Posted on 16 Oct 2015

October 16th 2015

Sylvia


Written by Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, PageUp Senior Vice President, Research.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” If you’ve talked to anyone in the Human Resources field lately, you might have heard some version of Chicken Little’s proclamation. Why the distress signal from HR?

Because Human Resources as we know it is on the fast track to obsolescence.

What we know: the workforce fabric is changing, thanks to disruptive technologies, changing demographics and a new workforce composition. Technology trends like social, mobile and cloud connectivity have already altered how, where and when people want to work, while robotics, artificial intelligence and smart technology are making many existing jobs a thing of the past.

The mass exodus of baby boomers from the workplace means that the skills shortage – already at crisis levels – is just a taste of what’s to come. Meanwhile, the digital-first millennials are arriving with elevated expectations of life in the workplace. And how do you go about being an effective leader and getting top business results when your team is a complex cocktail of full-timers, part-timers, contractors, freelancers, job sharers and virtual workers?

The Future Is Uncertain But…

Already, 40% of people believe that traditional employment models will cease to exist. Instead individuals will manage their own personal brand and sell their skills in an open market.

To thrive in this evolving landscape, organizations must reshape their understanding of how these significant changes are affecting their markets and their workforces. Yet, in many cases, a fundamental misalignment exists between what companies need to do and the talent management strategies they currently have to execute on business objectives. The reality is, HR often is being dragged along the journey, rather than rethinking its role to find ways to deliver strategic value to the business.

HR is facing an identity crisis. More than three-quarters of HR professionals admit that they are not factoring the evolving and volatile landscape of the future into their long-term business planning. Although many Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) are concentrating their efforts on optimizing employee engagement and building corporate culture, many more are still struggling with how to link HR to real business needs.

The necessity of proactively planning for the future is a reality that HR must face. HR needs to acknowledge and understand that technology will continue to transform the global economy and prepare now for the workforce changes to come.

A New Vision For HR

So how can HR reconnect and embrace the future? Instead of focusing on merely remaining relevant to the business, HR needs to master new skills, such as strategic vision, business immersion and expert consultancy to transform itself and take a leadership stand.

Expect to see an evolution of today’s HR models, leading to a fragmentation of traditional HR functions and the emergence of new designs. No need to bemoan the disconnect that currently exists, HR should focus forward to explore and plan for a new future that includes:

  1. The extinction of transactional-based HR roles:

Good-bye to HR admin and low-level support. HR departments everywhere have shrunk, leaving many under-resourced and forcing them to focus their time on transactional functions rather than strategic support. Technology has a clear and undisputed role to play here and the pressure to reduce HR admin headcount should be embraced as means to accelerating the automation of transactional HR activities and talent management.

This will unlock the next wave of the evolution by making it increasingly easier to embed HR transactions into line manager and employee workflows. The resulting efficiencies as well as higher employee satisfaction and engagement will continue to drive the uptake of employee and manager self-service tools. With greater visibility across the organization, managers will take responsibility for talent acquisition and performance, driving talent mobility strategies. Seamless user interfaces and collaborative, experiential learning driven by employees will enable employees to customize their employment experience to their needs.

  1. The metamorphosis of HR practitioners into coaches, enablers and strategic decision makers:

So what will the HR folk be doing then? HR will become a talent enabler –  guiding, coaching, and empowering line managers to connect with their talent and embrace these talent management responsibilities. Line managers will own the talent management of their teams much as they own operational productivity outcomes today.

Unshackled from the HR minutia, HR will be freed to further increase workforce engagement by focusing on the employee experience and delivering on the technology and consumer-driven expectations of their current and future employees. HR also will work closely with data scientists and workforce strategists to identify and develop future leaders who have the dual ability to manage and engage people as well as drive strategic operational outcomes.

  1. The emergence of HR professionals focused on analytics and workforce management:

It’s time to walk the talk on HR analytics. Despite organizational demands for data-driven, strategic HR outcomes, 70% of organizations still have not taken steps to help HR improve its ability to deliver on those demands. Soon, a new breed of HR professionals with strong analytic skills and high business acumen will emerge – and likely will be found outside the traditional pool of HR practitioners.

These data scientists and workforce strategists will enable a holistic view of the business by working hand in hand with other business units to meld talent management, operational and financial data. Talent management decisions that drive business outcomes will be possible thanks to the use of talent data in predictive scenario modeling. Enabled by wearables and the Internet of Things, rich productivity data, real-time data on wellness and location of talent information will help HR shape and drive business decisions.

HR is transforming. It is clear that the function must prepare for its own reinvention or risk extinction. For HR professionals with the mindset and skill set required now and tomorrow, there is no disconnect. Become one of these.