​Modern HR faces “multiple challenges” from new tech-savvy workforce

“A fundamentally different culture is required.”

Engaged employees, aligning talent supply with forecast business requirements, and achieving sustainable human resources (HR) departmental operational excellence through improved efficiency will be some of the key focus priorities for HR departments in the second half of the decade.

That’s according to an expert panel of industry leading HR speakers from Accenture, ANZ Bank, Telstra and Oracle, who discussed how HR departments can embrace digital disruption in the coming years.

While many organisations are now playing “catch-up” on how to best engage their human capital to deliver increasingly higher expectations of business performance, it appears that solving this issue has fallen in the laps of the HR directors.

Or perhaps more so their teams, who are increasingly tasked with using analytics to drive successful employee engagement, workforce optimisation, position management, and performance management outcomes.

Until recently, most HR directors were preparing plans to cope with business expansion in an era of chronic skills shortages.

Now, they are being asked to develop a workforce, while reducing costs and ideally without losing valuable talent in the process.

Chief executive offers and finance departments are not blind to the challenge but they do expect HR to be confident, responsive and realistic about the hard decisions they are going to have to make.

“We are right in the midst of the technology disruption,” says Ilona Charles, Executive Director, Human Resources, Telstra.

“It is not enough to continue to just be a telecommunications company anymore, customers expect more. Our aim is to be a world class technology company.

“Customers want to be able to access information anytime, anywhere. Businesses want technology solutions that include cloud, multi-technology mix, e-commerce and customer analytics not just a telephone.

“Customer behaviour and expectations more than anything else mean we need to be constantly innovating, we need to be agile and responsive and we need to move into new growth areas to ensure we have a sustainable business model into the future.

“A fundamentally different culture is required.

“As customers access information and products in their own time on their own terms, we will need more skills in digital innovation, solution selling and our people will need to understand our customers and know how to design products that meet their needs, sell solutions and provide exceptional customer service no matter what the channel.”

Charles says the industry will need new capabilities in areas such as e-health, as well as global mindset and leaders who can motivate, encourage and provide people with the autonomy and accountability to get on with delivering to customers.

Business rethink

At the same time, organisations are having to rethink the HR function as digital technologies are changing every aspect of how a company engages with its workforce.

To embrace these changes and create real business value, HR organisations increasingly need a modern HR and talent strategy that can meet ever-increasing employee expectations.

“The push to go digital is amplifying the need for humans and machines to do more, together,” adds Andrew Woolf, Managing Director - Financial Services, Human Capital, Accenture.

“Advances in natural interfaces, wearable devices, and smart machines will present new opportunities for companies to empower their workers through technology.

“This will also surface new challenges in managing a collaborative workforce composed of both people and machines.

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“Successful businesses will recognise the benefits of human talent and intelligent technology working side by side in collaboration - and they will embrace them both as critical members of the reimagined workforce.”

A key outcome from the forum was that workforce globalisation has emerged as a key trend that will have a significant impact on the recruitment and retention of talented employees in the next few years.

Modern HR leaders are now forced to rethink HR best practices from workforce planning, compensation and performance reviews to aspects such as gender and workforce age diversity and talent acquisition.

“Leading companies will be those who identify the shift from a labour driven and technology enabled paradigm to a digital driven and human enabled model,” Woolf adds.

“They are starting to think about the combinations of intelligent technology and training that can enable and optimise human machine efforts, accomplishing more than either could on their own.

“They are looking anew at core business activities to identify those tasks that can be better suited to involving machines. And they are beginning to give thought to what type of people they should be hiring in the future.

“Human and machine, each on its own, won’t be enough to drive business in the decades to come. Tomorrow’s leading enterprises will be those that reimagine their workforce and effectively blend humans and technology as partners.”

Digital disruption

Another highlight of the forum discussions focused on digital disruption within HR departments which is in part being driven by the growing number of businesses turning to the use of analytics and cloud in the quest for innovation, performance improvements and cost savings.

Last year, the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, the longest-running industry research effort that tracks the adoption, deployment approaches, and value achieved from enterprise HR technologies, claimed that 58 percent of organisations will deploy their human capital management technology in the cloud in 2015.

“We live in exciting times but external change is happening so fast it has the potential to out-pace HR's ability to respond,” adds Mel Parks, Global HR Business Manager, ANZ Bank.

“CHROs need to look beyond operational efficiency. We need to step up: be clear how we will use analytics and insight to create value; how we will leverage technology to enhance the experience of work; and how we will tap in to our innate curiosity to prepare for, and respond to, the demands of the workplace of the future.

“The opportunity is compelling but only the most agile HR-leaders will directly contribute to outpacing the competition.”

Modern HR technologies accessible through cloud-based applications will support collaboration, optimise talent management, provide complete workforce insights, increase operational efficiency, and make it easy for everyone to connect on any device.

“Chief HR Officers and HR Directors are playing an increasingly active role in generating more value for the enterprise,” adds Aaron Green, Vice President of Human Capital Management Strategy, Oracle APAC.

“The tools now exist for HR to drive the next wave of transformation and become the intersection between the people, HR and business strategy, in turn, demonstrating it’s commercial relevance to the business.

“The idea of HR services delivered by the cloud has become a key foundational element that almost any business person needs to embrace and leverage.

“It's 2016 and business is conducted from more than just a single address. Businesses are demanding more flexibility from their systems.

“They want to enable their staff to break free from the shackles of the old way of doing things and have their key information, data and business tools available to them whenever and wherever they need them.”

For Green, this means software and services in the cloud, accessible on a multitude of devices.

“At the same, leading HR practitioners should look to combine HR related data from multiple data sources into a comprehensive view, which can be shared across the company for coordinated workforce assessment and planning,” he adds.

In conclusion, the panel agreed that HR leaders must create modern and engaging employee experiences that attract and retain talent, increase collaboration, and boost productivity well into the future.