The old way of how people work made sense. 

But then the world changed. 

For a start, we’re now living through the most uncertain times with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As a result, organizations of all sizes are also revolutionizing how people work. 

With the new way of working and the rise of a new generation of workers, a new HR is also a must. 

If you’re part of an HR team or leading your company’s HR department, this article will show you how HR can play an essential role in helping companies navigate the new future of work and promote a more inclusive, purposeful workplace.

HR’s role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

With the rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution —a period describing the blurring of boundaries between people and technology and the convergence of machine learning, AI, and other cognitive platforms — companies are poised to make way for a more strategic HR role. 

A 2019 white paper looking at the future of HR as the fourth industrial revolution approaches concluded that HR leaders of the future have a critical role in ensuring that organizations can adapt and deploy new technologies successfully. 

“As the fourth industrial revolution transforms work and the workforce, HR professionals must respond to proactively manage the future of work,” shares Managing Director for the World Economic Forum Saadia Zahidi.”Human resources managers will increasingly have to develop their skills and their understanding of data and technology analysis, and help employees develop these skills in order to enhance their experience and encourage their productivity.” 

The findings of KPMG International’s Future of HR 2020 survey (in which over 1,300 HR executives from across the world participated) agree with Zahidi’s assessment. 

In the survey, 3 in 5 HR leaders worldwide believed that their HR roles would quickly become irrelevant if their organization doesn’t modernize its approach to understanding their evolving workforce’s needs. 

In a nutshell, they predict that their HR function will cease to exist in its traditional form if it continues to operate in the same way.

HR Takes a Seat at the Strategy Table

In Harvard Business Review’s special report “The Call for a More Strategic HR”, Lancaster University’s senior lecturer in management Anthony Hesketh says that Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) are starting to be a part of what he calls as the “Golden Triangle”. 

The phrase “Golden Triangle” describes the triumvirate of the CEO, CFO, and CHRO in supporting innovation and growth within the organization. 

“HR is where marketing was in the 1980s,” Hesketh shares. “Marketing was struggling to put numbers to the brand’s value. Today, HR is trying to do the same with talent.”

The challenge for many HR officers today is how companies see talent as cost. 

Instead of looking at “return on invested talent” (similar to return on investment), organizations develop financial metrics to manage talent and often focus on cutting talent costs below their industry benchmarks. 

When HR is part of the Golden Triangle, attracting and developing talent is considered a strategic asset rather than a business cost. Subsequently, HR leaders will become more involved in adding value to their organizations. 

The good news is that organizations big and small are starting to recognize the need for HR to take a seat at the strategy table.

HR Evolves to a Strategic Business Partner

When HR becomes a strategic business partner, there is less focus on administration, compliance, and management. 

Unlike traditional HR roles such as facilitating daily employee training or dealing with policy wording on employee benefits, HR business partners look at the big picture. They ensure that human resource policies and procedures throughout their company are aligned with its needs, goals, and top leadership. 

Mark Spears, Global Head of People & Change of KPMG in the UK, believes that a small subset of the global respondents in their Future of HR 2020 survey is stepping up to the plate. 

“We have called this grouping “Pathfinding HR organizations (approximately 10 percent of the survey sample),” shares Spears. “This confident group of HR executives is simultaneously focusing on four discrete capabilities to chart their course to the future in a disrupted world.” 

These four areas are the following:

  1. Shaping the workforce for the future
  2. Shaping the employee experience
  3. Shaping a purpose-led culture
  4. Shaping decisions about people and the workforce by using insights from data

We’re going to take a closer look at the first two areas below  — HR’s role in workforce shaping and employee experience.

HR as Shapers of the Employee Experience

The same survey data by KPMG revealed that “pathfinding HR organizations” were almost three times more likely to strongly agree that employee experience should be considered a strategic priority.

