Article: Back to the future - The changing realms of HR

Strategic HR

Back to the future - The changing realms of HR

Role of the HR leader will undergo rapid transformation in the age of accelerated change, collaboration & communication
Back to the future - The changing realms of HR

HR leaders of tomorrow will increasingly need to anticipate the changing needs of their stakeholder groups, including senior executives, customers and line managers


In the Age of the Social and Collaboration, HR leaders will need to network and partner in new ways to positively shape the ‘learning organization’ of the future


When one is asked to make a prediction about HR leadership 10 years into the future, the first thing you are guaranteed to do is get something wrong. One of the most obvious and common reasons for this is that the world we live in, the industries we serve and the profession we define are all changing so rapidly that it is almost impossible to forecast the future of work and what that means for HR leaders. Nevertheless, here are a few trends that will impact the way people work and interact in the coming decade:

  1. Volatile and uncertain times are here to stay
  2. Employee and stakeholder expectations continue to rise
  3. Technological disruption is increasing in pace

Volatile and uncertain times are here to stay - Build an adaptable and agile organization

The scale and speed of change continues to accelerate, no matter where you are or what you do. Businesses today are increasingly affected by many factors, including large swings in political unrest, economic power shifts between emerging and developed economies, sustainability and climate change, health and welfare regulations and probably most dramatically by availability of information and advances in technology.

For HR leaders of tomorrow, this means being able to leverage large amounts of data to predict with greater accuracy talent gaps, motivations, aspirations and needs and provide richer and deeper insights on people in the context of the future of work and business needs, build dynamic talent “ecosystems” in which people can rotate in and out of the “ecosystem”, always looking for what might come next.

A world defined by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) asks for effective leaders with sound decision making, high confidence and ready adaptability. Recent DDI research (Global Leadership Forecast 2014) identified four skills that when practiced effectively had the greatest impact on leader preparedness and confidence in addressing the challenges of this volatile and uncertain world. Effective HR leaders should focus on building these organizational wide skills to better prepare their people and companies for the periods ahead (1) managing and introducing change (2) building consensus and commitment (3) inspiring others towards a challenging future vision and (4) leading across generations.

Employee and stakeholder expectations of value continues to increase – Anticipate

Whilst the “War for Talent” has waned significantly in many parts of the developed world, this is clearly not the case in emerging markets like India. To add to this challenge, and following the recent national elections, analysts are now projecting GDP growth rates to jump from 4.6 per cent (2013) to 5.9 per cent in 2015. If this pattern of growth continues for the next decade, organizations will be under increasing pressure to acquire, develop and retain the necessary quality and quantity of ready now talent that can deliver against the future needs of the organizations. The rapid rise in business confidence will also add pressure to organizational people practices and the power of choice will shift dramatically in favour of the employee or job seeker.

HR leaders of tomorrow will increasingly need to anticipate the changing needs of their stakeholder groups, including senior executives, customers and line managers. Deeper knowledge of the changing external landscape and the ability to match this to insights on organizational capabilities will position HR leaders as indispensable decision-makers over the next decade. HR should be working more closely with business to co-develop strategic plans that predict future talent gaps and then strive to close the gap.

DDI research indicates that organizations who have active involvement of HR leaders in the organizational planning process are three times more likely to have stronger leadership bench strength and over six times more likely to have exhibited strong financial performance than organizations in which HR’s involvement in the planning process occurs late or is non-existent.

Technological disruption increasing in pace – Innovate, collaborate and communicate

One doesn’t have to think too hard to find examples of how technology is changing the way we work and interact today and this pattern is expected to accelerate, not slow down. By 2025, India will be the largest cell phone market in the world; the number of internet connections will rise 3,000 per cent to 708 million and texting will be done by thinking. The number of smartphones will triple, people will expect everything on demand and they will continue to work more virtually and be connected anywhere, anytime. People will have access to more information than ever before and their every move will be monitored by some device or application. The way people communicate in the future will potentially shift further away from traditional communication methods such as face-to-face conversations or email; people will talk less but message more; ‘connect’ and ‘like’ things more – often in reference to people they have never met. Learning will be in the moment and driven largely by the individual. Technology will continue to break down barriers of language, distance and culture, creating opportunities to collaborate and learn, anywhere anytime.

Other factors that are already upon us and cannot be ignored over the next decade will be the implementation of development initiatives that match millennials’ preferences, including integrating social and mobile learning into development programs, building on-demand virtual learning platforms, simulating accelerated learning experiences and providing opportunities to connect with others, both virtually and in person.

HR leaders in the “Age of the Social and Collaboration” are much more likely to use advanced workforce analytics, particularly those that involve forecasting future talent needs. They will need to network and partner in new ways to positively shape the ‘learning organization’ of the future. HR development strategies must keep in mind that future workers are mobile, social and expect ‘everything ‘to be on-demand.

8 things successful HR leaders of the future will do differently

  1. Help leaders be more ready to meet the CEO challenge of human capital
  2. Are much more likely to use advanced workforce analytics, particularly those that involve forecasting future talent needs.
  3. Build agile and adaptable workplaces that thrive in times of change
  4. Put a stronger focus on programs that foster employee creativity and innovation, collaboration and communication
  5. Are more likely to position leadership development as an integrated journey rather than an independent series of events
  6. Are more likely to institute negative consequences for managers who fail to develop their leaders and / or build long term organizational capability
  7. Help ensure that a higher percentage of leaders are promoted from within
  8. Invest in innovative partnerships and networks that support development strategies geared for the future workforce

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Topics: Strategic HR, Leadership, #ChangeManagement

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