HR’s new, vital challenge

If change is the only real constant in business today, then it is high time that HR got on board. So says guest contributor Rita Trehan as she lays out a vision for HR leading the charge for innovation in Asia

Across the world, the winds of change are blowing more rapidly than ever, strong enough to change the landscape and reshape the global marketplace. Demands for growth and innovation are greater than ever, and as technology, social disruption, and scrappy upstarts change the very way we conduct business, the ground beneath most businesses is ever-shifting.

But there is one tenet we as HR leaders must adopt that is certain: we must lead the charge for change and innovation in our own businesses. If not, we will be left behind.

“This is not what we do,” you may say to yourself. “We manage the people. The Operations or Technology divisions manage the shift to a more robust technical, virtual platform.”

Heavier responsibilty

I cannot disagree that those divisions must take ownership over these aspects of the company. It is, however, HR’s responsibility to manage how these new innovations impact talent acquisition, talent management, and how the workforce meets and exceeds corporate goals. We are the owners of this lifeblood of the companies we serve: these resources human. If we are worth our mettle, we must step out in front and lead as to how innovation can be used to serve corporate capacity.

We must respectfully stand in our strength when any aspect of innovation or disruption affects corporate capacity. HR, People, Talent Management – whatever you wish to call us, we are the owners of how all resources of a workforce variety impact our company.

Capacity is how any corporation meets the goals set forth by its board and management. As the leader of this aspect of your company, feel free to add another moniker to your desk: consider yourself Chief Capacity Officer. Innovation directly impacts capacity. Therefore, you must lead its design and implementation, or you might find yourself irrelevant along with other aspects of 20th century business.

In my book, Unleashing Capacity: The Hidden Human Resources, I explain this concept along with the very real situation in which HR finds itself: we are being dismantled for not keeping up with those sweeping, changing winds of business.

We mean no ill. We wish to serve; truly, it is why we exist.

However, if we only assist in reaction mode to orders from managers and the C-suite, we are already too late: chained to the very processes and “old rulebooks” of how things have always been done, we sink to the annals of business history as we are outsourced and dismantled piece by piece.

We are at a watershed moment where we must realise that it is not a new organisation model that will save us; that we should not purchase a new enterprise system to show our level of innovation.

Conduit for change

Instead, we must get out in front of our businesses and lead. We must direct change in our organisation: technology, robotics, virtual workplaces, emerging talent, and social disruption are the means through which we will find our way to a secure, powerful future.

It is understandable that these claims might seem outrageous, that the suggestion that the technology taking human jobs should be the avenue through which we not only get involved but step out in front of the situation.

The Deloitte 2017 Human Capital Trends Report shows that a huge disconnect has already occurred between HR’s perception of where they should serve their organisations and where the business needs them: more than 60% of corporate respondents desired their HR departments to lead them through technological innovation; whereas only a little more than 35% of HR respondents said we should be involved at all, even minimally.

This is what I was talking about: we have the perfect opportunity, and we wish to concede it? Technological innovation and social disruption are the key factors determining the future of our businesses, and we want someone else to handle it? Do not be surprised if they take us up on this. We could be obsolete before the decade is over if we continue to think this way.

It is not a new model we need to assume the mantel for the best future for HR and the companies we serve; it’s a new mindset.

As the Chief Capacity Officers, we must think differently. HR is no longer a service department; we are business owners. We must think of our tools as products and services of our business. For continued business from our managers, the C-suite, and the Board of Directors, we must lead innovation. We must get out in front of the entire business, figure out what’s next, and quickly present how to either use it to our advantage or bolster the company for rougher market conditions.

We are entirely ready to make this shift; we need only think like business owners and act like the innovative leaders I know we are.

For the long haul

Consider, for example, the emergence of robotics in manufacturing. So many questions can be asked, researsched and answered.

 Why not figure out how this investment can benefit your organisation? How much money will it save? Can your supply chain and sales teams handle the inventory? What does that mean for the workers on the ground? How can that human capital be redeployed through the organisation or trained for another future state? What next-level talent will be needed for those machines and the next-level platform they offer? Is there market demand for a more sophisticated product strategy supported by this automation? Where will you win the war for the talent you need? What talent management tools can be built and deployed for the workforce needed to run it?

Although a manufacturing scenario is not all-encompassing, think about how innovation can be used to increase capacity, then design and present a plan for how it can be utilised to ride the winds of change into a brighter, more secure future for your organisation.

As the sun rises over Asia and the glow of innovation is bright enough for the world to see, I want HR to soar in this new environment. Let’s make the commitment to lead the charge for change and innovation. As the owners of corporate capacity, it is our duty to make a positive impact on our companies, and innovation is our key to that brighter future.

About the Author

Rita Trehan is a former senior executive and Chief HR Officer, and has more than 30 years of progressive career experience in building operational efficiency, best-in-class process delivery, and technological innovation for workforces around the world.

She has worked with leading companies and helped them rethink their approach to HR. Trehan’s initiatives, working with leading companies and helping them rethink their approach to HR, have transformed organsations’ HR functions from standalone departments into value-driven parts of the company, integrated into every area of the business, and every decision made.

As an author, Trehan contributes regularly to the Washington Post and Forbes magazine. Her latest book, Unleashing Capacity: The Hidden Human Resource, lays out the fundamental disconnects that frequently occur between a CEO’s vision and their organisations’ capacity to deliver.


Live in Singapore

Business transformation and capacity-building expert Rita Trehan will be bringing a global perspective to the issue of organisational culture when she speaks as part of HR Summit & Expo Asia 2017.

Her stream presentation It’s All About Culture – Why We Need to Talk About It and How to Measure It, will get straight to the heart of employee engagement. Trehan will outline a set of practical tools to help HR professionals shape the corporate agenda. She is also speaking in the Develop stream about Rethinking Talent Development—A New Approach to Winning the War on Talent.

See: for more information.


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