HR Leadership: A 2025 Perspective! 0

Kenneth W Wheeler
Agile HR has been considered a buzzword for way too long but Kenneth Wheeler, one of our most engaging authors of 2020, shared an interesting perspective with us when he talked about the topic in one of his most-read articles. According to him, “The manner in which HR has taken the front seat in leading organisations through these unprecedented times, proves that Agile HR was never just a buzzword... It is a framework that gives the role we play a philosophical meaning!”

“The power of creating a better future is contained in the present.”

This quotation from the German speaker Eckhart Tolle rings true, especially when we observe how the Human Resources (HR) fraternity (at a global level) has responded to the pandemic situation.

Amidst a series of hardships, I feel proud about how the community stood strong and successfully embraced all challenges. All the heads turned to HR for answers covering various uncertainties. This included how business continuity and workforce will operate or even survive. The HR didn’t just meet but exceeded the expectations on multiple counts!

This strong testament of will and character is only set to grow bolder as we focus our HR vision for 2025. I am certain that we will see a significant rise in HR contributions within the business, overall economy and even society. I foresee HR to be not just present at the board executive seat but also to head it with great impact and efficiency.

Truly, there couldn’t be a more exciting time for HR professionals to rise and shine at their brightest ever!

Though there are many dimensions to how HR will shape up leading to 2025, I am sharing my perspective on HR attributes that I believe will gain more prominence. The views of the audience reflecting on points outside my column are well respected too.

Think, Act, and Execute Like a CEO

Think, Act, and Execute

Mindset is supremely critical for success in just about anything one wants to achieve. Mindset will shift for HR professionals from ‘Functional’ ownership to ‘Business’ ownership. ‘Competency expansion’ will be the norm with HR leaders turning to various course certifications outside of their usual scope of work both willingly and proactively

HR will explore and gain working expertise in other key functions such as Finance, Marketing, Operations, and Customer Success. Importantly, HR will invest in understanding the expectations of Investors at an accelerated pace and momentum.

To gain credibility at the highest level, HR will deepen their understanding of the business acumen to a much higher level. The expansion of bringing ‘value-add’ to the organization will stretch far beyond the current recognition. ‘Thinking’ gears will shift from being custodians of defined processes to being pioneers and leading critical innovations such as digitization.

The pandemic, in many ways, revitalized HR leaders. It forced the HR fraternity, at all levels, to manage the situation, operate like true business owners, and not be confined to mere execution of limited functional operations.

This exposure and subsequent success will add rich favour for the HR community and it would further build on this ‘entrepreneur’ mindset. We are bound to witness more CHROs globally being lifted to a CEO’s profile in 2025.

Trust Facilitators and Enablers

I heard a great story from my colleague in a recent workshop session. He was in an outdoor camp (pre-Covid) designed for first-time managers to learn key leadership skills.

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To demonstrate the importance of trust (as one of such skills), people were divided into groups of 3 (a mix of people relatively unknown to one another). The task was to cross a valley and get from point A to point B. Simple isn’t it? Now, the twist…the pathway was narrow with distinct cliffs (they were safe, of course).

All 3 had to hold hands as the person in the center was blindfolded. He or she was now completely dependent on his or her partners on either side. To add to the twist, no verbal communication was allowed between them. All guidance was done using body language and hand directions to suggest the next steps. The middle person would eventually walk the difficult path placing complete trust in his or her partners even though they were mostly unfamiliar to one another (different cross-functional leaders).

This is how HR will operate at the highest order. Rapid and unpredictable changes to the working ecosystem will continue to be the norm. The element of ‘Trust’ will only continue to deepen and hold more value for organizations. HR will handhold and guide the organization, its people, the business model, and also its investors from one-point A to another. These stakeholders would be at the center, with HR acting as the trust facilitators and enablers on either side.

Play a Dominant Role as a Life Coach

Play a Dominant Role as a Life Coach

The following quote from Maya Angelou promotes this thought profoundly –

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The relevance of employee experience will peak supremely by 2025. The presence of a hybrid workforce will demand HR to counsel employees and operate with compassion. Technology will continue to act as both a boon and a bane for employees in several ways. Employees would need cushioning to bring back that element of human touch. HR will not only be restricted to coaching employees on the right career advice and direction but play a critical role of being a coach for mental, emotional and even religious wellness. In fact, HR will go beyond to coach talents and create an ‘entrepreneur’ in every employee.

HR’s influence as a coach will also see an expansion of reaching out to employees’ families and providing guidance and support to them as well. The environment of the blended workforce comprising employees from different generations, gig ecosystem, extended global boundaries, diversity and inclusion – will all uplift HR to fulfill this critical task for organizations.

More Power to the HR Network Community

My personal experience on the power of meaningful network convinces me of the many merits this view holds for HR professionals. One core reason why the startup ecosystem has done tremendously well is the great value many CEOs have imparted to building a founder’s community.

Similarly, HR leaders would pay more heed to the value and quality of the network zone they create. The purpose would be to both share and receive opinions from other HR professionals. It would allow gathering valuable insights, adopting best practices, and learning how other HR leaders are managing similar problem statements.

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It opens up a forum for forward-thinking HR professionals to develop and cultivate a curious mindset and gain from the other great minds in the network. This will allow space to promote a collective spirit of success while also endorsing an ongoing learning attitude.

Kingmakers!

My heading here is gender agnostic…both men and women can be called a Hero! Now quickly moving to the point – HR’s role will intensify in defining a leadership culture that is driven by a clear purpose.

HR will be architects ensuring that ‘Leaders’ are focused on driving the organization’s purpose, in line with the culture, business decisions and employee behaviour. Click To Tweet

HR will be architects ensuring that ‘Leaders’ are focused on driving the organization’s purpose, in line with the culture, business decisions and employee behaviour. With the majority of the workforce in 2025 being millennials and generation Z, operating with a purpose becomes that much more important.

This purpose would hover around the themes like:

  • Think employee-first mindset
  • Uncompromised investment in enriching talent capability
  • Operate on the principle of compassion and emotional intelligence
  • People empowerment and mental wellness and wellbeing
  • Committed to improving the lives of the underprivileged and create a relevant social influence
  • Align employee values to organizational values

Rapid and unpredictable changes to the working ecosystem will continue to be the norm. The element of ‘Trust’ will only continue to deepen and hold more value for organizations. HR will handhold and guide the organization, its people, the business model, and also its investors from one-point A to another.

HR will own this cause and work with leadership teams across the organization. Similar to how in ancient times voyagers were guided by the north star, HR will nurture purposeful leadership and help leaders stay the course and become their organization’s ‘north star’ as the ultimate purpose.

To Sum it Up:

With continued evolution around how we work, where we work from, the technology influx, rise of ownership around CSR and D&I, HR Leaders will continue to zoom in on operating under the following guidelines:

  • What do employees genuinely want from the workplace?
  • What unique strengths will set my organization apart from the competition?
  • How as an HR do I continue to act as a catalyst between automation and human touchpoints? Be the strong thread that connects talent, technology, data and machine…
  • How to create an effective hybrid workforce?
  • How do we adopt a global cultural mindset while ensuring the workforce remains connected to the organization’s purpose?

A lot of this, for HR, would play around the zeal to continue their focus on building a strong employee value proposition. The intent would be to create a work environment where employees are enthusiastic to develop a long-term partnership with the employer. Among other things, 2025 from an HR lens will still largely remain to be all about ‘the people’. Holding true to the closing quotation from Ivan Petrovich Pavlov –

“If you want a new idea, read an old book!”

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