Article: Role of HR in the digital and social age

Strategic HR

Role of HR in the digital and social age

With Anthony Abbatiello, MD&Global HR Consulting lead and Jayesh Pandey, Lead-Talent&Organization Practice, Accenture
Role of HR in the digital and social age

Innovation in HR is delivering innovation for their business. The businesses have to ultimately think about what is the right operating model for HR that allows it to drive efficiency and effectiveness in the function


It is the job of the HR to know and understand what’s coming in the future and the effective CHRO really understands where the business is heading


What is the role that HR consulting plays in business growth?

Anthony: When we talk about the role HR consulting plays, we have to really focus on the role that HR plays in business growth. Over the last 10 years, HR has risen to a position of power in most companies in helping to define growth strategy, critical skills, needs of the workforce and marrying that growth potential to the organization with the talent and development needs. For HR consulting, the opportunity really is the constant evolution of helping our clients define HR models and strategies that allow them to grow and understand the industry-specific growth engines around talent development, talent acquisition and performance management. Each industry brings in a different flavor and hence understanding the industry-specific growth levers that HR owns and continues to own together that’s what drives the opportunity for growth.

How important is innovation in HR in this digital age? How do you get HR to innovate to make its work better, easier and faster?

Anthony: It is extremely important. The opportunity for HR in innovation is talent alone. How are we able to embed innovation within the workforce through the talent that we are developing? For example, one of our clients, who is a consumer products company, is developing crowdsourcing to drive new innovation for new products rather than hiring scientists and analysts and offering rewards for the development of the product. HR’s role in that is to help enable the digital perspective, use the social media channels and communicate the changing cultural perspective about the needs of the organization.

Coming to the second part of your question, HR innovating for HR is different. Understanding that HR continues to be challenged from a cost perspective like how do we do more with less, getting organizations to think about what is the right model for them is an important piece of innovation. The digital channels are ways of introducing innovation to HR. But, I feel that HR’s business is not HR. It is the business of the company in supporting talent, business growth and business outcome. Innovation in HR is delivering innovation for their business. The businesses have to ultimately think about what is the right operating model for us that allows us to drive efficiency and effectiveness of HR and focuses on the results of the business be it growing revenues, increasing profitability etc.

Jayesh: Innovation for HR has been on the CEO’s agenda continuously for a long period of time. There has always been a constant challenge for HR to achieve while the goal posts are shifting. For example, 10 years ago we said we need more leaders faster as there is going to be regressive growth. Most Indian companies had semi-structured leadership development programs as they believed that if we need leaders, we could just hire them. Today, that thinking has completely changed. Now HR leaders know that hiring talent and then making them productive, especially at a senior level, is a very big challenge. Therefore, it is much better to hire from within.

The next shift that has happened is that leaders actually learn by experience. The third big innovation is that HR has understood that leadership development cannot be done by HR and they do not hesitate to bring in successful business leaders to invest in leadership development. Hence, over the past decade, HR has been pushed very hard by the C-Suite to raise their levels of performance and they have responded in various ways. They have not hesitated to reorganize themselves and break away from convention. A whole host of talent management processes has completely changed from what was been done in the past. Organizations are leapfrogging from rudimentary practices directly into some of the best-in-class processes facilitated by the presence of captives in India, who are part of global firms.

In that case, would the business of HR be on the CEO’s agenda?

Anthony: Absolutely. In our survey of the C-suite across the world, HR and talent management is the number 1 issue for most CEOs. Attracting and retaining top talent, managing change, employee productivity and talent development continue to remain on top of the mind for CEOs, COOs, CFOs. The ones that get it right are the ones that recognize HR and build that partnership with their CHRO instead of looking at it separately like a business issue.

Do you need the CEOs or the COOs to provide you with that direction or does the HR take the initiative?

Anthony: I don’t think it is necessary for the CEO to direct HR to move into that place. It is the job of the HR to know and understand what’s coming in the future. If the CEO has to tell me that we need to develop better leaders, then we have already lost. The effective CHRO really understands where the business is heading and should wait for it to come. The success rates of those types of programs are much lower if the CEO is not behind it. It is really HR strategy to be ahead of talent, but having the C-suite support and executive sponsorship is still required for such programs to be successful and to recognize the RoI.

Jayesh: HR knows that I need the best-in-class performance management process to promote meritocracy. The entire PMS is executed by the line manager and not the HR function, who designs it with the right set of checks and balances. The HR has to make sure that the line function has bought into the concept and sticks to the letter and spirit of the system. While I do need the CEO to direct me, I need him to be completely immersed in the way we are going to manage HR not only in executive sponsorship but also want to make him believe that it is his idea and shape, influence, inform and educate that idea so that it becomes the right idea. In a sense, HR’s role is dual: One is shaping of how my CEO thinks about talent and enabling the CEO to translate that idea in his mind into reality through performance management, recruitment, development or planning. Do I need the CEO to direct? The answer is no but yes. No, because I don’t need the direction from an idea perspective but yes because he will then own it up as his idea. He will then drive the business and then the business will get the benefit of the idea. To that extent, there is sponsorship and ownership. That’s where we need the CEO to direct.

(To be continued)

Anthony Abbatiello is a Managing Director and the Global HR Consulting lead within Accenture’s Management Consulting practice, based out of the New York office. Anthony has spent his career advising leading firms on building high performance businesses that drive optimization and growth through Human Resources and Talent Management.

Jayesh Pandey leads the Talent and Organization Practice in India. He has over 18 years of work experience. He works with the CHRO’s and CLO’s to build processes, organization and metrics to make functional and technical learning more effective and efficient. Jayesh is also the sponsor and faculty for the Leadership Development Program in for the Consulting Workforce in Accenture India

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Topics: Strategic HR, Technology, #BestPractices

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