Article (January-2018)


Whether HR would be dead by 2020?

Dr. A Jagan Mohan Reddy

Designation : -   Professor (HR)

Organization : -  Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Symbiosis International University, Ranga Reddy District (Telangana)


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"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." -Autonomous
At the 14th HRM National Summit of AIMA Mr. Vineet Nayar, Founder, & Chairman Sampark Foundation and Former CEO, HCL Technologies spoke on 'HR organisation in the Age of Automation'. Further, while quoting the example of kotak and sharing McKinsey Leadership institute's research finding of anybody who loses market share or becomes obsolete knowing about it at least 5 years in advance, predicted that HR is going to be dead by 2020. 
The perception & the reality
HR in most companies is often viewed just like bouncers in a night club - boring administrators, always abiding by the rule book and gatekeepers of an organization, who make life as tough as they can for their employees. In reality, they act as mediators between employees and the organization and if you appreciate that you can see their importance in creating a very conducive learning environment that goes into creating a great workplace.
Creating a culture
The culture of an organization drives the behavior, style of working, processes and the relationships within the organization. People are the most valuable assets of a company & investing in them from the beginning is very important. If HR is given the responsibility of creating a culture for the organization, they will work hard towards making the office a great place to work in.
Converting strategies in to actionable
McKinney's study found that healthy companies deliver roughly by 3 times compared to those in bottom quartile. Organizational health is more than just culture or employee engagement. It is organization's ability to align around a common vision, execute against that vision effectively and renew itself through innovation & creative thinking. In this regard, apart from getting everybody on the same page through suitable learning programs, they can develop, implement and enhance the skills of the workforce on a continuous basis.  
Ensuring right fit
Identifying the best talent that would be a good fit in the company is not everybody's cup of tea. After getting a clear picture of the requirements and the resources at hand, HR can design learning programs, development paths, track performances and ensure that the best talent is well taken care of.
Being pro-active
HR nowadays works closely with other departments in the organization & is able to foresee structural and performance challenges and can address them beforehand. Due to the vital position that they occupy in the organization, they provide the right kind of data to support the top level leadership in the decisions that they make.
Let's not forget that HR is a vital cog in the wheel of fortune of an organization and their importance cannot be undermined both to the company and to the employees. Having said that, let's look at the evolving role of HR professionals and how companies are catching up with the evolving role of HR professionals?
  • 1874 : The invention of the telephone
  • Circa 1949 : Computers emerged
  • The 1990s : The revolution of the internet
  • Circa 2010 : The rise and rise of social media
As technology continues to grow and accelerate and organizations strive to keep up with all the changes and one of the most affected areas of an organization is its primary asset - its people. Employees are now able to access information on their own, thus reducing the dependency on HR. HR has become much freer from traditional tasks and can focus on strategies and aiding the management in decision making. There is more connectivity and collaboration with competitors and vendors and the lines have blurred between personal and professional networks. All these changes are reflecting in the way companies conduct business, attract, manage and retain teams. As a result, the role of HR has shifted dramatically over the years and especially in the recent past.
In a VUCA world of today, let us list the few skills that HR needs to possess to remain relevant :
  • Strategic business planning - HR needs to ensure that the goals of the employees are aligned with that of the organization and that both of them are on the same page.  
  • Managing change - HR should ensure that employees have the skills to adapt to an ever - changing environment with minimum disruption.  
  • Supporting and empowering employees - HR professionals need to possess exceptional interpersonal communication skills, an empathetic attitude and understanding towards each employee's life goals. Further, they need to understand what motivates and drives the employees. Based on this data, they should design and monitor learning and development programs, that ensures an employee's continuous growth in the organization.  
As the world of businesses continues to evolve, HR professionals too will try to keep pace with the changes. It is imperative for them to promote open channels of communication with employees within the organization, abide by an open door policy and create an environment of trust, friendliness and approachability.  
Light at the end of the tunnel
  • Corporate Leadership Council's (CEB) annual CHRO survey, which covered over 100 HR leaders from organizations more than 20 countries, has some interesting results such as
  • CHRO's biggest priorities are : Change management (41%), Leadership development/HiPo (33%) and Succession management (32%), Engagement and Retention (31%) and Talent management process (27%). 
  • Collaborative, High Performance, Accountability, Customer Focus, and Innovation are some of the cultural attributes being pursued by organizations, in decreasing order of priority. 
  • 75% of the CEOs realize the importance of talent to organizational strategy.
Few areas of focus identified for Heads of HR in 2017 were :
1. Creating a strategy aligned - culture : Culture is not keeping pace with the business strategy and CHROs are much more confident in defining a new culture for their organization than actually implementing and embedding it.
2. Transforming HR from the outside in : While macro - trends like big data, consumerization of HR and digital disruptions are obviously helping HR evolve, CHRO's seem to be spearheading this change with a majority of them working on talent analytics, HR service delivery and digital talent. 
3. Succession under pressure : 45% of the CHROs are feeling the pressure for executive succession, and are being asked to plan a succession approach, sustain a talent pipeline and develop talent faster.
While we all agree that most of the existing white collar jobs will be destroyed because of automation brought about by digitization and artificial intelligence, let's also recognize the fact that new jobs will be created as technology will release people to do other things, which create expansion opportunities for businesses. However, simultaneously the HR professionals will have to learn to hire and develop people very differently as the organization sizes will shrink, skill requirements will change frequently and the latest expertise will have to be outsourced continuously. Also, HR professionals have to understand the core business of the company before they help with recruiting, mentoring and retaining talent.
Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. HR is here to stay as long as organizations are there. But, yes they need to orient, reorient to the changing situation and for me they are moving in the desired direction.