Speed of change in HR is way forward

The five biggest challenges facing HR in 2002 and beyond are the changing
role of HR, the impact of technology, globalisation, the measurement of human
capital, and the need for an entrepreneurial mindset to keep up with the speed
of change.

These are the conclusions of the Society for Human Resource Management
Foundation’s Thought Leaders Conference held in Washington. It is the
non-profit affiliate arm of SHRM, serving as a catalyst for leading-edge
research and it hosts this annual conference. The conference, in which I
participated, brings together about 50 senior HR practitioners, consultants and
academics with the aim of determining what will be the hot items for HR over
the next decade.

A couple of these challenges represent clear validations of the current
leading-edge dialogue in the profession – globalisation is on the tip of
everyone’s tongue, technology is moving faster, and metrics are essential. But
speed of change and the need for an entrepreneurial attitude are the most
interesting findings, especially as globalisation and technology are their

Speed in HR is something that many organisations have only come to lately.
In some, HR has been known as a "business preventer" because of its
failure to keep up. Speed of change means HR moves as fast and effectively as
the business needs it to. Raw speed is not the only answer, sometimes nimble
and quick is preferable.

Entrepreneurialism is integral to speed of change. A team with an
entrepreneurial mindset will keep speed of planning, speed of implementation
and speed of execution at the forefront of their work.

It is more than just being able to react to change. HR has to be in the
thick of it and even take the lead. It must be constantly mindful of a
company’s talent and how that asset is managed. The ability to retool a workforce
on the fly, hot swapping one set of knowledge workers for another, could well
become the hallmark of good HR.

Just-in-time employment (and the general disposability of workers) has been
viewed with disdain and as a complete backwards step from employee/employer
loyalty. But the increasing need for speed of change in business may require
just that. So long as those expectations are clearly set and consistently
managed, this may not be an entirely bad thing. It would be a clear indicator
that HR is fully engaged and fully partnered.

Colleagues in HR at AOL comment that HR is there to "lead the need for
speed". That focus on delivering results and delivering them quickly is
one of the reasons why HR is an important part of AOL’s business.

The message for HR is that its teams will increasingly be expected to
develop and deliver high-value solutions that are executable at the speed of
commerce. The ones that do will be leaders in their organisations.

By Lance Richards, Member of the SHRM Global Forum Board and globalHR
Editorial Advisory Board

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