Chief HR Officers at the helm of Industry 4.0

It's a brand new world for Chief HR Officers right now. HRM Asia examines the key talent trends that are shaping the scope of the role.
By: | July 24, 2019

Digital disruption has changed lives throughout the world and the global economy. And it’s changing the way professionals work, whether they are ready for it or not. While the rest of the business pushes forward in each of their roles and functions, it falls to HR – and the Chief HR Officer specifically – to spur the conversation about how talent can best survive – and thrive – in the changing conditions.

It’s no easy task. As HR expert John Sumser notes, “Today’s Chief HR Officer is faced with a crushing set of opportunities to screw up. The path is narrow and mistake-laden.” But there are a few general approaches that look set to be sure bets over the coming years. Here, HRM Magazine Asia explores three strategies that the forward-looking Chief HR Officer will need to embrace in order to thrive in the new world order.

Embrace the total talent model

Over the last decade, technology has spurred working professionals to challenge what were formerly the accepted norms of work. Working from home and telecommuting are now available to any worker who doesn’t staff the front lines of the business, and even some who do. Meanwhile, the likes of Uber, UpWork, and Etsy have spurred the growth of the gig economy, encouraging workers to either take on so-called “side hustles”, or switch over completely. The permanent, full-time employee who sits in an on-site cubicle from 9:00 to 6:00 is an increasingly rare species.

According to a survey by recruiting firm Randstad Sourceright, more than 60% of the workforce will have chosen “agile” careers, deliberately taking on freelance or contract work instead of permanent, full-time positions, by the end of this year. In tandem, businesses are increasingly phasing out a portion of their permanent
workforce in favour of these independent contractors.

This is partly due to an existing and expected skills gap. Even as technology has eliminated some roles, it has also given rise to new competency gaps that need to be filled. Indeed, Randstad Sourceright’s research shows that
almost seven out of 10 employers believe that the skills gap is widening.

The move to this sort of talent model becomes part of a shift in thinking where organisations begin hiring for the work, rather than hiring for specific roles. The Randstad Sourceright 2019 Talent Trends study found that most business and HR leaders are either investing, or have already invested in, the Total Talent Acquisition model. Of the latter group, 98% are either extremely or very satisfied.

“The barriers between types of talent – and between procurement and HR – are artificial. It’s time to take the lead in breaking them down. Although a total talent model can be challenging to implement, the rewards far outweigh the effort,” says Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Sourceright.

The point of the talent model is that it makes the organisation more agile – quicker to respond to change in the landscape. But it does make for a more complex eco-system for HR to manage. In order to keep up, Chief HR Officers need to equip their HR teams with the technology and skills to manage the moving parts – and be ready to encourage the rest of the organisation to make the necessary mindset-shift.

As Yap Aye Wee, OCBC Bank’s Head of Learning and Development, OCBC Campus, recently told HRM Magazine Asia, “Incorporating a gig mindset can begin with HR setting policy, process, and systems… but its success ultimately depends on having managers and employees who value and embrace this concept.”

Prepare for the new skills of tomorrow

Organisations no longer want telemarketers or switchboard operators, or even office managers. Instead, they want digital markers, coders, and people who are ready and prepared to keep up with new and emerging technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. Even a software developer who isn’t actively upskilling is beginning to be redundant.

A report commissioned by HSBC, Human Advantage: The Power of People, predicted a few of the banking roles of the future. They included: mixed reality experience designer, algorithm mechanic, and conversational interface designer.

None of these specific roles exist today, but none are particularly surprising – they reflect the increasing interest in User Experience, User Interfaces, data science, and coding. Global research and advisory firm Gartner Inc says that about 80% of employees around the world do not have the skills needed for these and other current and future roles. Further to this, more than two-thirds of business leaders also believe that if their companies do not become significantly digitalised by 2020, they will no longer be competitive – that’s in less than six months now!

The majority of HR leaders also see a significant skills gap, with 64% of HR managers polled believing that their firm’s employees are not keeping pace with future skill needs. “If your organisation is not able to attract, develop, and retain new skills, your business will almost certainly be disrupted,” warns Anthea Collier, Managing Director of Randstad Sourceright in Asia-Pacific. She advises Chief HR Officers and other business and HR leaders to take a strong role in addressing the issue.

“Whether through data insights, research, or customer engagement, human capital leaders are in the driver’s seat to deliver these skills and accelerate growth and market share,” she adds.

Use analytics to elevate your strategy
There is no room for gut feel in the age of disruption. If Chief HR Officers aren’t already pushing a strategy of data-driven HR, they need to start, and soon. In fact, Randstad Sourceright’s 2019 Talent Trends research notes that people analytics is easily the most popular tool among C-suite and human capital leaders for enhancing talent attraction and engagement, at 72%, compared to 63% for investing in training and development platforms, and 62% for workforce management tools.

“We try to help HR back up their decisions with data, and thus add more value to the conversations that HR has with the business,” says Deepak Bansal, Yap’s colleague from OCBC Bank, who heads up its people analytics arm. He highlights how analytics can help Chief HR Officers and their teams identify problem areas and resolve them accordingly. “These could be questions like – how do we link training to the right people? How do we develop the optimum career path for each individual, while ensuring high performance? Are people happy or are they burning out? Is our organisational structure right, are we working at optimal levels?” says Bansal.

But the next step beyond that would be elevating HR into a function that is infused with analytics at its very core. “When we develop policies at HR, can we use data to help us? Can we use data to change policies? For example, the compensation and benefits policy. How can we re-work that using data, while retaining the underlying organisational philosophy towards it?” asks Bansal.

“Can I use analytics to change the way we hire altogether? Can I use analytics to run my talent management programmes? Can I use analytics to deliver training plans?” These are just some of the questions that analytics can help answer – and thereby help HR leaders empower their C-suite peers with robust insights when crafting business strategy.