On the back of changes in legislation, in technology, and, of course, with the impact of the pandemic, labor relations at companies have moved so quickly that the lawmakers cannot keep up to cover them. In step with this, the profile of the individuals who manage people at companies is changing, and subjects such as technology or math are becoming more important as they are needed for data analysis and for using algorithms in the management and organization of work.

We are living in a time of changes in labor and social relations which have guided Spanish legislation in the direction of various points on the horizon:

  • towards achieving equal rights between men and women, as well as towards a better balance between private and working life;
  • towards an attempt to secure greater flexibility in labor relations; and
  • towards greater technology use and digitalization.

In essence, it is how labor relations are organized that has changed in a variety of elements such as how the types of leave for childbirth are taken or how career development and promotions are designed to ensure gender equality, to mention only two examples relating to equality and balancing private and working life.

But if we study the consequences that greater technology use and digitalization, globalization and offshoring have had on labor relations, we will find that it is increasingly more common for the same department to have workers providing their services from different parts of the world or areas of the country.

This issue which, from an operating standpoint, may be very straightforward especially considering the wide range of technology now within our reach actually encompasses a number of stumbling blocks and complications for labor relations which Spanish legislation often falls short of resolving and they become challenges to be resolved by companies’ human resource managers.

Just think that, when the work of employees in various different countries is organized in a video call, the labor laws of every one of those countries are being brought to bear at the same time with their own provisions on working hours, timetables, remote working, rights to balance private and working life, risk prevention, etc. This issue takes on greater complexity where a department restructuring has to be confronted and not all members provide their services in the same country. To provide a simple example, how do you determine the workers’ representatives who can act as spokespersons for department members in another country?

It is these and other challenges that human resource managers have recently been dealing with, using discretion and tenacity in many cases. The law and society develop, but without the workers to manage that development with their efforts and proactive thinking, the changes do not go beyond being statements of principles or vague projects.

All of this has made human resource managers experts in international law, in technology, in social media, in balancing private and working life and maybe now even in mathematics, since decisions on the organization and management of work may be made using algorithms. Recently, however, they have had to manage at a more personal level than ever the difficulties caused by a pandemic which we hope we are now leaving behind.

In short, labor relations are moving at a vertiginous pace and we appear to be facing a future full of new challenges for human resource management at companies.