With the emergence of technology, there has a been a lot of buzz about how the nature of the function of HR would change and evolve in the future. A lot of HR professionals and executives are wondering about the future of HR, but not many are thinking about the evolving role of the HR professional within that role. For that matter, eight HR executives out of ten aren’t thinking about their own place in the scheme of things which would shape the future of the HR.
Sunil Puri, Asia Pacific Director Research, Innovation and Product Development, Center for Creative Leadership spoke about how HR professionals who aren’t thinking about their future within HR function would not only not grow, but will also become irrelevant.
Currently, HR is beset with traditional thinking. When HR professionals talk about the famed seat at the top executive table, they forget that the CEOs and the CXOs of the world not only acknowledge their presence but also have loads of expectations from HR in terms of the support that the HR promises the business. As part of the research conducted by Center for Creative Leadership, they found that most CEOs feel that the HR does not know what to do with the seat at the table. The challenge here clearly is that HR is too focused on the operational aspect of their work, and which is why the focus on strategic alignment towards the business is lower than what is expected.
To understand why there needs to be a greater focus on aligning HR functions towards business, one needs to understand that the business-economic environment today is much more unpredictable than it was fifteen years from now. Even till the 2000s the CEO of an organization had clarity with regards to the road ahead, and he would design his 2-year, 3-year, 5-year, or even a 7-year strategy, which would be passed on the top executives in the organization, and they would be asked to create their own strategy which would align with the CEO’s organizational strategy and help materialize his vision.
But today, a CEO is much more dependent, and instead of creating a 7-year strategy on his own and passing it down to the top executives, what she desires is a partnership in not just co-creation of the strategic document, but also in understanding the evolving reality in the VUCA world.
Muninder K Anand, MD, India and South Asia, Center CL, states that the CEO expects the CHRO to teach like a CFO.
This is with regards to the fact that HR professionals must move away from ‘demanding people to be put across different functions’ but learning to form a business case to support their requirements. At the end of the day, what the CEO expects and which is also what he expects from all top-level executives in the company, is the return on the investment. Vandana Vishnu, Coaching Leader, Center for Creative Leadership echoed the thoughts of her colleagues on the aspects of HR supporting the CEO in terms of providing strategic support for the organization.
But most importantly, for the HR professionals to prepare for the future, there needs to a shift in the mindset. From a traditional thinking approach, HR professionals need to start thinking business. They must demand that they be put in charge of business operations, or work in close partnership with business leads, both to understand the business better and to learn to deliver the return on investment. HR professionals need to move away from administration and operations so as to deliver true business value to the organization. Research states that four in ten CHROs are from non-HR backgrounds, and the reason behind the same is that they bring a lot of credibility when it comes to ROI and delivering results. The HR professionals too today should chart out a career path which gives them more exposure to the business. It is important for the HR function to start rethinking about their responsibilities, their relationship with business, the value that they add to the organization etc.
Currently, the HR handles a major part of operations, but a few years from now technology will automate most operational processes eliminating the need for the HR professional to perform that function. There would also be a third category of workers called the metal worker - robots and machines, which would join the ranks of the employees. Under these circumstances, the role of the HR professional will evolve, and the CEO will expect HR to own the employee experience completely. HR would be responsible for the experience of the person from the time she comes in contact with the brand and until the time she leaves the organization, or even beyond. So, Sunil Puri goes on to say that instead of a helper an HR professional should be a doctor.
For the above, it is important for the HR professionals to become better learners, to gain learning agility, and to also be creative when it comes to learning. For the role of a doctor, the HR must understand the requirements of the CEO, and then go further and advice the CEO on the best ROI strategy to attract, manage and retain talent, and which would also best align with the organizational interests.The HR professional must try to understand the megatrends and the strategic intent to help CEO the best.
Sunil Puri also talked about the creation of three future profiles of the HR professionals: Ninja, who is the HR global business partner; Yoda, who is the most trusted advisor to the CEOs when it comes to matters of HR and is generally from a non-HR background; and Avatar, who is a part technologist, part HR, and part business. The latter is usually somebody who works in an emerging technology company or a startup, and hence because of the environment is exposed to all three: business, technology, and HR.
The end of the matter is that HR professionals should become serious about their evolving role within HR. They must start to actively think about their contribution to business beyond HR operations. And they must begin to chart our their career which gives them more exposure to business. And most importantly, they must develop learning agility and gain a working knowledge of technology and business, so as to best utilize their say at the CXO table.