“It’s a ‘buyers’ market’ in many industries. Organizations need to be deliberate about the design of their employee experience if they are to attract and retain the most talented. There’s certainly no shortage of statistics around this concept,” states Jane Gunn, Partner and Head of People & Change at KPMG Australia.

Adopting a thoughtful, organization-wide approach to employee experience design has added benefits too. 

Organizations that invest in employee experience have more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue

Companies with higher employee engagement levels are also shown to outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share.

It’s worth noting that employee experience design isn’t just limited to employees but also other types of talent, such as contractors and consultants.  

The employee experience can be further narrowed down to the following:

  •  the digital experience or the technology employees use to get their tasks done
  •  the social experience or the employee’s sense of community and collaboration
  • the environmental experience or the employee’s design of the physical workplace 

As more HR teams acknowledge the need to design positive employee experience, they turn to Enterprise Service Management (ESM) technology solutions.

With ESM tools, HR organizations use process designs, portals, workflows, voice and chatbots, and automated prompts to address “moments that matter” for their employees. 

HR as Shapers of the Workforce for the Future

What is workforce shaping?

According to KPMG’s report, workforce shaping is “understanding how digital disruption and AI will change the overall shape, size, composition, and skills in the workforce and how humans and machines will work together to drive business value and a high-performing workforce.” 

Eugenio Soria, Vice President of HR at Siemens Mexico and Central America, explains how workforce shaping is taking place in their organization.

“We are implementing more and more automation in our administrative processes. We are at a very early stage, yet this is gaining momentum,” Soria shares. “I envision that, during the next five years, we will see a really big jump in the number of tasks that will be automated, and we need to be prepared for this shift.”

The survey also highlighted that upskilling goes hand in hand with workforce shaping. 

“We have identified the need for new skills around big data, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity, among others, to accommodate the changes taking place in the business around the workforce,” says Marta Machicot Chief People Officer, Telefonica

4 Steps to Ensure that Workforce Shaping Can Add Value to Your Organization

As a new discipline in helping organizations rethink how their workforce would look like in the next six months, year, or five years, workforce shaping by HR boils down to “having the right capabilities, in the right place, at the right time.” 

HR teams accomplish workforce shaping through the following steps:

  1. Understand what the data is telling you. For example, it’s essential to understand what the future may look like for the organization and its associated business levers (e.g., product offerings, partner relationships that will be needed, marketing channels), how these levers will be pursued, and timelines for these to happen.
  2. Build a strategy around future workforce needs for long-term gain. These include employee skills/capabilities, technology/AI, labor supply, leadership requirements, organizational principles, and people practices.
  3. Implement your strategy and ensure that workforce adjustment is evenly balanced between short- and medium-term operational goals and longer-term strategic company vision.
  4. Build a compelling story alongside your strategy to inspire the workforce towards change. After all, powerful storytelling is the key to persuasion.

The Takeaway

The path forward for HR is where payroll, benefits, memos, employment contracts, and leave requests are outsourced or automated. This requires a fundamentally new way of thinking about HR’s roles in an organization. 

Smart and forward-looking organizations already realize the pressing need to adopt new approaches in crafting a future-proof workforce and meaningful employee experience. 

The same trend applies to the acquisition of new technology. Human Resource Management Systems like Payruler is a good example.

What is Payruler?

Payruler is a full-suite HRMS covering the entire employee lifecycle- from recruitment to retirement. 

It is a comprehensive and customizable Human Resource Management System (HRMS) that can process and handle all the granular HR concerns and businesses’ issues with a payroll system built for the Philippines.

Payruler is also available for IOS and Android. As a mobile app, employers can keep track of employees, approve leaves, and sign off on business matters while on the go.

Employees also have easier access through the Employee Self Service portal on the app. They can time-in even during fieldwork, check their payslip, leaves, and loans on the app. 

With tools like PayRuler, administrative processes are automated. 

As a result, HR teams have more time and energy in fulfilling their roles as architects of employee experience and the future workforce.


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