New workforces, new workplaces, new work practices

The Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI) recently hosted Shift20, a virtual conference exploring critical themes of tomorrow's workplaces and how Human Resource (HR) Leadership and practice can help guide organisations to a thriving future.

There were some key takeaways from the conference with inventive ideas sitting alongside logical discussion points regarding COVID-19 and our new reality. HR departments are well-positioned to foster workplaces into future business environments, using the following themes as markers along the way.


Always an essential basis for contemporary business practice - Employers need to be transparent, authentic and flexible.

The ability of an employer to nurture an environment where clear communication is valued will contribute to positive outcomes across many workplace aspects. Being open and listening to employee concerns validates their points of view, inviting them to identify and develop workable solutions. Communication is key to countering discontent (which can erode morale and efficiency over time if left to fester).


One thing 2020 has shown us all is just how essential resilience is to our lives; as individuals and as organisations. Dealing with COVID-19 is the imperative of our time - business survival and long-term prosperity hinge on our ability to be resilient. Meaning, we need to have the ability to absorb a shock and come out of it better than competitors.


Re-think your business model - tweaking aspects is not enough. Resilience is now as crucial to strategic thinking as cost and efficiency. Your organisation's ability to navigate new challenges towards a better future is dependant on actions taken now, which build an environment for resilience to thrive.


Leaders have a significant impact on their employee's well-being. Leaders who are caring and compassionate can help buffer the adverse effects of the anxiety which workers are experiencing around COVID-19 and the economy.

As a leader, focusing attention to the personal concerns of your workers is a great way to enhance their professional well-being and mindset. Positivity, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Health are elements of a caring culture where individuals are not just workers.


As part of long-term business solutions, authenticity is a gold standard for leadership. Authentic businesses inspire and prosper - the more virtual our lives become, the more we crave genuine relationships.

Genuine business authenticity is about changing the emphasis on giving instead of taking. Investing in employees, supporting communities and dealing ethically with suppliers and stakeholders are critical drivers of business success, internally and externally.

Organisations that encourage authentic practices immediately differentiate themselves from the competition: an authentic business environment is the most significant competitive edge in business today.


Organisations with a strong sense of purpose can transform and innovate more effectively. A purpose-driven organisation is more efficient and more popular with its stakeholders.

Purpose provides a clear context for decision making, as teams and employees pursue objectives with a firm intention. Established purpose improves strategies of recruitment and retention through genuine alignment of the work to the team.

For your purpose to matter, it needs to go beyond words on a document. Connected to the company's needs, aims and vision, the purpose will mold perceptions of the business to everyone it interacts with – becoming the organisational identity.


While some industries have been crippled through the global pandemic, other industries have flourished. It is more important than ever to prepare your business for change and ensure your employees know their workplace is safe, adaptable and can provide job security for the future. While the themes taken from the conference are not new, they should certainly be considered in a new light as we all navigate new work practices during a time of uncertainty.