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2017: When HR Has To Go Boldly Further Than Ever


By Bettina R. Flick and Carolina Reynoso.

If there’s anything that marks the future of the HR profession, it’s the fact that it has to relentlessly push new frontiers to continually create value for their organizations. Just as businesses grow, so too must HR evolve. HR is already aware that it needs to go beyond the important functions that it has been carrying out traditionally. So what do we see needs to happen next? Today, the bold new HR professional must deal with general organizational issues and take care of employees in a much more personalized way than HR has done so far. On top of that HR must take on the challenge of digitization for the new era. Talent Management is now well established as one of the priority areas for CEOs around the world, so HR has to handle issues of undeniable strategic importance with greater efficiency to deliver real value.

The 8 trends we highlight for 2017 faithfully reflect this wave of transformation that the sector is experiencing.

  1. “HR is not about HR”

We thought itappropriate to dedicate this section to the latest conclusions from the eminent guru, David Ulrich, on the role of HR. In his article, "This is a great time to be in HR," Ulrich makes a point of how "HR is not about HR"; HR is not going to limit itself to the functions it has been performing up to now, instead it will increasingly play a more strategic role in organizations to deliver value. In this respect, Ulrich further dissects this new HR role into three aspects:

  1. Focus on creating value beyond the organization; looking towards clients, investors and others and to bring the outside into the organization.
  2. HR not only has to tackle individual talent, but also leadership and organization capabilities (culture, speed, knowledge of the world outside, innovation).
  3. HR has to transform HR employees themselves and the quality of their own department first.

Ulrich also defines a model of 9 new HR competencies. Even though the transformation of jobs and the HR department is a trend that has been firming up for years, it is interesting to see that specific theoretical models are beginning to emerge on how these new profiles of functions are taking shape as all the changes in the individual, global and organizational environments begin to settle.

  1. Employee Experience

Not so long ago, the short-term lodging company, AirBnB surprised everyone by creating a new Employee Experience department to unite all HR functions. The company decided to focus all their efforts on making sure their employees could have the best experience at the workplace. This is not so outlandish if we bear in mind that in recent years the employee-company relationship has changed a lot. Although work was considered primarily a necessity, today employees need to feel that their tasks have a purpose, a mission. In short, employees seek to "desire" working for the company and not just to "need" to work for it. Jacob Morgan, who created a very comprehensive framework for defining this trend, splits "employee experience" into three environments—the physical, cultural and technological environments—and describes the conditions for each of these for shaping this experience.

  1. “Consumerization” and personalization

The "consumerization" trend has close ties with "employee experience” which in turn borrows from the "customer experience" model. This permeates to the entire work experience, through an environment that encourages each employee to choose how he or she wants to work, their schedule, their places of work or the training courses of interest to them, and ultimately allowing employees to personalize their work experience—all orchestrated rather like the personalized consumer systems that we find in our homes (Netflix, Spotify, etc.). As Jeanne Meisner describes for Forbes, “consumerization” is about "creating a social and mobile consumer-style experience style for employees inside the company".

  1. Empower work teams!

On several occasions we have blogged about liquid organizations. These are flexible, agile organizations structured around temporary and often globally dispersed work teams. This structural model is increasingly taking root over the traditional hierarchical structure. A recent Deloitte study mentions several reasons for this paradigm shift. These stem from the growth of the millennial workforce, the diversity of global teams and the need to innovate and work much more collaboratively and closely with customers. Nevertheless, collaboration is the key factor that will set top companies apart. That is how work teams emerge in constant flux, with people flitting from team to team and without remaining in static structures. According to this study, many companies have already shifted from the traditional model to this one; only 38% of all companies and 24% of the large companies are still organized in a more traditional or hierarchical manner. Lastly, it is very significant that 80% of respondents in the report said they have plans to reshuffle their organization in favour of more flexible structures.

  1. Wellness: the importance of work-life balance

More than ever today great care is taken to make sure that employees strike a good balance between their work and personal lives. Wellness is a major factor for their motivation and in turn, their engagement, a term we also spent time discussing last year. Improving well-being at work has been shown to not only influence employee satisfaction, but also performance. The HR Council of Canada cites some wellness benefits identified by several studies: it reduces absenteeism, increases productivity, improves morale and relationships at work, lessens stress, attracts new employees and helps retain the current workforce. One of the latest trends within wellness is gamification; multiple game-based applications are emerging to enhance healthy eating, sports, or meditation, and many of these applications are already being used in the work environment.

  1. Personalized workspaces

Although we have witnessed different fashion fads in the workspace, leading up to the “open-plan workspaces”, nowadays even that seems out-dated. The latest trend is that the workspace should be very adaptable; the one-size-fits-all concept is no longer valid. There must be different spaces for different needs and work teams. For instance, in the latest Meta4 offices, different spaces were created for different ways of working: rooms for brainstorming meetings, phone booths for individual calls, round tables for debates, open spaces and closed rooms for more private meetings. Desk spaces are also hot, so every day employees can choose where to work, thus encouraging collaboration and work in global and flexible work teams.

  1. Machine-person: union of complementary forces

Until recently the buzz on artificial intelligence brewed over the "dangers of the machine" or how robots were going to replace jobs and more. Nowadays this debateis beginning to shift. As we outlined in our book "The New Digital HR Director", in fact the relationship between artificial intelligence and people must be based on collaboration, merging complementary forces. That is why we are witnessing today that what started off as a more negative or cautious debate is changing to focus on how both elements—artificial and human—can work together. Yet the question worth posing is: how does this affect HR? The well-known HR expert Meghan M. Biro explained in an article last year that the biggest impact of artificial intelligence is seen in the field of Big Data, especially now as HR departments are so busy with digital transformation. In this context, the author sees a big impact in recruitment, training processes and in predictive models. Another important field is process automation, where we can find some examples in scheduling recruitment interviews, new candidate onboarding, or even in responding to very basic queries.

  1. Virtual and augmented reality continue to grow

A recent Forbes article shows data that the virtual reality industry is set to bring in around 8 billion in revenue in the next two years; investment will be around 400 million and there will be 25 million users by then. The article also states that a quarter of millennial and Z employees will want their companies to incorporate virtual reality into the workplace and this is likely grow over the next years, since employees will want to see the same technology at the workplace as outside. One of the fields in which virtual reality is going to have the greatest impact is in recruitment. In this globalized environment, this type of technology will enable recruiters to conduct international recruiting processes with an even more realistic experience than video interviews, which incidentally areright now significantly impacting the recruitment market. Another area observing major impact is training, where virtual reality will offer highly immersive andmore appealing experiences. Similarly, it will make the onboarding experience much more attractive to new employees, for example, by giving them a tour of all the company’s international offices.

Editorial HR

Meta4, with 1,300 customers in 100 countries, manages more than 18 million people worldwide. The company’s R&D&I center located in Spain (Madrid) develops HR applications capable of meeting local and global needs of all types of organizations. The editorial team is made up of professionals with over 15 years of experience in the HR technology field.

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