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The Changing Role of Human Resources

May 29, 2018

People practices in the 20th century revolved around human resource management —
the hiring, ret
ention, development and off-boarding of employees. HR’s role was essentially to monitor, measure and manage employees, and ensure that we had the right systems and processes in place to mitigate risk and deliver services to our customers.  

While this employee lifecycle is still prevalent in most businesses today, it is no longer enough to treat employees as mere ‘human resources’ and stop there.  Most employees, especially those who are highly skilled, now want something more from the employment relationship – driving a growing trend to move from a focus on human resources’ to one that also builds ‘human relationships’.  Organisations who are getting this right are also better able to leverage knowledge sharing, problem solving and drive creativity – activities that we know lead to higher levels of productivity and competitive capital. 

The role of HR in leading digital transformation  

Rapid advancements in technology are opening up a world of options for HR. Smart tools now allow us to connect with workers from across the globe and support different ways of working. Today we have solutions which allow us to tap into the diversity of our workforce and move from a ‘one size fits all’ model of managing talent, to a ‘one size fits one’.  This is helping to build meaningful relationships, in a way that makes our employees feel valued as individuals and leverages their unique skills. 

HR needs to be at the forefront of leading this digital transformation. Their role as change agents is to introduce solutions which support everything from new models for employee feedback to finding innovative ways to share knowledge and tap into broader skill sets.  

The role of HR in empowering cross-functional learning 

We all know about the benefits of building relationships with customers. But do we put enough emphasis on the value of building connections between employees? 

The role of HR professionals in nurturing relationships within organisations needs to be redefined and expanded. HR needs to become the driving force for building the kinds of relationships that turn social capital into a competitive advantage.  

When an employee at Buckman laboratories in France, needed to solve a customer problem, he reached out to a colleague (fellow employee) in the US, who put him in touch with another employee in Monaco, using an internal employee network system.  The employee in Monaco was able to provide a previous solution and presentations to the same problem, which meant that the customer had the solution they needed in no time at all.  This operating model has provided big gains for the company.  

The role of HR in supporting strategic decision-making 

HR has traditionally had to fight for a place at the top table – and the ability to provide critical data and analytics to business leaders and help them make the right decisions, is the key differentiator. Our traditional view is that HR professionals are about the people, and analysts are about the numbers, but there is a growing need for HR professionals to be both. To add strategic value to the business, HR needs to be able to provide real-time quantitative and qualitative information to support strategic business decisions. 

While the traditional tenets of HR (employee administration and intervention) are still needed, the role of HR professional today has little resemblance to what it was even a short ten years ago. The new-age HR manager must don many hats and must be skilled to take on these parallel responsibilities 

Today’s HR professional needs to be digital savvy, a change agent, a relationship manager and analyst.  While the role has changed, there can be no question that HR’s role in supporting organisational growth and success has never been more critical.