Technological advances, demographic shifts and new ways of working are having a major effect on the human resources profession, according to Maria Forbes, managing director of Root, a change company in Los Angeles.
“They are affecting and shaping our future, and we have to act on how we plan on embracing some of these changes,” she said. “If you are snoozing on this, you are part of a crime against your organization, I would say.”
“If you’re passive in this, you’re not helping your organization be successful,” said Forbes, speaking at a recent SCNetwork event in Toronto. “It’s your time.”
Root is working to bring to life a vision set in motion by CHREATE — a global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent and the Enterprise.
From 2013 to 2017, more than 50 CHROs and HR leaders contributed to the CHREATE project in an effort to advance the future of HR, by mapping out ways the profession must evolve to meet the challenges of the next decade.
Through the CHREATE project, several strategies and tools were created to address questions or challenges organizations may be facing.
The rapid pace of change within organizations has been a challenge for HR practitioners, said Forbes.
While the profession has steadily progressed since the 1930s, it still has much untapped potential in terms of value-add within organizations, she said.
“There’s a steady progression of HR,” said Forbes. “We’ve challenged ourselves as thought partners in the business. But where we are really falling short is on our potential, for a number of different reasons.”
This gap between reality and potential can also be referred to as “HR’s tipping point,” she said, and holds the key to the industry’s evolution and continued value within business and strategy over the next 10 years.
A report card survey issued by CHREATE on CHRO capabilities revealed that HR is perceived to be strong on consulting, partnership and workforce management, according to CEOs, but the profession continues to lag in leadership by experimentation, transformation or change leadership, said Forbes.
“The report card that came back is pretty ugly, at the moment,” she said. “I feel like we’re sort of sick of hearing that we don’t have business acumen, and things like this. We in the HR community think, ‘Yes, we do,’ but we need to do something about it.”
5 forces of change
The future of work is being affected by five major forces, according to Forbes.
They are: the exponential pattern of technological change, social and organizational reconfiguration, a connected world, an all-inclusive, global talent market, and human-machine collaboration, she said.
Technological change: Technology breakthroughs will produce continuous disruption in business models, according to CHREATE’s research. Most routine jobs will be automated and the remaining roles will require increases in critical thinking and behavioural skills.
Social, organizational reconfiguration: Organizations will become less hierarchical in order to improve the flow of ideas and speed of decision-making as work becomes more project-based.
Workers will be drawn to workplaces aligned with their values.
Connected world: Work can now be performed anywhere, and real-time communication accelerates ideation.
“We are everywhere; our resources are everywhere,” said Forbes. “The speed of how people are connected is so different. How do we embrace that?”
Global talent market: HR practitioners will no longer be able to ignore demands from talent on how and where they prefer to work, while diversity will expand, and longevity will keep employees in the workforce for greater amounts of time, she said.
Human-machine collaboration: Advances in analytics, algorithms and automation will drive improvements by complementing human capabilities.
“The collaboration between machine and human is happening and we have to embrace that and understand that, and what it means for talent,” said Forbes.
These five forces can be broken down into two main themes — the democratization of work and technological empowerment, which together provide an axis for assessment for individual organizations in terms of future scenarios and where they can expect to end up, she said.
Assessing the future
Learning maps can assist and define the content of ongoing conversation between HR and business leaders, said Forbes, to help drive strategic discussion in terms of how HR is viewed in role and function.
“This is not an HR issue,” she said. “This is a business issue that HR has a key role in, in terms of driving the change.”
“The findings really draw us to (the conclusion that) we are involved in the business strategy like we never have been before. People and talent have been part of the agenda, but this is a critical component to the success of organizations.”
The future of organizations, including determining direction of corporate strategy and possible constraints, is a C-suite discussion that human resources absolutely needs to be a part of — and not just as a facilitator, said Forbes.
“That conversation has to happen with your businesses. (Your leaders) are the ones that are going to push what’s important. They’re close to the markets. You need to be a part of that conversation.”
“We all know these trends are happening, but whether you get off your bum and do something about it, it’s not going to be on your own — it’s going to be with the business,” she said.
“Stop hanging onto what you did before. Be awake and aware of how people need to engage across the whole demographic.”
“HR has a significant place,” said Forbes. “Don’t ask for permission to speak. Speak with an informed voice and show your capability.”
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