy and cannot be explained in just a few simple points. We can, however, fuel the discussion by pointing out the urgency of the change in mindset and sharing a few ideas to navigate from this point of inflection. Understanding the meaning of career success for your employees in the varying demographics would give you a fair idea of designing alternative career development strategies. Encouraging employees to be active in planning their short term and long-term career goals while also investing in building skills and competencies not just for their present jobs but also for future jobs would definitely be an added advantage for organisations aiming to be more agile.

Dr Tanvi Mankodi, Assistant Professor, People and Performance Area, SPJIMR
Dr Sushmita Srivastava,  Associate Professor, People and Performance Area, SPJIMR

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[This article has been reproduced with permission from SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai. Views expressed by authors are personal.]

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