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Where will HR be in five years?

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It is almost impossible to predict what the future will hold for the HR function, but Rich Atkinson, HR director (APAC) for global operations at PayPal shares 7 pointers to help you prepare for the next five years.

Singapore – “He asked where I see myself in five years time?” a friend complained after an uninspiring career coaching discussion. “Do people still ask that? Is HR stuck in the 1990s?”

I didn’t have an answer, though being stuck in the decade of Nirvana, beanie babies and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air doesn’t sound too bad. But it did leave me asking how HR might answer that same question and get upwardly mobile in five years time?

Many successful businesses reinvent their core products every five years and HR needs to do the same. The “products” that make HR effective today will only be “the commoditised basics” in five years. So it’s important to plan for what will be the new differentiator as we race towards the future.

The HR profit centre

We have a great opportunity to generate revenue streams through the employee base and its extended networks. Would this mean taking advantage of our employees? I guess only if you take advantage of your customers. HR should be looking at how we engage our employees more with our products and services or identify referrals that drive revenue.

The HR marketer

HR will need to adapt to attract and engage a new generation of employee and, at the same time, raise the grey ceiling to retain an ageing employee base. With the learnings from Gen Y, hopefully we now move faster in evolving our talent and career management, work tools, benefits and engagement planning to reflect the changing nature of the workforce.

To do this effectively, HR will become the chief (employee) marketing officer. We will be able to segment the employee base and then build the employer brand, HR products and strategic internal communications accordingly.

The HR geek

One of HR’s key roles will be to provide data analysis and insights to the business; we will become a performance consultant for the organisation. Recruitment will move from “identifying the best available” to “identifying the best” as external talent becomes measurable. HR will become slick at applying hard data and metrics to manage and mobilise talent. Some businesses are already starting to adopt this approach.

We will more consistently measure “manager quality” and hold leaders accountable to leadership metrics. For example, leaders who hire good talent will be tracked. Companies will invest in identifying and leveraging their best “talent scouts” and holding their weaker talent selectors accountable. In 2018 we will be hiring and fi ring people based on their “leadership index”.

Rich Atkinson, HR director (APAC) global operations, Paypal.

Rich Atkinson, HR director (APAC) global operations, Paypal.

The HR techie

I expect to see technology, which has impacted in other spheres, applied to HR. Brand and marketing tools will become the employer brand and internal communication tools. Social and collaboration media will become team tools, and so forth.

The core HR processes will not be a source of differentiation in five years – running simple, efficient and consistent recruitment, onboarding, talent and salary processes – will be the minimum expected.

The “beyond” HR practitioner

HR will recognise a company’s “human resources” are not just employees. They are contractors, consultants, franchisees and vendors who speak with our customers, design our products and hold critical company IP. HR will expand its remit to support and/or influence this more widely drawn pool of HR.

The HR entrepreneur

In 2013 the pace and adoption of ideas in HR lags behind other functions. It’s time to bring an entrepreneurial and creative vision to the function. In the future, the highest paid person on your team may be the HR product manager.

The HR linguist

Finally, HR will speak the language of the business. It will be talking to technology leaders about the “resiliency” of their succession plans and talent management’s “supply chain”.

This reinvention will require HR to think and act differently. The pace of change will continue to accelerate and HR can look to a future where it demonstrates its value.



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