Paradigm shift in the role of HR heads

Manish Kumar | Updated on November 12, 2019

In the current disruptive environment, HR heads are being elevated from administrators and recruiters to playing a crucial role in retaining talent and removing roadblocks in achieving business goals

Disruption is an oft-used term, but the fact is that while we are witnessing massive change today, tumultuous times were being experienced over the last three decades as well. Earlier, opportunities were limited as compared to availability of qualified talent and, therefore, not always commensurate with competence. The balance of power was strongly in favour of the companies and chief human resource officers (CHROs) simply needed to focus on industrial relations.

With the opening up of opportunities, there has been a paradigm shift in the roles for CHROs who now have to nurture their human resources in a way that gives life to the oft-made statement that human capital is our most important resource.

CEOs have recognised the importance of quality talent to achieve business outcomes and CHROs are expected to assist in corporate strategy and transform HR practices in a world of continuous change. From occupying a seat at the senior leadership table to having importance in the strategic and executive team, the role of the CHRO has evolved.

According to a McKinsey research, CEOs worldwide see human capital as a challenge. For India to capitalise on its demographic capital, CHROs are being elevated from administrators and recruiters to playing a crucial role in corporate decision-making. They are now more aligned with the business and hold the strategic responsibility of hiring and retaining talent.

Emerging trends will have a larger impact on the organisation’s workforce and its future. A few focus areas on which CHROs will have to be prepared and strategise in advance can be identified as:

New and agile organisational structure: With the dynamic work environment and the global economic scenario, CHROs are steering efforts towards formulating workforce models that are agile, based on real-time business requirements and pro-actively anticipate talent needs. They are looking at changing hiring strategies and creating work environments with a balanced mix of employees — permanent, contract, consultant and freelancers.

Employees as internal customers: Employees are being viewed as internal customers who have to be segmented into groups, based on which all activities from recruitment to talent management can be formulated. Technology makes it possible to view employees as separate individuals and not using appropriate technology will result in the companies lagging behind.

Retention mechanisms keeping up with the pace of change: Today, classical talent retention mechanisms need to be overhauled. Earlier, in a traditional organisation, the process of identification of talent would take a couple of years. But today, if the organisation is not agile, by the time the organisation is ready to treat different segments of talent differently, the talent has already moved on.

Legacy processes such as annual appraisals and three-year talent management cycles are becoming obsolete; people need quick feedback and most talent take a fairly early call on whether this is the place for them. This is one area that traditional CHROs have to work on and align the HR process cycles to the much faster response time expected today.

Adding value: CHROs are prepared to recommend actions that create value for the organisation. Recognising employees’ hidden talents or unlocking the true potential are helping companies become more flexible with their human capital. In this cut-throat competition, CHROs are displaying capabilities that were previously not cultivated. Rapidly adapting digitisation and strategically managing change are making the CHROs future value creators.

Focus on culture and diversity: Culture and diversity are very important areas of responsibility for CHROs. Company culture has taken the limelight and CHROs are expected to serve as custodians of culture, designing highly engaging and healthy workspaces.

Further, given that diverse companies tend to outshine the less diverse ones, this should be a business priority for organisations and CHROs. Diversity is needed in every sense — age, gender, sexual orientation, background and ethnicity.

Outcome-driven approach: An organisation’s success highly depends on the fit between the company’s goals and its people. CHROs are crucial in crystallising the requirements of the job and finding and retaining the right employee for it. CHROs’ presence in the top level management meetings is becoming imperative to consider whether the key performance indicators, budgets and the talent assignments align with business objectives and will help in delivering desired outcomes.

The aim is to keep moving towards creating a continuous improvement process that builds morale and improves productivity, with room for agility.

Finding the problem statement: Workforce of a company is a major deciding factor in defining the company’s success. If the company is not able to achieve its business goals, it could also be a people problem, amongst others. Such analysis and insights are expected to come from the CHROs. Looking beyond external factors to analyse the internal environment and team dynamics can help overcome roadblocks in achieving business goals.

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence, robotics, blockchain and Internet of Things, customers have higher expectations from companies to deliver quick and easy solutions for their problems. This has led to the need for highly engaged teams and a shift from the hierarchical leadership.

The mandate for CHROs has become a tall order and forward thinking HR leaders are already analysing data and predicting the future bringing together the combination of strategy, insights and vision.

The writer is HR Head, Tata International

Published on November 12, 2019

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