How will HR shape up in the new decade?

Professor
Amin Rajan, chief executive of Create, and author of Tomorrow’s Organisation outlines emerging trends in HR.

“The
last 10 years have seen phenomenal change, driven largely by globalisation.
Customers, shareholders and employees now have vast choice and they are
becoming increasingly discerning and want more for less. The internet is part
of this as it provides instant access to the total marketplace. This has
far-reaching implications for the way we manage, develop and deploy people and
a new business model is emerging which places HR centre-stage. This is
facilitated by the development of corporate intranets, software and specialist
call centres which have taken over many of the traditional functions of HR,
freeing it up for a strategic role.

There
is a lot of talk about strategic HR but it is a vacuous term unless it is
clearly defined. Without clarity of thought you cannot have clarity of action
and implementation.

To
me the preoccupations of HR over the next decade will focus on two key areas:
building a resilient organisation which can cope with the uncertainty and
turbulence that undoubtedly lies ahead; and most importantly of all, branding.

Branding
is no longer just a question of name and logo recognition, but encompasses
customer care, quality and the values that underpin everything you do. Today’s
customers now look for benefits that go beyond functionality to include social,
ethical and environmental considerations. They want to feel good about the
product and the ethos of its provider.

Customer
care, quality, values – these are “soft” issues and require new mindsets. That
is the role of HR. Staff must become customer-focused, thinking and acting like
self-employed people. Unless they engage with their employers’ business goals,
it will be difficult to generate added value for customers and shareholders.

In
successful companies, HR professionals will work as business partners with top
executives to define the value proposition implicit in the brand. They will
help to determine how it is to be delivered, identify yardsticks to ensure it
is taking root, and strive to continuously widen and deepen relationships with
customers, shareholders and employees.

The
internet has a significant role to play here as it allows you to establish
durable relationships with people you never meet face to face. This changes the
whole dynamics of business relationships and offers HR professionals huge
opportunities.

The
question is – are they up to the challenge?

At
the moment the answer is no. Few HR directors have the requisite breadth of
experience or grasp of the ‘big picture’ to become effective business
partners.  Nor do they have the ability
to inspire trust and motivation.

There
are however some encouraging signs. Advertisements for HR directors now feature
in the top salaries sections of the Economist and Sunday Times, out of the
question five years ago. Leading organisations are importing expertise to raise
HR capabilities and equip them for their new partnership role. They are also
moving people from the line into HR and vice versa. It is not just about
business expertise. It is about fostering relationships with a large number of
people across the company. That is what HR has to grasp.

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