As the world changes around us, the role of HR is changing. HR professionals need equip themselves with new skill sets to be able to mine human potential in the digital age.
In a milieu, where our lives are ruled by myriad digital screens — mobile, tablet, laptop, TV, cinema — each telling us how to communicate, shop and behave; and where our business processes are getting more automated, we might just be forgiven to think if we even need people in our organisations any more. At the same time, the need for human ingenuity and intelligence to design the final outcomes on these interaction mechanisms as well as the need for emotional connect in an increasingly impersonal environment around us cannot be more emphasised.
Get ready for a quantum shift
Retail as an industry is at a crossroads today. Existing business models are being challenged as businesses evolve at a much rapid rate than ever before. The new wave of creating business models around shopping on the internet is creating a demand for skills, not known earlier.
As it is, retail demands a baffling variety of skills — ranging from business managers to fashion designers to project managers to customer service associates (It’s enough to befuddle the ordinary HR manager). Add to it, the demands placed by technology experts and analytics champions, which have just gone to further confound an HR professional’s problem. Customers, whether online or in brick-and-mortar stores, are evolving and are demanding more not only in terms of better products and services but also in terms of their shopping experiences. The demands on HR, therefore, are not only in terms of harnessing the right functional skills but also in terms of creating right attitudes and building a customer-centric, performance-focussed, empathetic organisation culture.
However, the truism that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’ still holds. In these times, HR professionals have a greater need to go back to the basics. There is an increasing need for HR to connect better with business. A CHRO, who is not in sync with his CEO in crystal gazing on what is going to happen to the business in the next few years, simply belongs to the dinosaur age. Sound knowledge of business levers, and the key triggers which could impact the way business is done, is now more essential than earlier. Understanding this would lead to forecasts on the skills and competencies required in the future. An understanding of, and a call on, how technological advances would impact business processes would determine the need and quantum for human interventions. A good HR manager, should therefore, be ready for a substantive shift in the quantum and nature of people in the organisation.
6 must-have HR skills
- A sound knowledge of business levers, and the key triggers that could impact business
- An understanding of how technological advances would impact business processes
- An ability to deal with people from varied and disparate backgrounds
- Knowledge of the science of sociology and neuroscience in addition to human resources
- A knack for maintaining an emotional connect with people
- Awareness of newer and efficient solutions available for handling HR processes
Update your skill sets
It is expected of HR to keep the workforce engaged and aligned with the organisation’s business goals. With people from increasingly varied and disparate backgrounds present in the organisation, and each employee community demanding different ways of motivation, an intelligent HR professional should be well-versed of such a requirement, and means to deliver on them. A cookie-cutter approach having standard operating processes on ‘engagement activities’ will not work now. Like a good marketer, a sound HR professional needs to now segment the workforce.
Increasingly, new performance management and appraisal processes and workplace practices will need to be adopted. Performance appraisal processes and workplace practices that evolved during the manufacturing era are still prevalent today. Instead of vociferously and erroneously backing them, it will serve HR professionals well to appreciate the great way in which the society around has transformed with newer mechanisms of ensuring adherence to business goals. Peer evaluations, social media and community recognitions perhaps are now more potent than plain monetary incentives. They need to reflect on whether some of the rules governing time and attendance need to be questioned in an environment that provides flexibility of working anytime from anywhere.
With rapidly changing technology and an increasingly young workforce, the HR manager is going to be subjected to managing the aspirations of the youth on the one hand, and handling the challenge of reskilling the older generation on the other. That is because even as younger people join an organisation, longer life-span and rising costs are forcing people to continue working for longer than earlier. Increasingly, the HR professional needs to identify the source of these social tensions and be adept at resolving them. Right skilling of the younger people joining the workforce to enhance productivity is also key.
We, in HR, will be doing our businesses a great disservice if we do not adopt technology in our processes. Identifying the right talent for the right roles, making the talent productive, and keeping them motivated remain age old problems for HR. However, newer tools are available to us to deliver better on these tasks. From talent sourcing, acquisition and life cycle management to exit management, newer and efficient solutions are available today, and are emerging by the day.
Ignoring the potential of new tools is dangerous because it will lead to a rapid obsolescence of what we, as professionals, bring to the table. Increasing use of analytics and big data, even in HR, is of paramount importance. The behaviour of people in our organisations, if it can be measured and analysed, can throw up key messages on how to keep them happy.
A good HR manager now needs to be more aware of the science of sociology, neuroscience and perhaps anthropology too, and not only be limited to the science of Human Resource Management. The challenge for maintaining an emotional connect with people is greater than ever before. Unless HR professionals raise their empathy quotient manifold, organisations are at a risk of creating an army of mercenary automatons.
Newer challenges bring newer opportunities and a chance to learn things afresh and explore the limits of our own abilities. Today, we are afforded this chance, to renew ourselves and to be better human managers. Let’s grab this opportunity with both hands.