Many traditional approaches to HR management may no longer be relevant in the face of complex and multifaceted challenges. So what are the key considerations for navigating through a rapidly changing environment?

1. Seeing the big picture.

Working with boards and business teams, it will be important to look ahead to how your marketplace and customer expectations are likely to change and how can you reshape your strategy and operations to take advantage of the developments ahead. You can then judge the types of people needed to deliver your strategy and how you’re going to develop, hire or re-assign them. 

2. Shaping a compelling employer brand.

What attracts people to particular organisations is more varied and complex than just pay and even career opportunities. Attributes ranging from the values of the organisation to work-life balance and a pleasant working environment all influence the decision. As competition for talent heats up, it will be important to actively shape a compelling employer brand that promotes your unique characteristics and values, rather than just relying on above market rates of pay.

3. Look for talent in new places.

As traditional pools of talent become exhausted, it will be important to look at new and untapped sources. For example, what would enable your business to attract people who want to re-train or return to work after a career break? Could people taking on-the-job e-degrees be more motivated and employable than their counterparts from elite universities?

4. Embrace partnerships.

Many leading organisations are moving from a solely in-house approach to training and innovation by nurturing new ‘eco-systems’. This might be funding and support for new start-ups. Corporations can also develop apprentice schemes that seek to provide skilled technicians for their suppliers as well as their own needs. Examples include Rolls-Royce’s state-of-the–art new apprentice academy in Derby.

5. Re-embrace learning.

Investment in learning and development is actually falling (from £1,680 in 2011 to £1,590 per employee in 2013 according to the latest UK Commission for Employment and Skills). This is unsustainable. It’s going to be very difficult to meet skills needs without renewed investment in apprenticeships and graduate training. 

6 Embrace flexibility.

Contract and flex-workers are going to form a crucial part of your ability to keep pace with constantly evolving and fluctuating demands while containing costs. Databases of skills needs and where to find the people to meet them will be crucial. It will also be important to develop fast and effective on-boarding procedures.

7. Embrace agility. 

Today’s marketplace demands people who can quickly move from assignment to assignment. Training and career development should therefore be less focused on specialist skills and more on creating adaptable skills.

8. Embrace diversity.

As businesses look to become more customer-centric, it will be even more important that the diversity of your customers is reflected in the diversity of your workforce. This includes both different types of people and a broad range of perspectives. Different recruitment and retention strategies are likely to be needed to open up opportunities to under-represented groups. For example, PwC has now introduced an apprentice scheme for consultants to run alongside its conventional graduate programmes. It has also set up a community for parents who have taken a career break to look after their children, which can help to attract them back and make it easier for them when they return.

9. Challenge generational stereotypes.

It doesn't necessarily follow that older workers need to vacate posts for younger people to move into them. The impact of technology and the need to get closer to customers will generally lead to flatter and less hierarchical structures, in which people take on multiple roles within their careers. Many of these roles will be quite new – social media managers are now commonplace, for example, and many other new posts will be created as digitisation continues to take hold. 

Moreover, technological skills aren't the preserve of the young. The baby boomer generation has spearheaded many of the innovations that have created the new digital world and their creativity and sense of the possible will continue to be crucial. Moreover, the new breed of digital natives include as many older as younger people – people over 50 actually spend more on technology (tablets, smartphones etc.) than Generation X and Y.

10. Focus resources.

Younger generations are going to be more mobile. It’s therefore important to identify and focus resources on a relatively small number of current staff that your business can’t afford to lose. Others can be kept close through social media and alumni communities, which will provide a source of talent for future recruitment.