As the year draws to a close, it is a good time for us in HR profession to think about the challenges that organizations will face and the key areas that HR needs to focus on, to add value continuously and consistently to enable organizations meets their strategic objectives.
Given the multi dimensional forces that are impacting individuals, organizations and society, it is important to understand that expectations from HR are changing and will continue to change. And when expectations change, HR professionals need to understand and build capability for same while at the same time, setting the agenda for the next leap.
After speaking to couple of practicing managers, academicians and thought leaders, the top 5 focus areas for HR going forward in 2018 and beyond will be :
1. "Rule of the Individual": As organizations focus on performance and delivery in midst of all the changes, premium on talent will increase. Individuals who possess specialized skills, and those who can drive change in organizations will be high in demand. Power dynamics will shift as far as those individuals are concerned. While such individuals will have lot of leverage to 'demand', HR need to constantly work on the organization design to enable such individuals without compromising the core values of organization.
2. As we increasingly leverage technology, remember organization is more than data points. How to retain empathy and emotions?: Technology, automation and artificial intelligence will play a big role in organizations with the benefits of productivity, efficiency, safety and reliability. But it will raise challenging questions on jobs, nature of work and human relationships. How can HR make sure that organizations do not become 'humaneless' entities while at the same time, leveraging the latest trends in technology? Since shutting off is not an option, how will HR help employees navigate technology led revolution?
3. Organizations will become platforms: In line with the above two points and with the rise of 'freelance employees' or termed as 'gig' economy, the design of organizations will change. They will need to become flatter. Also organizations will need to engage with talent not wanting to come on board as full time employees. By emerging as platforms, they need to create network of capabilities in line with their vision.
4. "On the Go" Learning: For individuals to remain relevant, one need to continuously learn, unlearn and relearn. Unfortunately the time available previously is not. At the same time, there is greater comfort in using the latest technology to update the knowledge. Tools like VR and AR can help simulate real life experiences and train for responses. AI can help modulate the training modules in line with pace of learning and individual preferences. The curated module will be customized and can facilitate 'Anytime, anywhere' learning which HR needs to put in place.
5. "Health is wealth": Increased focus on Employee Wellness : Given the increased pressure on performance and other social factors that the individual faces, there will be a toll on the health. There has been an increased focus on employee health - physical, metabolic and mental. Organizations would need to 'take care' of employee health holistically - healing the body, mind and spirit. The challenge given the focus on cost and competition is the degree to which this becomes a priority beyond well intentioned 'sound bytes'.
The above mentioned focus areas would imply that HR needs to reorient itself to these focus and probably reduce the areas which were traditionally considered, their core functions. In a way, this is a great opportunity to move beyond a support function or even a business partner (much misused word) to actually be the business. But for this, the traditional HR department would need to build capability and reorganize. HR leaders have a unique challenge but a great opportunity. Can we do it?