The UAE workforce may continue to see significant changes over the next one to two years. A new KPMG report revealed that nearly a quarter (23%) of employees may continue to work remotely, while more than a quarter (28%) will likely require upskilling. The Future of HR in the New Reality captures the perspectives of local human resources (HR) executives on preparing their organizations and HR functions for the future.

Nearly every organization is prioritizing people, as they grapple with pre-existing and new challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. Although nearly all (89%) of HR professionals agreed that the function played a leading role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, it may be time for HR to reinvent itself. For example, considering rapid changes, HR professionals may take a different approach to measuring and improving productivity and workforce-related challenges to drive competitive advantage over the medium-to-long term, rather than focusing on short-term issues.

Marketa Simkova, Partner, Head of People & Change at KPMG Lower Gulf, said: “As HR leaders adapt to an unpredictable future, their focus tends to be on short-term firefighting to cope with immediate challenges. It is crucial to play the long game in order to thrive in the new reality. To do so, HR leaders may create a seamless, tech-enabled employee experience in a remote work environment, take ownership of the employee rebuilding and reskilling journey, and embrace analytics and data science to prove the impact of the HR function.”

From facilitating the transition to remote working, to implementing and communicating health measures in the workplace, HR has been at the forefront of the Covid-19 crisis. While most business leaders and employees view the function’s response to the crisis in a favorable way, some decision makers believe HR needs to be bolder and prove its strategic worth.

The KPMG survey shows that 62% of HR executives believe the function needs to completely reimagine and transform itself to respond more effectively to future disruption. Half (50%) of HR professionals agree that the function is considered to be an “administrator” rather than a “value driver.” Eighty-six percent of HR executives believe the function needs to rethink productivity and performance measures in light of the shift to remote working.

As the report underscores, HR’s role should be that of a workforce architect in the new normal — identifying the right workforce mix, retraining leaders for remote environments, driving tech-focused programs and embracing digital learning solutions. Challenging and exciting times lie ahead, as HR professionals reinvent to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced and unpredictable business environment. A modernized approach to understanding and planning for the future needs of the workforce is quintessential to driving value for employees and the business.