UNLEASH 2019: HR’s role will involve continuous learning and collaboration


HR’s future role will involve creating a culture of continuous learning and encouraging cross-functional collaboration as technology takes over some of its traditional responsibilities.

That is according to Janina Kugel, chief human resources officer at German industrial manufacturing giant Siemens.

She told delegates at the UNLEASH Conference and Expo in Paris that HR’s role will evolve after employees have the tools, guidance and empowerment they need to “take ownership” of their own career.

She said when discussing the future of work, HR professionals often ask what they will be doing if technology takes a greater share of their traditional duties.

For example, Siemens has created an HR chatbot which means its HR teams do not need to answer the same questions from employees multiple times per day. This has given them more time available for other tasks that will help them meet the company’s objectives.

She asked HR professionals: “What is the fun part in your job? Is it doing the same repetitive task, or is the fun part having some indications of where we actually believe the world will move to, and to [create] the environments that we know will actually attract talent?”

Kugel told HR teams to focus on their organisation’s business plan and look at how it can develop a workforce with the right skills needed to deliver it.

“That is not an easy task. No organisation in this world will ever reach whatever they have on their business agenda if they do not invest in continuous learning and in continuous personal development.”

Employees do not invest enough time in personal development, she said, often because they do not know what they need to learn. This is where HR can offer guidance.

“Unless you can retire next year you will have to learn new things in your career. It’s our responsibility to keep ourselves employable and we as [HR professionals] need to teach our people to get there,” said Kugel.

With many organisations experiencing skills shortages in some areas, Kugel said HR needs to enable cross-functional working to help deliver on business objectives.


The UNLEASH Conference & Expo took place at the Paris Convention Centre this week. The next UNLEASH event takes place at London’s ExCeL on 24-25 March, 2020.

Previous UNLEASH 2019 articles:
• Give remote workers more freedom
• Digital transformation is not about automation

“That is always easily said on paper but it is very difficult to actually make that happen. Try out certain environments – it’s not like everyone has to work like that all the time,” she advised. For example, Siemens holds hackathon events to get employees from across the organisation – which manufactures equipment for sectors from transport to healthcare – to develop new ideas.

Finally, Kugel said HR teams should not “babysit” line managers, but they need to teach them to put employees in the centre of their strategies.

“Very rarely do [line managers] get into conversations about development, feedback, or create something that they could really push and empower their teams.

“Is it still possible to work in fixed hierarchies if you have a world that’s globally connected and things are changing so often? I personally believe it can only work if you work in environments that are predictable or jobs that don’t allow mistakes to happen,” she added.

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