To tackle emerging business challenges & opportunities, and recommend suitable scalable solutions, CHROs must step beyond the perceived boundaries of the HR function and addressing business challenges head-on with the required business and people skills. Pritish Gandhi, Practice Leader, HR learning center, Asia and the Middle East, AON shares his insights on the way ahead for early-career HR professionals to plan their careers.
Q. The way the world of work has evolved in recent times, how has HR changed, and what is driving this change?
We can look at this question by breaking down HR into a few core areas:
From a learning standpoint, reduced attention spans are not conducive to learning, but are the reality. Secondly, the half-life of skills is reducing. Earlier entire careers would work out with skill, now it is as low as 18 months for technology. A constant skills-churn imposes new L&D demands. The dichotomy is that people don’t have attention spans, but still want engagement- learning has to be an anytime-anywhere-any device.
The heart of PMS is differentiation. Anywhere between 50-80 percent of employees feel they are not judged fairly; this is the performance paradigm, and organizations are seen surrendering differentiation because they don’t understand it.
Employee relations are fundamentally changing. For example, questions like, “Is an Uber driver an employee or not, I don’t know!” What defines being an employee is fundamentally changing and in that context erstwhile career planning-succession planning models which assumed 5-10 years of career, are questionable.
Talent Acquisition (TA) is more like a marketing job now, today TA chases candidates, not vice versa. There is an experience expectation and a continuous engagement expectation to uphold.
These changes are driven by two factors. Firstly, businesses today have to be far more agile in a hypercompetitive disruptive world where customers are super-demanding. Innovation is a must to stay ahead of the curve. Secondly, employees are behaving more like consumers: they want cutting-edge tech, millennials expect transparency. Interestingly, at a time when social bonds are arguably getting weaker globally, we are seeing a sense of belongingness and purposefulness at work. These are very interesting times to start a career in HR because the challenges are very real.
Q. How does the change in the business environment impact HR roles?
Dave Ulrich popularized the three-pillared model of ‘HR Shared Services- HR Business Partners- Centre of Excellence’, but today we see some cracks in this model. For example, some jobs are best automated, and some are better done through low-cost offshored Shared Services. Since businesses are changing so fast, HRBPs are struggling to add the same value due to the lack of business understanding, arising from people directly jumping into business partnerships early-on without deep expertise in TA, L&D, and COEs. For this, early-career professionals must prioritize their learning so as to contribute substantially in chosen areas. The HR model will keep evolving and HR professionals must select an impact area for this evolving model.
Q. Is role-evolution happening, are there new roles being created?
The focus for early-career HR professionals should be on being role-ready. We need to focus on the current roles and how they can be done better, and only then bring in new roles. HR education in India is not preparing HR professionals for roles, it is a broad-based HR education, which urges freshers to prioritize niche skills without looking at being role-ready. For example, TA as a role is not just about sourcing, screening, vendor management, it is about, “Do I solve for what business needs i.e. right talent in the right job’. The fact is that this talent can come from outside (hiring), inside (IJPs), innovative learning (L&D), or other sources. TA readiness is thus, about, the entire value chain of Talent Supply, encompassing skills such as skill gap analysis, market pay levels, and more. So, a good TA professional would prepare for skills not only in TA but also skills in the horizontals of Talent Supply. The same applies to all HR arenas. What HR professionals need to answer themselves is, “Which is the role I want to prioritize my readiness for, and what are the skills I want to learn for this?”
Q. What in HR is not changing?
A lot is not changing and three ways to impact the organization are:
- Business acumen: The ability to understand business i.e. how your organization makes money. When you join, the first mistake is to act as an HR expert. For example, in an FMCG organization, the on-the-ground salesperson will understand the business more than you, and HR will get a lot of value from hearing how sales happen.
- Technical expertise: This is about thinking about what fits the organization. HR needs to get out of the cookie-cutter approach. HR needs to be more like sales, asking what works for business in a context, and a little less enamored by best practices. Technical expertise is not knowledge accumulated, it is thought applied.
- Your advice is as good as your ability to convince the business manager: HR needs to craft policy, and convince the business managers for implementation; not just give an order and expect everybody to follow. The ability to convince the business manager is the deciding factor for HR success or failure. Build trusted relationships, and advise business folks by giving options rather than saying “this is the only way it can be done”.
- Focus on building strong partnerships: This is something no training can help you. But a personality report can help understand what are predispositions and how to navigate these to be an impactful HR professional.
Q: Please tell us more about Aon's Next Generation HR Hub?
At Aon, we don’t want to tell you which roles and skills to focus on, we empower you. We have all the roles and skills that Aon HR Learning Centre does in one platform called the Next Generation HR Hub, which you can leverage in a self-paced, self-learning manner as long as you have a plan for yourself. We have prominent skills tied to roles, we add research and industry context, and get early HR professionals to assess themselves- to get a development report to prioritize their careers, and also to showcase the quotient score. The idea is to take charge and become learning-empowered. Ask yourself, once every six months, “Do my skills add up to role readiness?”, “Does my role impact talent outcomes?”, and “Are the talent outcomes impacting business results?”. Start from a broader set of skills rather than with a narrow role, learn for the role, and then expand.
Over a period of time, NextGen HR will be about four roles- Business co-pilots (HRBP with a far deeper technical expertise), Analytical Engineers (deep data scientists), Cross-Functional Expertise (broader expertise across COEs), and Cultural Stewards (owners of culture). Your entire career would revolve across these four levers, but for the first few years, early-career HR professionals must focus on the core.
To know more about Aon's Next Generation HR Hub, click here.