Article: The evolving role of HR: Driving workplace transformation in SMEs

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The evolving role of HR: Driving workplace transformation in SMEs

HR professionals must build two key skills – assertiveness and agility. HR leaders who are courageous and who challenge the status quo will be able to drive growth.
The evolving role of HR: Driving workplace transformation in SMEs

Over the past decade, the role of HR has changed from employee advocate to strategic partner. This is especially true in the midst of a crisis as far-reaching and disruptive as the COVID pandemic.

HR professionals have helped to advance business goals whether in large organisations or small and midsize enterprises. Today, in most organisations, HR is part of the decision making. 

In this article, we outline the progress of HR as a business enabler. 

Different lenses to identify talent: How HR views talent has changed – but so too has the role of HR as talent leader. Organisations are no longer relying on technical ability alone, but also factoring in competencies such as the ability to adapt to change and be resilient. HR leaders are thus hiring for 'culture add'.

  • Focus on mental wellness: People dealing with family and work pressures during remote working have experienced mental fatigue as part of this new reality. HR leaders are sensitive to these needs, launching initiatives to help people become mentally agile. Never before has the focus on mental wellness been so strong – and the trend is likely here to stay. 
  • Being tech-driven: The future of HR relies on technology being a fulcrum of change. It will only keep evolving, influencing how the HR function transforms in the next five years. 
  • Digital transformation agent: In the same way, the success of HR programs will soon depend on how well they facilitate digital adoption among the employee population. 

As sales training leader Pankaj Gursahani once observed: "My team members are doing digital [tasks], but are they being digital?'" 

The journey needs a sustained cultural change, with HR playing a critical role. 

Engagement in the workplace: HR leaders need to re-evaluate how to achieve productivity levels similar to pre-pandemic levels. HR professionals must ask themselves: 

  • Do I need to take a closer look at our business model?
  • Do I need to change my workplace arrangement based on a digital-versus-hybrid framework?
  • HR may not have a definite answer at the moment, but leaders should remain agile and adaptive to change. 

Moreover, a diverse employee population has diverse needs. To truly empower and support them, HR must first listen to their people. This is especially relevant to startups and SMEs that function with little to no HR support. 

The reason could be that they do not understand HR, or they think they can run the show without HR. This may work if the CEO has a strong HR background. Otherwise, the situation may prove challenging. It is important to build some sort of building blocks for HR, even if it means having a junior resource. HR enables companies, especially startups and SMEs, to scale up. 

Inspiring change 

The HR of tomorrow has a great role to play in driving the organisation. But HR, as talent leaders, have to act as change agents. They also have to be consistent strategic partners driving business outcomes. 

To ask the right questions, HR professionals must build two key skills – assertiveness and agility. An HR professional who challenges the status quo and raises the bar is vital to growth. 

"Sometimes, HR colleagues try to become more popular just for the sake of aligning with business. But it is not every time that the business is right. We need to educate the CXO on the right way of doing things, providing the best solutions," says Pankaj Gursahani. 

Assertiveness is a key skill because HR should be able to both challenge and support the business. For this, it should be agile, upgrading and embracing new concepts, new principles and new technologies. 

Where are you in the journey of HR growth and transformation? Share your thoughts, your story with us at

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Topics: Leadership, #SMEcorner, #SME Spotlight

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