The world of HR is undoubtedly changing, which is clear just from the shift in titles from Personnel, to HR, to People/Talent. This demonstrates what the key is in this new HR landscape – understanding that people are your greatest asset. So, what does this new world of HR look like, and who will thrive in it?
The new HR leader is passionate, energetic, and on a mission to change the HR function from being seen as a cost, process, forgotten admin function or a reactive service – to one of the key functions of the organisation. The new HR leader is a board level player that adds consistent commercial value and drives the organisation and its people forward. But how?
Technology and data analytics
The key to thriving in HR is honing your skillset in strategic thinking and utilising the digital tools that enable you to make those commercial decisions. Whilst employee relations, law, policy and process are ever-important, the focus is shifting towards offering a proactive, pragmatic and business-led partnership. Not just a fixing or advisory service. This will ensure you won’t be replaced by a robot!
Live and breathe technology. Understand how to use it to your advantage. I once chaired an event attended by both CEOs and HR Directors from a variety of industries. One CEO said technology wasn’t his thing, and he wasn’t prepared to change to embrace it or try and understand it. A heated discussion ensued, within which someone made the point that if he didn’t, his business wouldn’t survive. Technology will change every business – this is inescapable. Become an expert in data-driven predictive analytics, and you will have your CEO’s undivided attention.
In the past, HR has often survived on intuition and ‘guesstimates’, because how can you measure people? But just as other functions such as Marketing are using data to outsmart their competition through agility, speed and insights – the new HR leaders are using technology to become more connected with their people and to get ahead of the game.
The new world of HR apps can improve the working environment and increase employee experience by providing HRDs with instant and actionable intelligence on their people – through pulse surveys. These allow you to facilitate regular feedback and recognition, manage your workforce and projects more effectively, assess and drive the performance of your teams, understand engagement levels and create a platform for everyone to share ideas and innovations. You can learn whether the people in your business understand the wider company goals and how they align with them. This will prevent people from plodding along without any idea of how their own work contributes to the company’s success. These insights are achieved in real-time, which means you can plan and deliver relevant action plans quickly.
Imagine what you could predict and influence if you could discover patterns around quality of hire, productivity, engagement, communications, performance and leadership? It means you can finally put numbers around the people side of your business too. This is equally as valuable as financial data and it all links in together.
If you understand your employees, you will have a better chance of making them happy. This will in-turn increase their productivity and profitability. You will be able to see the link between the strength of your leadership and engagement levels, to how much money you may or may not be making – see ‘The 2nd P&L.’
Forget annual appraisals and annual engagement surveys. It’s not about change, but speed. You need to have more regular touch points with your employers to provide a proactive service.
Creative approach to talent acquisition
The new HR Director will have to stay competitive in the War for Talent. The best HR functions are using creative and innovative ways to connect with potential hires. Some Talent functions are even using Tinder. People are constantly connected, so it’s important to make the most of this and get your brand in front of people. Research how your company is talked about and perceived externally – look at Twitter and Glassdoor. Maximise your people within the business; the most successful companies look at each of their employees (not only HR employees) as brand ambassadors and the best way of attracting quality talent from the market. If someone loves working for you, chances are they will want to recommend you and will be referring more people into the business. Incentivise people to do that.
Another change in the world of HR and Recruitment is the growth of the Gig Economy, or in other words a freelance workforce. There are sites that service as job and employee networks, enabling workers to find work and employers to find workers. Not only this, to match people against specific projects and storing data about professional competencies and examples of their work. Think GitHub and Freelancer.com. Companies and HR should think flexibly about how they can hire the best people.
The new generation of workers
Recruitment isn’t the big issue, retention is. Nearly 50% of the workforce is now made up out Millennials. Millennials aren’t motivated purely by money.
- Flexibility, freedom and wellbeing.
- Trust: measured on their results, not time-in-office.
- Social responsibility and a sense of purpose.
- Rapid career progression.
- Regular communication and feedback.
- A meritocratic society not built on hierarchy.
Accommodating for the new generation
The new HR leaders will help their business go above and beyond and coach their leaders to get on board with new ways of working. Seek to positively change people’s lives, improve their employees’ well-being and offer them a sense of personal and professional achievement. You must help adjust your workplace to ensure your people feel like they are part of something more important and meaningful than just a job. Support their emotional well-being, physical and mental health. Not just their ability to generate profit for the company.
Hierarchy and structure may feel most comfortable with your business leaders, but help them to shed this… To win in the “war for talent”, you need to understand that the future of any business is a focus on leadership over management, and team over hierarchy. Promote buddying up, cross-functional groups, scrum management, reverse-mentoring and agile working.
This is a difficult, but important move from employees being led by the business, to the business being led by its employees. It requires a collaborative approach to working. The key to any of this is to get people to want to work together. This is achieved by forming social relationships, and the best HR functions will support and promote this.
People want to work anytime and anywhere and are often logging in from home or on the move. Everyone wants to feel supported and feel like their work life can coincide with their private life. Find a balance that works for both parties.
Incredible employee experience
We have seen a shift from Personnel, to Human Resources, to People. This is due to a shift in view that employees are not just a resource, or “talent”, but individuals. This view to personalisation is the key to engagement – one size fits all does not work anymore. HR should support the business to foster this personalised and inclusive culture and create a compelling and competitive EVP.
HR plays an integral part in coaching an excellent and inspiring leadership team that creates meaningful work and makes a difference. Instead of fostering a culture where people feel scared to leave for better opportunities, as they are made to feel inadequate or underperforming.
The most forward-thinking businesses will take pride in the fact that their employees know that they could go elsewhere, but they want to stay and that is their choice. These people will sell your business and encourage people to join through positive verbal press. Promote out-of-work friendships, open communication and above all be honest.
The organisation may not be perfect, but don’t fall into the trap of pretending it is. Your employees will want to know what is going on and the plans to improve. They want to be part of the vision and have trust and hope in their leaders.
Don’t forget the basics
HR has for so long pushed for the strategic business partnering element of the HR role that they have taken their eye off the ball in terms of getting the basics done brilliantly. HR Operations are still paramount to any credible HR function. Especially in fast-growth environments, where it’s easy to be swept away in the entrepreneurialism of the business and forget that before you start devising new-age talent strategies, you need to get the basics right. The business will engage in strategic discussions with HR leaders as long as the fundamental organisational hygiene is in place. HR needs to build robust but flexible structures and policies in a future-proof, scalable manner. There needs to be a focus on long-term business growth.
It’s a difficult job, but the more open and honest you are about what you can and have achieved, the better equipped you will be to make improvements. Businesses (especially in the tech world) are going through relentless, continuous and disruptive change. The new HR function needs to be able to change at the same pace.
Constantly check yourself
- Why am I doing this?
- What value is it providing?
- Am I doing it because it’s legal, or part of the process?
- Is this right for the employees?
- Am I being told?
- Am I reacting?
- Am I challenging?
An excellent HR Director once told me, the hardest thing about being an HR Director is balancing three cogs at the same time; the people, the business, and the law. You are the voice of the organisation’s conscience and the people. You must also mitigate any risk and ultimately do what is right for the business. It’s so easy to let one of the cogs slip.