We have hit the last ten days of 2016 and a rum year it has been! It had all the drama, heartburn, highs and sighs that good corporate theater is all about! Now, if you are looking ahead to 2017 with the hope that it will bring a greater sense of calm and meaning into life and work, perish the thought! This is the new normal that was anticipated a decade ago. A compulsive cocktail of technological innovation, agile corporate behavior and millennial blood in the workforce has ensured that the churning is here to stay. The old will continue to give way to the new and the greatest demand on professionals will be to stay abreast of changes in an age where a single app may surface or submerge billions of dollars in business, a career may rocket on the back of a tweet or be in ruins.
What do all this portend for the Human Resource domain in 2017? Quite a few things actually, and so this five-point cheat sheet has been word-processed. But, one thing that HR has to confront for the sake of its own survival is that the heat is on! The CEO is coming hard at us, demanding more of us, challenging us at every step to stay ahead of the game. Asking us to squeeze more sense out of everything that changed in the last 140 seconds. Here then is what, I believe, #HR should do in 2017.
1. Get your agile thinking caps on: #Agile isn’t just a buzzword. It is a whole way of management and is now the boss. As Roxanne Taylor, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer at Accenture, writes in an official blog, “We live in an age defined by smaller and smaller fragments of time…” In each such fragment we must live out an entire lifetime. Decide, deliver, decode, collaborate, ideate, flex, learn, teach, team, map, and create; all this and much, much more. Agile is not so much about speed, as about managing speed. It is about creating organizational systems that process the management life-cycle, from decision to delivery, creatively. It is an entirely new way of thinking and HR needs to develop its chops in this exciting area.
2. Craft ‘Sensibility’ into the competency dictionary: In an excellent Forbes magazine article this month commentator and crisis-management expert Melissa Agnes writes about crisis-proofing an organization. She says “…in this age of live-streaming, data vulnerability and heightened stakeholder expectation, a crisis striking your company is almost an inevitability.” Crises, disruption, perception and information are the linchpins of the new normal. Increasingly, HR, always considered the repository of knowledge, organizational and otherwise, will be called upon to make sense of it all to the CEO; the wise head who can be an oracle and counselor, advise prudence and purposeful action and present it all aesthetically to the organization. This is the ‘sensibility’ competence that HR has to wrap its brains around in 2017. It requires immense capacity to sense the environment, internal and external, and to funnel strategy through that sense. It is a leadership competence that should be developed organization-wide, but HR has to set the pace.
3. Get even more intimate with tech: It’s a cinch that technology will reshape the HR domain. How exactly? That’s something we are not answering very well. So, here’s the bad news. 2017 will see the end of our pussyfooting around the question. If you need answers, you can look at a seminal post on LinkedIn by DP Singh, Head of HR with IBM India and South Asia and my one time colleague in the company. He writes in that data-laden post, quoting an IBM survey, that
· “Less than 20% of the organizations today are able to apply predictive analytics to address important people issues. Over 40% of organizations are limited to basic HR reporting capabilities. More than 50% of companies report difficulty with integrating workforce data from HR and non-HR systems…”
All this headroom for tech application in HR when, as Taylor says, “…technology – from cloud and analytics to artificial intelligence and robotics – continues to disrupt virtually every industry…” In 2017, HR will be called upon to define the purpose for which data is to be used, identify the sources from which it is to be obtained and install the tech tools to analyze it with. HR will have to develop into a data-driven science and 2017 will be huge in that respect. Every CEO will demand that since, as DP writes, “…timely HR intervention such as identifying the best hiring sources or optimizing employee engagement can address business issues such as optimizing costs, enhancing the customer experience, accelerating sales, managing risk and above all accelerating the pace of innovation.”
4. Be more media-savvy, a builder of brands: In a world full of noise, your brand is the soft syllable, even the silence every one seeks. It is the place one can go to seek meaning, make more sense (that word, again!) of life. In 2017, every CEO will look at HR to build the brand, multiple brands, for the organization to survive. For the simple reason that most stories that connect with the wider world emerge from people. This is the world that HR will need to tap and broadcast. It also means engaging even more with social media and traditional media, talking to the organization as much as the world, sharing wins, establishing leadership, telling everyone what you stand for. 2017 is not the year for either the faint-hearted or the reticent. It is going to be Business-As-Unusual!
5. Unhide the People Partner you were meant to be: A recent heart-warming tweet from Harjeet Khanduja, Head of HR with Reliance Jio reads, “When you touch the heart, you know it is an art.” It is an art HR has learnt to ignore. In all our business partnering, line people manager and internal consultant derring do, we have moved away from an HR basic: people connect and champion. 2017 brings that all back into the HR fold. Increasingly, CEOs will want HR to deliver them the people goods: talent, perception and engagement. People are business and business is people and we can’t hide behind strategy and balance sheets to say we have done our job. HR guru Dave Ulrich sums it up neatly: “HR has to deliver individual talent, and also leadership and organizational capabilities (eg., culture, speed, external sensing, innovation).” You can’t do this without getting into the middle of your people, without connecting with them yourself. Leave business to the line, you tend to the people. That will be the credo of 2017.
To quote Dave, once again, “this is a great time to be in HR,” and 2017 promises to be a defining year. It is going to be a year in which we have to enhance our relevance and purpose like never before. On that note, allow me to wish Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to the entire LinkedIn community.Cheers!