14 Ways HR is changing and how you can stay ahead of the curve

HR is changing. Human Resources Directors need to be on top of their game to get the very best out of today’s fluid and demanding workforce.

HR is changing

Human Resources. You know, that unfamiliar team sandwiched in the far corner of the office. The faces of which you see only twice (hopefully) during your tenure at a business; once when you start and once when you leave. That version of HR couldn’t be more outdated. In fact, you may have replaced your HR with a CPO. 

Most firms have wised up to the importance of an integrated people team in keeping the broader workforce motivated, satisfied and happy. But being an HR Director takes more than being a “people person” in today’s competitive landscape. Technology might be weeding out the ambiguities around the employment process, but a good HR Director can play an integral role as a conduit between board vision and employee realisation. Here are 14 ways how the role is evolving and why your firm needs to keep pace… 

1.Coronavirus and HR

HR plays a crucial role in the future of businesses. Whether it’s making sure the workplace is safe to return too, or the tougher job of looking at who should return. As Tracy Bower suggests in her Forbes article, “HR can facilitate dialogues that help ensure the right amounts of reinvention, re-proportioning and re-prioritising of business goals to adapt to shifting customer demands and markets in response to the crisis created by Covid-19.

2. How HR can engage the community (but manage them too)

In the old days, it was about top-down internal communications. I now see HR needing to become far more dynamic in the way that they manage the employee community. HR needs to ensure Glassdoor.com does not become the forum for the disgruntled and that an internal movement for positive growth is created.  

3. Human capital is dead, long live behavioural science

The age of human capital is dead. The Victorian factory is over and if we are to get the best out of people we must understand the psychology of managing people. There is so much out there that could help HR leaders to develop, but often we’re still talking about left and right brain. In the future, HR Directors will be well-versed in cognitive biases, game theory and behavioural psychology.

4. People persons who can crunch numbers

True HR leaders understand not just the people but also the numbers around the business. This means considering a range of factors such as: 

  • the labour percentage required to deliver results
  • how they can create a more agile and deliberately productive structure
  • an understanding of comparative markets and/or competitors
  • what they learn from the above concerning their structure
  • the ability to apply digital techniques to create a lean environment in which results is achieved with reduced bureaucracy. 

5. Say yes to HRDs who say ‘no’

CEOs are looking for HR Directors that will be customer-centric business partners. HR leaders must be confident to express their true opinion, not be survivors that back bad decisions. Being a leader is not about blindly following but having a vision and executing it, having gained the backing of the CEO and the team.

6. Organisational Design that goes beyond simple lines and boxes

When it comes to organisational design, too often the focus is on boxes and lines rather than the informal organisation. Statistical efficiencies are fine but do not deliver the optimum performance of the business. Find out more about how we can work with your HR team to optimise your organisational structure

7. Always on the hunt for internal talent

Progressive HR Directors can identify future leaders within the business and what development they will need to get them there. Knowing where the talent gaps are, what is required in terms of those people over the next period and using a combination of both internal and external resources allows the business to grow internal talent.

8. Motivating employees is more than a figure

When speaking to several Chairmen, one of the concerns about HR is that they rarely understand the numbers around reward and benefit, pensions and bonuses. Traditionally HR Directors consider the size of the incentive rather than the non-financial motivations. When it comes to financial benefits, they tend to delegate to finance….

9. Know their numbers

Thinking about the impact of the national living wage, apprenticeship levies and increasing pension contributions require HR Directors to be financially savvy. Although not a Finance Director, HR leaders still need to have the financial numeracy and literacy to be able to model the situations. They’ll then work together with finance to make reward models work. 

10 Work beyond their department

Business partnering is something that has been talked about for a long time. But, this is often viewed in a very traditional sense i.e. that HR is there to help make the business partners’ life easier but in a supportive sense. However, they need to be able to provide solutions in an upward management style rather than waiting for the requirement to appear.

11. Empathy is not just “tea and sympathy”

Whilst CEOs don’t want tea and sympathy-type leaders, what they do want are people that represent the conscience of the organisation and will think about the people in a softer sense. It is interesting to note that many CEOs see HR Directors as not being interested in the people themselves. 

12. Embrace the new – science vs art

True HR Directors think differently about how people are developed. In the past, there has been too great an emphasis on traditional coaching and tuition. Now CEOs are looking for HR Directors to provide more intuitive ways which harness new/digital techniques to get their people from A to B. 

When it comes to digital, a lot of HR directors think this is simply ‘getting things online’. Employee handbooks in a digital format or tech tools to assess individuals or track development are the tips of the iceberg. HR Leaders need to think about how they are using digital to its best effect. There has been a lot of discussion around HR analytics and what leads to success. A progressive HR Director uses a combination of “science” and “art” on digital platforms. It’s easy to focus on the finite numbers but, thinking holistically about, the informal organisation, target operating model and HR analytics, may lead to reaching status quo quicker.

13. Culture is more than a buzz word

When it comes to culture, the HR Director needs to be the ambassador for what this truly means within the organisation. Far too often, the HR Director is the enforcer of culture that the CEO might suggest. 

Julie Stich, CEBS, Vice President, Content, at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) agrees, “As we create a working environment—be it in the office or home offices—employers need to consider how the company culture is impacting their teams.” This is often a changing picture particularly considering the millennial generation and their changing attitudes to the workforce. 

14. The B-Word

In terms of Brexit, there is great concern around the available workforce. This is particularly true in technology and high-end luxury. Whilst UK talent demonstrates expertise in these areas, they can’t produce all the talent required for a modern organisation.

HR will need to think about international hubs and some level of outsourcing with other countries where talent may be coming from. They’ll also consider how to safeguard the European talent that we have in the country. Ensuring they feel welcome enough to stay behind, will continue to be a key focal point for any HR Director.

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