A headshot of a blonde woman smiling at the camera with some large, leafy indoor plants behind her.
Audrey Bell. Image: Huawei Ireland

‘To get the best talent, we need to be constantly changing’

8 Sep 2021

Huawei Ireland’s Audrey Bell discusses the challenges facing the workforce of the future and how companies can attract top talent.

The challenges employers are set to face in the future of work are no longer far off in the distance, but in the here and now due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Companies and leaders must reassess virtually all of their workplace policies, from security and data storage standards to employee wellbeing guidelines.

Audrey Bell, senior HR manager at the Huawei Ireland Research Centre, told Siliconrepublic.com that in order to face these challenges, employers will need to be able to adapt and really listen to what their employees and interview candidates are asking for.

‘Work-life balance is the conversation of the moment’
– AUDREY BELL

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What challenges and opportunities face the workplace and workforce of the future?

The workplace as we know it has been under pressure to change for the past few years. As employees begin to put a higher value on benefits like work-life balance, family-friendly initiatives, career development and location flexibility, employers have been under pressure to provide their employees with solutions and new opportunities.

Now more than ever, these factors are hugely influential when an employee is choosing a new employer. The future workplace is a hybrid working model that puts a premium on a challenging career and the flexibility to do it anywhere.

The challenges for the employer in adopting the new workplace demands will be to prioritise mental health and wellbeing, motivation and productivity, company culture, innovation and collaboration from a distance.

What key trends do you foresee in relation to workplace dynamics?

The structure of teams is changing, in particular in global organisations. Nowadays a team is not just the traditional group of people sitting in the same area of a building on the fourth floor any more – a team could be spaced out all over the globe.

Technology is key to ensuring that the channels of communication work smoothly. Even more importantly is a team manager who can make that team feel like they are part of something bigger.

Technology aside, regular communication and coming together at one-on-ones and team meetings, as well as providing coaching and mentoring, still remain major tools to help create and develop a sense of teamwork.

Collaborative workspaces are a requirement – forums where employees can share their knowledge with colleagues and ask questions about projects they are working on, sharing ideas and comparing notes.

What part will diversity and inclusion play in the workforce of the future?

The tech company of today has to search further afield for the best talent and in doing this, they are automatically fostering a more diverse culture. Introducing grad and intern programmes and investing in women in technology programmes will also add to an organisation’s diversity.

A company that does not invest in its diversity and inclusion programmes and practices risks alienating the very top talent that they are seeking to hire.

Work-life balance is arguably central to job satisfaction.  How can it be better achieved in the future?

Work-life balance is the conversation of the moment. Flexibility, remote working, hybrid working, these are all on the agenda of employees preparing to return to work following the pandemic restrictions. The candidates are asking these questions at interviews, the employees are asking HR what our plans are.

The job of the organisation is to find a way of allowing the employee to have the flexibility that they require without it being to the detriment of productivity and meaningful collaboration.

We’ve seen immense increases in salary, particularly in tech.  Do you think salaries in your sector will trend upwards or will we start to see other benefits coming to the fore?

I believe salaries will continue to trend upwards as long as the cost of living continues to rise, depending on where a person is in their life journey. If they are trying to buy a house, pay rent, start a family or support a family, the net income an employee takes home is always going to be a priority. But the benefits and policies that the organisation have are now becoming a very strong factor in that negotiation when hiring a candidate.

Flexibility, holidays, family-friendly policies, career development and health and wellbeing programmes are all part of that conversation now and have a significant importance in the candidates’ final decision.

We’re currently deep in the world of data. What part will data play in developing the future of work?

The positions of data scientists and chief data officers are relatively new but the need for these specialists is growing.

Data has always been collected but the future of data collection and storage is in the ongoing development of cloud platforms, machine learning, data security and privacy.

It is believed that a computers’ ability to learn from data will improve considerably due to more advanced unsupervised algorithms, deeper personalisation and cognitive services. As a result, machines will be able to read emotions, drive cars and treat patients.

The future workplace will need the talent and skills to continue to innovate in this space.

We’re looking at a more automated future, as AI and bots become more sophisticated. How do you think this will affect roles in your sector?

R&D is at the forefront of AI development and investment in this area is a priority. There is a requirement for people with the skills and passion to visualise the future and build it. Huawei will prioritise investment over the next five years to build a global AI ecosystem through collaboration with industry, academia and hiring top talent.

Where do you believe we will be seeing job growth and development?

As the world becomes increasingly advanced and interconnected, technology R&D is not going anywhere. AI, data storage and management – these sectors are always creating new and improved technology and I am excited to see what the future holds.

What will companies need to do to attract and support the best talent?

Career development, flexibility, and reward and recognition. Employees want to be challenged and have a purpose, so company culture and values are extremely important. If an employee feels fulfilled and happy in their role, they will continue to be engaged and will only look to develop and move across an organisation rather than out of it.

How do companies need to change right now to be ready for the future of work?

Listen to the employees and candidates at interview. What are they asking for? What are they passionate about? Start to make the changes now, it will take time and investment.

A truly happy and engaged employee is one who loves their job, they feel challenged and appreciated, they feel that they are contributing to the future.

To get the best talent, we need to be constantly changing and adapting. What seems to work today may not work tomorrow, so continuous open communication is key.

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