DSM’s impressive regional HQ in Singapore was the location of ChapmanCG’s latest HR leaders breakfast series. Hosted by CHRO, Peter Vrijsen, and APAC Regional HR Director, Jan-Anne Schelling, and joined by a number of regional HR leaders from across Singapore as well as key members of DSM’s HR team.

CHRO focus shift

The priority list of CHROs has, to-date, been dominated by the challenges associated with the core elements of HR such as Talent, HR Operations and Rewards. However, technology is increasingly impacting HR and challenging leaders to rethink both the fundamentals of how HR as a function is approached and how to keep up with the pace of change. The conversation is shifting and digital has now surged to the top of the HR agenda. Increased use of robotics, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, virtual working and the digitisation of shared services are all very much front-of-mind for current CHROs.

Business Partners 2.0

The HR business partnering role, as we see it today, is unlikely to be effective in its current form in the future workplace. Matt Chapman highlighted the likelihood of a continual shift of future HR business partnering talent away from those with traditional HR operations background, orienting more towards what he describes as a ‘business innovator’—an individual who brings a broader business skillset to the table and where understanding and the appreciation of Digital and Marketing is on a par with technical HR capability. This poses significant challenges and complexities around the development and sourcing of HR talent in the future.

Stop concentrating on why you don’t have a ‘seat at the table’

An element of rewiring is needed in many cases when it comes to the traditional mindset of HR practitioners and where they sit within the broader leadership hierarchy. HR suffers greatly from an inferiority complex, a relic from the P&O era where strategic HR conversations came nowhere near the boardroom. Peter Vrijsen argues that this mentality needs to shift to how as business partners, HR leaders are asking the right strategic questions, building strong internal relationships where value and influence are inherent. HR must stop focusing on ‘fighting for a seat at the table’, if you’re asking the right questions, you’ll already be there.

Policy overload

HR’s relationship with policy and policy-making has become stagnated and a deregulated mentality needs to be more prevalent. Restrictive policies that have accrued over time may have once been relevant, but many are outdated and not aligned with the current business environment. HR needs to partner with business managers to streamline policy-making to the absolute essentials and drive a mature, collaborative internal business environment that prioritises common-sense decision making. We have seen this to an extent in recent years with a major realignment in regards to the approach to performance ratings. Whilst there are challenges associated with adopting new approaches, namely how or if you should de-couple performance ratings from compensation, the intent to evolve the approach to be more aligned with the current and future employee population is a step in the right direction.

A CHRO’s prediction

Peter offered some fascinating insight during the session, believing major change is on the horizon. Simplicity and agility will prevail when it comes to structuring HR functions and we’ll see Ulrich’s model succeeded by an evolved approach. Outsourcing will increase, shared services will continue to move away from HR and sit as a separate part of the organisation aligned with the operating models of other core functions. CHRO’s will be required to drive functional efficiencies and we can expect to see a reduction when it comes to internal HR headcount, driven by continued leveraging of more advanced technology that will not only replace much of the physical and operational HR capability, but also intellectual capability.

ChapmanCG would again like to thank DSM’s Peter Vrijsen and Jan-Anne Schelling for hosting the session and also to the other senior HR leaders in attendance for their thoughts and insight.