The future of HR is evidence-based where we’ll be able to make the best decisions with the limited information at our disposal. It will be interesting to see how disruptive artificial intelligence is to HR in the coming years.
The Case For Change
HR or Personnel Management as people have called our function for decades has been under a new threat – the threat of extinction. Famed Management Guru Ram Charan wrote an article ‘It’s Time to Split HR’ back in 2014 and since then the HR community across the world started debating on this topic further. Around the same time Google’s ex SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock in his book ‘Work Rules!’ shared a fresh approach to build an organization of great people.
What’s interesting about the way things are evolving is that a section of HR professionals is starting to look at the hourglass and predict what changes would drive the future of the profession and to that extent identify gaps.
“Gone are the days of individual heroics, today’s workplace is about achieving business results in a networked, remote collaborative environment, which makes it imperative for organizations to put measures in place to drive and enhance collaboration.”
This is what is leading to HR being rechristened as People Operations, Employee Experience and such terms, but beyond this nomenclature lies a desire to build a data-oriented function that can drive higher engagement not just with employees but with business stakeholders and enhance employee experience. While strictly speaking, evidence-based HR would focus on past research, the problems at workplace today are unique, unforeseen and therefore in my use of Evidence-Based HR”, I use ‘data’ as a mean to generate evidence.
Why Is the Shift Essential?
If we follow the emergence of evidence-based HR, the following are the factors that have contributed to it:
- Rise and Rise of Data: Data has been available in organizations for decades, hidden in physical and system files. What has made data more important is the way data is being leveraged in today’s world. Sample this – by just studying the network of your most important leader, you can find ways to distribute workload more rationally and therefore build a better-aligned team.
- Focus on Social: The power of a crowd is immense and it is best being brought out in the organizations that have been able to use the power of crowd sourcing to improve the quality of feedback, thus making performance conversations ongoing. This is backed by the data obtained from such interactions that show that feedback is more meaningful, valued and taken seriously.However, there is a word of caution as Prof Ron Burt, Booth School of Business aptly puts in an interaction which I previously had with him. Once you go social, there is no going Anti – Social. How true! It also emphasizes the need to take this social journey with caution and monitoring at all phases.
- Chatbots: The new emerging tools for employee engagement, shared services and more chatbots make the interaction more human than the friendly. Human resource department or so claim its proponents but the fact is the ease with which these bots integrate into the organization offering a face of interaction 24*7.While these are early days of Machine Learning and AI in HR, it’s certainly promising and it would help automate work that can easily be replicated thus leading HR to focus on value-added services.
- Collaborative Workplace: Gone are the days of individual heroics, today’s workplace is about achieving business results in a networked, remote collaborative environment, which makes it imperative for organizations to put measures in place to drive and enhance collaboration.This is possible by eliminating hierarchies not just in structures but in processes, policies and making a lean functioning organization.
“What’s interesting about the way things are evolving is that a section of HR professionals is starting to look at the hourglass and predict what changes would drive the future of the profession and to that extent identify gaps.”
What Does This Shift Mean for HR Function and Professionals?
While HR has always been under pressure to deliver value to a business, this phase is about the redundancy of the function as it was perceived and the emergence of the evidence-based HR. This is possible if HR can focus on the following:
- Up-Skilling and Re-Skilling: People Analytics is an integral part of the HR function and HR professionals who don’t understand this in depth would be facing an uphill challenge in the near future. Knowledge of advanced statistics doesn’t hurt either.
- Adopt Technology: This is no more about a good HCM solution, but an AI, Chatbot based system. HR professionals can no longer fear technology but need to adapt to it and adopt it.
- Drive Lean and Social: HR professionals would lead to ‘drive lean’ in the way the processes are structured; policies are defined to ensure customization to the individual needs (geos, businesses) yet maintaining standardization.
- Argue and Accept Data: A lot of times HR folks base their arguments on experience, even accept problems on experiences. The shift to a data approach would ensure, real problems are being solved and not the ones that we see on the surface.
- Stay Ahead of The Curve: In this dynamic world, it’s difficult to predict which technology would be the next disruptor but HR leaders would do well to keep analyzing the impact of some of these trends on their business. For example, it’s not difficult to think what today AI means at the workplace but the AI technology of tomorrow may make this thought process redundant.
With this, I feel HR would be able to re-energize focus and drive more value for its stakeholders while enhancing its impact and thus emerge from the threat of the past.