Future Leader: Joy Breen, head of HR, Wanstor

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HR magazine's future leader highlights the promising career prospects of HR professionals

The impact the last six months has had on mental health, relationships and the effect on productivity is one of main concerns at the moment. People have experienced so much change in both their personal and professional lives.

Remote working presents us with new challenges in terms of nurturing existing relationships and building new ones. We need to unite, anchor, align and motivate our people with consistent messaging across teams and a strong internal comms plan that reinforces vision and values.

HR will always be full of surprises; coronavirus has shown us that we need to be ready for anything. The HR strategy needs to be adaptive.

People professionals should collaborate with tech teams to review tools and processes. This doesn't have to mean big budget digital transformation. By automating what we can and utilising new technologies, we can focus on people, forward thinking and have capacity for the unexpected.

Whether you’re part of an organisation that advocates flexible working or not, the mobilised workforce timeline has been propelled forwards. Managers will benefit greatly from visibility of performance, engagement and mindset in real time.

Not only can HR use these insights to prioritise change to quickly address current issues, but also for planning and continuous improvement – ensuring the organisation stays one step ahead of the competition.

There will forever be too much to do too little time and (until you can clone yourself) HR professionals need to prioritise the high impact, value-adding items. The partnership between HR and line managers is so important. We need to help this relationship to continue to evolve and become more effective.

Every generation talks about understanding the next generation, their changing behaviours, and expectations. It will be interesting to see if having family close and smaller social circles during the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the work ethic, values and relationships of young children today.

Advances in technology will be a part of how the people strategy evolves. If the remote working trend continues, organisations will be made of increasing diverse people potentially based anywhere in the world. We will need innovative ways to intrinsically motivate and enable people to connect on a more personal level.

My goal is for HR to be meaningful, not to do things because of the latest buzzword. It’s important to invest in understanding yourself, your leaders, people, customers, the industry you operate in.

Bring different perspectives into HR through guilds, voice initiatives, engagement surveys and diversity discussion groups. Culture isn’t something for HR to define and influence alone. Use in-depth people knowledge to devise a strategy that’s not just aspirational, but one that unites leadership, the workforce and gets results.

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