Three Questions HR Leaders Need to Answer in the Digital Age

Every week I listen to our ChapmanCG podcasts with some of the world’s top HR leaders and I see a number of trends emerging from these conversations. While some aspects of the HR leadership role remain the same (rewards and benefits, talent acquisition, employee engagement, and diversity), we are seeing a wave of new skill requirements. These include the implications of changing workforce structures, the digitisation of business, and the increasing demand on HR leaders to bring a greater depth of commercial knowledge to the table.

How do you structure an organisation with an employee-centric culture?

While there will always be day-to-day HR deliverables, stand-alone projects are increasing in importance for HR. HR technology projects now demand specific technical skills and the development of the project-based ‘gig economy’ has impacted talent acquisition as well as talent development in a very new (and big) way. It might have started with the ‘core hour’ concept (employees can have flexibility over their work day, but they had to work during business core hours), but today’s workforce want part-time, compressed work week, a virtual workspace in a global setting, and a seat at the decision-making table. Add on top of that a matrix organisation where some teams focus on project work–sometimes regional, sometimes global–and you’ve got yourself a truly diverse employee populace who are engaged and productive, but quite challenging to manage from a structural point of view.

HR leaders have to develop innovative resource solutions to some very real challenges that building an employee-centric culture creates. Change management skills have always been important, but risk assessment, agile workforce planning, and project management skills have become increasingly more important to meet these new challenges.

What’s the role of technology in HR?

Understanding the role and future of technology, for both the business and within HR, is critical. HR is now expected to be across internal and external social media, cloud computing, AI and service delivery, and to understand big data and its commercial implications from an employee perspective. While most HR leaders need not become subject matter experts on everything, they must have a working knowledge on the main tech trends and how they have, and will continue to, change the way HR delivers both to the business (service delivery) and for the business (employer branding and EVP).

No matter the size of the organisation, the modern HR leader must understand the potential of HR technology and how to successfully implement tech projects.

How have you successfully worked with senior leaders in the business to deliver commercial outcomes?

The ability to work with the business is a consistent theme in our interviews with leaders. For HR leaders, however, this has moved beyond just delivering standard solutions for business partners. The best HR leaders are now expected to take up senior business roles, to be able to influence the broader commercial decision-making process, assist with the overall corporate strategy, predict (or at least have an opinion on) staffing and talent trends as well as successfully getting buy-in for HR programmes.

Additionally, how HR leaders have worked with other parts of the business, like their marketing, IT, and finance counterparts, has begun to impact their track record. Why? As each role in every organisation continues to grow in its complexity, so too does HR. And this means that knowing how to engage the relevant resources when required becomes just as important as having the answers yourself. HR needs their counterparts just as much as their counterparts need HR.

A lot of HR leaders are grappling with the same questions and challenges; the key is how to adapt the solutions into their individual organisational contexts.


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