The essential transformation required to succeed in the changing world of work
The fourth industrial revolution has changed the axis of the world of work. With globalisation, changing demographics and emerging technologies, the world of work has become fast paced and is placing demands on workers to be value-adding, almost by default. This poses both opportunities and challenges on businesses as a whole, and on people and the people function in particular.
In this age, human beings are expected to work as who they exactly are, i.e. humans, value-adding by understanding implications of a business strategy, deciphering latent emotions of customers, developing talent that can perform during ambiguity, creating possibilities through technology to help humans work better—essentially, bringing relationships, emotions and happiness at work. Today, HR is poised to be at the forefront of leveraging ‘digital’ in the achievement of exponential human outcomes.
Consider this equation, which encapsulates the three key elements of the role played by the people function in driving superior business results. The ultimate state of the function is where element 1 becomes hygiene and the focus shifts from element 1 to element 3, while retaining differentiated focus on element 2 through value drivers like culture, leadership, employee care and well-being. Technologies like robotic process automation (bots) are helping automate repeatable processes across employee life-cycle, making HR operations efficient and people function sharper.
While this creates an immediate threat to jobs that are repetitive and rule-based, as they are taken over by bots with exponentially higher efficiency, it also expands opportunities for professionals to push themselves to ‘think, create and sustain’, as opposed to ‘follow, do and deliver’.
The emphasis is on ‘being more human’ at work, and this transition requires bringing data-based insight, mindshare and human emotion to work, as bots relieve us of the operational burden. Enabling personalised experiences for employees, demonstrating greater empathy and inspiring leadership will enhance the people function and bring HR back to the focus on its primary responsibility, i.e. being a culture architect and organisational change driver.
People professionals have to harness the potential of automation in driving superior employee experience. Analytics is helping HR get timely and specific information on people that need personal time and attention. For the millennials, tech-led collaboration and socialisation is a basic expectation. A smartphone-like tech experience will be the new normal. The people function is at the cusp of an important transformation. It needs to actively:
* Think business: Building an active understanding of the way business is changing and using that insight to shape people possibilities that enable business strategy & impact;
* Know digital: Appreciating existing and emerging technology at a broad level is no longer enough. What needs to be thought through is how these can be brought to life for a differential and personalised people experience;
* Think future of jobs: Job profiles are changing. HR, along with business, should be able to define and redefine success in the context of future of jobs—what would make a data scientist or a mixed-reality designer perform and stay inspired;
* Understand people: Today, there are four generations at the workplace (baby boomers, gen X, millennials and gen Z) and four employee types (full-time, contingent, remote and bots). To understand aspirations, personalities, competencies and needs, HR has to rethink the people ecosystem;
* Empathise: The employee has to be at the centre-stage, with policies and processes created around her. This requires openness to rethinking, to testing and retesting ideas, to failing fast and to using innovative (or seemingly crazy) ways to manage the employee life-cycle.
Whether technology resides in-house or with a provider, is new or established, does not matter. Digitalising HR is the essential transformation required to succeed in the changing world of work. Like the author and futurist Jacob Morgan said, “When it comes to the future of work, ‘late adopter’ is the same thing as ‘out of business’.”
By Alpana Dutta, Partner, People Advisory Services, EY India. Views are personal
(With inputs from Jayant Nath Kumar, director, and Roopal Krishna, manager)