HR Trends with Dr Syed Tarek

We spoke with Dr Syed Tarek about some of the emerging trends in human resource management, and how our CIPD-accredited MA in Human Resource Management can help you get ahead in the world of HR management.


HR in the magnifying glass

If you're looking for insight into the hottest topics in HRM, we caught up with lecturer, Dr Syed Tarek, who talks about the importance of employer branding, the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) and more. 

How important is Employer Branding to a commercial organisation, and what are some of the best examples? 

A strong commercial organisation will need to attract the brightest and best employees from a free labour market. Today, employer branding is seen as a critical way to attract, engage, and retain the best people. A tech firm can promote Friday happy hours as a core attribute, while a business consulting firm can advertise itself to new recruits, with quotes and photos of current employees saying things like 'my co-workers make every meeting seem like a party'.

We now have millennials in the workplace who want a job that feels worthwhile: and they will keep looking until they find it. The answer to attracting and retaining this demographic lies in employer branding. 

Dr Tarek's top employer branding examples 

Google sits at the top of the game in employer branding. They offer a campus-style work environment, and onsite wellness services such as yoga classes and therapeutic massages. Extended with generous parental leave policies and retirement savings plans, they don't just exceed expectations for workplace perks — they set them. Google's commitment to autonomy, lifelong learning, and growth are what keep the stellar talent coming in. 

L'Oreal is the next commercial organisation. After hitting the 300,000-follower mark on social media, L'Oreal didn't just celebrate it; they turned it into a major social media recruiting opportunity, creating the "Are You IN" campaign to attract their LinkedIn page followers. 70% of them were interested in job opportunities. During the campaign, they identified their brand advocates and asked them to share their L'Oreal story. By doing so, they created a long-term social media marketing strategy centred on engaging their top followers and brand enthusiasts. L'Oreal's YouTube channel is consistently updated with several short videos that illustrate what it's like to be an employee of L'Oreal, using real employees. 

How can companies improve employee experience in terms of the physical and mental wellbeing of staff? 

A workforce that is 'well' leads to increased productivity. There is no doubt that working life has changed over the course of the last few years. In many lines of work, we've moved away from traditional, office-based, fixed hours work towards a more flexible approach. Working remotely, accessing emails any time and taking devices on holiday are all commonplace, meaning that for many, there is no clear line between work and home life. 

Whilst there are a lot of positive effects of this more flexible way of working, the blurring of personal and work-life can adversely impact a worker's sense of wellbeing; the more we are tuned into work around the clock, the more we may feel stress. Chronic, long-term stress can lead us to a state of poor physical and/or mental health. 

French legislators have recently introduced a legal right for an employee to disconnect from work. Larger employers are obliged to negotiate with employees on their right to switch off their work phones and email accounts outside working hours and during holidays.

We have heard stories of some companies agreeing to cut email connections in the evenings and at weekends, or automatically deleting emails which are sent to an employee who is on holiday. 

Not many UK employers have followed suit, but we are seeing more initiatives designed at tackling employee wellbeing. This can be anything from simple low-tech solutions such as encouraging people to take a break from their screen during the day or incentivising people to eat lunch away from their desks, to the more time or money intensive options. Gym subsidies, on-site yoga classes, visiting therapists and the engagement of sleep consultants are popular options. 

What opportunities does AI provide for improving Human Resource Management? 

A survey of HR executives by IBM in 2017 found that half of them recognised the power of AI in transforming key dimensions of HR. Indeed, a wise interplay of automation and human engagement implies greater efficiency, and timely delivery of information and correspondence. On the other side, AI recruiters come with an understated yet significant advantage, eliminating unconscious human biases in short-listing candidates. 

As a new employee, you typically expect to be welcomed to an organisation and briefed about your job profile and other important matters. Imagine, a new employee reaching his desk and finding all new hire information in an app or on his laptop, with all details such as reporting authority, team members, and tasks assigned for the first week at work. 

The power to leverage big data also allows us the ability to track not just an employee's performance but also his or her mood over a period of time. Already there are AI platforms in the market created to identify employees that might be heading out. Many organisations are investing in gaming-based programmes that help employees build their key skills while ostensibly playing computer games. 

Are there any negative implications from an HR perspective to the increasing use of AI in the labour force? 
Although AI can virtually remove human error from processes, it can still exist in the code, along with bias and prejudice. Being largely algorithm-based, technology can be coded to have a negative impact on certain demographics and discriminate against people.

Worryingly, if security is not 100%, hackers can take advantage of AI's thirst for knowledge. For example, Microsoft's ill-fated chatbot, TayTweets, had to be taken down after only 16 hours after it started to tweet racist and inflammatory content—ideas it repeated from other Twitter users. 

A recent PwC report detailed that the new technologies such as AI will have an uneven effect on industries. Where sectors like healthcare and education are predicted to benefit, laborious positions such as manufacturing and transport operators are estimated to see the largest decreases in jobs because of the increased presence of AI. Amazon, OCADA, and DHL are heavily investing in AI to increase performance in their warehouses and fulfilment centres. 

Another concern is related to job loss; keeping employees motivated while the AI-based systems take over can prove to be challenging. Perhaps the focus then needs to be on ensuring individuals have the opportunities to retrain and acquire skills that will be needed, and which cannot simply be replaced by AI. It seems that learning to work with AI has the greatest likelihood of leading to a sustainable working environment in the future; humans have skills that, at the moment, AI cannot replicate. Humans are creative, lateral thinkers. 

How does Arden's MA in Human Resource Management equip the HR managers of today for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow? 

Arden's MA in Human Resource Management is designed to prepare the next league of HR leaders, both within the UK and internationally. We teach contemporary HR issues and challenges, such as those facing strategic leaders who need to deal with the complexities of organisational success, acquire talents from a free labour market, and keep the employees motivated by providing a well-planned reward management system.

We also teach Learning and Development, and research skills, so that the future HR leaders are well-equipped to take their next challenging role.

What is the importance of the programme's CIPD accreditation? 

CIPD is a 100-year-old professional body for HR and personnel development in the UK. CIPD has a worldwide community of around 150,000 members. CIPD-accredited qualifications are recognised as the industry's professional standard, with thousands of students signing up to its programmes each year. You will be placed in the front of the queue of the HR job hunters if you have a CIPD-accredited qualification, compared to a non-CIPD accredited qualification. 

If you'd like to hear more from Dr. Syed Tarek about current personnel management issues, and what it's like to study Arden's MA in Human Resource Management, sign up and watch the full webinar here

Bio: Elected as a fellow of several prestigious royal societies, Dr Tarek has been invited to present his policy recommendations to UN bodies, and his recent research explores the HR implications of robots and human employees co-working in the UK warehouse industry.

Dr Syed Tarek