Human Resources

From old to new: the evolution of HR

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Welcome to our HR Modernization Playbook: Tomorrow’s people – Why HR matters more than ever in the age of artificial intelligence.

Digital transformation is happening faster than ever. The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will redefine jobs, enhance employee productivity and accelerate workforce development. In fact, skills and culture – not technology – are the biggest barriers to business growth in the AI era. This means CEOs are looking to their CHRO to lead culture change, manage talent and drive down costs. The time to act is now: the future is already here.

Chapter 4: From old to new: the evolution of HR

Like all industries, HR is undergoing a transformation as a result of the current digital revolution. AI is changing the way businesses operate and the way people work within them. In the previous chapters of this series, we explored the evolving role of the CHRO and the way AI is reshaping the employee journey. We also addressed some of the myths and misconceptions that are holding business leaders back.

In ten years’ time, HR will be almost unrecognisable as a business function. Below, I will reflect on the differences between the HR team of ten years ago and the HR team of the future.

1. From service to strategy

Where once HR’s role was to respond to and service the needs of employees and managers, tomorrow it will be a growth engine with a remit to expand the business. AI is set to automate many of the routine processes and procedures that currently swallow up a large percentage of HR professionals’ work day, freeing them up to focus on building an exceptional workforce to drive the business into the future.

2. Talent as currency

Where once people were seen as “resources”, or commodities like any other, tomorrow top talent will be highly coveted and the business’s prime currency. Technological, social and global shifts have led to a mismatch between available skills and needed skills; employers can no longer assume there is a broad talent pool to draw upon for every available role; the same hot skills are sought after by every business, be they a retailer, manufacturer or investment bank. In addition, the open talent economy means that the very best talent can move around easily to work for whomever – and wherever – they choose, regardless of industry or country boundaries. HR must become more creative and proactive in order to attract and retain those star performers.

3. Curator of skills

Where once HR was responsible for pushing training and development on (occasionally unwilling) employees, tomorrow learning will need to be more self-directed. In this digital world, any business could be overtaken overnight by an internet startup; business leaders understand that they need to build an agile, self-reinventing workforce, where employees take seriously their responsibility to reskill themselves in response to technological and consumer shifts. HR will need to foster a culture of continuous learning across the enterprise.

4. Across the board

Where once HR leaders worked with administrative teams to support the board, tomorrow they will increasingly lead the talent and transformation agenda within the c-suite, helping to navigate the business and its workforce through disruptive change. The CHRO will be a key influencer among colleagues, designing talent strategies to match high-level business imperatives in an increasingly volatile, uncertain and competitive business environment.

5. Reimagining Talent Acquisition

Where once HR teams were responsive to the hiring needs of managers across the business, tomorrow they will be required to interpret talent trends and translate them into sophisticated workforce planning strategies – knowing when to buy, build or borrow the key skills they need. AI will make this possible by drawing on intelligent analytics to match potential applicants to vacant roles, screening applicants for suitability and recommending employees for internal promotion – all of which will empower the HR professional to take a more proactive, strategic approach to decision-making.

4. Engagement matters

Where once HR’s relationship with employees amounted to recruiting, assessing performance and enforcing policies, tomorrow it will be more nurturing and empowering. HR will be the steward of organisational culture and values, responsible for establishing an environment in which people can collaborate, innovate and thrive. Alongside this, the CHRO will need to work with the CMO to build an employer brand that is alluring to potential recruits, who will no longer base their decisions to join a firm on salary, title and location alone. To assist them in this task, they will be using real time sentiment analysis to understand what their employees are thinking about the organisation’s current strategy, culture and reward policies.

5. Qualitative and quantitative

Where once HR professionals relied predominantly on soft, qualitative skills, tomorrow they will be required to develop the qualitative skills needed to interpret analytics for strategic gain. This will not be optional. Deployed in tandem with traditional HR strengths such as communication, empathy and communication, the ability to present data-based foundations for growth strategies will be an important source of credibility at board level.

We’re at the start of a long journey with AI in the workplace, and it’s impossible to predict where we will end up. But one thing is for sure: HR is an exciting place to be. HR is likely to change more fundamentally in the next 3 years than it has in the last 30 – and it needs smart professionals to navigate this bold new future.

In the next chapter, Making tomorrow: why culture matters most when it comes to AI, we will discuss the essential role of skills, culture and change management in scaling transformative technology in the workplace.

Explore the next chapter in this series, Making tomorrow: why culture matters most when it comes to AI, or visit our website to find out more.

Vice President - Talent & Engagement Europe

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