How Must HR Adapt to Changing Times?

A great many changes are taking place in business and society in general. Many people express concerns about the role of HR in the future. With the advances of technology and moving towards robotics there are likely to be less employees and particularly less managers and supervisors as much of their past role will be eliminated. It will vary greatly, of course, depending on the size and type of organization, but it will be a lot different. We, in Human Resources, can go with the flow and see where that leads us or we can try to reposition HR now so we are ready and adaptable to business needs as they change. Some key considerations are:

We must be supremely flexible and structure our various HR functions as simply as possible, almost like modules that holistically are integrated but separable for any necessary updating and adaptation to changing circumstances
Our data source and measurable activity data should flow from and into the main companywide system and be manipulated in conjunction with other data to provide consolidated intelligence on many aspects of the business e.g. product costs and costs of sales
Stand-alone and cumbersome programs should be discarded to the extent possible and whenever possible replaced by system generated solutions. This could apply to performance management with performance levels determined online reflecting metrics and input by the supervisor and employee – both would have access on an ongoing basis
Compensation and Benefits would similarly link to holistic data and such functions as job evaluation and compensation analysis ( interactively factoring in relevant survey data) would be systems generated, subject to input of appropriate data by HR
Recruiting could be greatly simplified, the major obstacle being the current focus on “fit”, even for regular process type positions. This may have less relevance in the future in a more adult environment and a different style of supervision. Our new age efficient organization should be structured to accommodate all employees and focus more on job commitment than job engagement

It seems that HR may be giving up a lot and particularly our stronghold on many aspects of the function. In general, we have guarded and kept our HR subjects within our domain and somewhat shrouded them with mystique. I am sure that HR isolation will not be possible in the future and many aspects of HR may need to be shared with other functions from different perspectives. What can we do to be ready and to maintain credibility of our function?

Positioning HR in Changing Times

I see HR survival and ability to flourish in changing times, being dependent on two key aspects of HR:

ANALYTICAL EXCELLENCE: embracing both theoretical and organizational application to ensure we are the ones taking the lead, that we have the intelligence and the solutions for the future and, very important, we will set the example. We must be ready to make tough decisions and step bravely into the future rather than passively trying to protect the HR we are comfortable with, as though it is somehow exempt from change. The “table” we need to be at is the one where the greatest minds are working together to develop the formula for the future. We need to be there to be a key part of the process including specific recommendations. We could simply be part of the audit process (at the big “table”) but by then it may be too late!

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS EXCELLENCE: the interactive part of Human Resources that many people suggest is holding back HR, will, I believe, be the compelling reason why HR is needed, will directly contribute to success and will maintain a very high HR profile. No matter how efficient our machine driven workplace may be and how well we program machine interaction, the same type of people issues will continue. With fewer supervisors and a less direct style of supervision, the role of HR will be even more critical. We will be very strategic in aspects such as training and coaching and workforce development, but at the same time we will be the trouble-shooters, the firefighters, the compliance people and ready to be where we are needed at a moment’s notice. We will defuse the negative, promote the positive and protect the liability of the organization while taking care of the needs of the people.

What do you think? We may abandon some of our earlier HR programs and approaches, but not our skills. Our HR toolbox will always be at the ready to handle challenges as they occur, whether individual needs or across the board. By focusing where there is a real need, the depth of our focus could be even greater than at present – redeploying our HR skills in the best possible way.

This is how I believe we must change our focus as we move into the future. There should be a simpler and more integrated companywide approach, but in depth HR support when the circumstances merit. There will be key HR positions with a high analytical component and the need to evaluate data more directly and immediately and from a company rather than a conventional HR perspective. Does that make sense? What do you think?


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