Two Cents: HR’s turn to step into greatness

As outgoing HRM Asia journalist Kelvin Ong writes in his final Two Cents column, now is HR's time to move into the spotlight.
By: | August 23, 2018
Topics: Features | Two Cents

The Two Cents column sees HRM Magazine’s Kelvin Ong offer his “#NoFilter” take on the latest HR and business happenings from around the world.

This is Kelvin’s final column, but no worries – we’ve got more of such opinion pieces right here 


At every HR event I attend these days, one common pain point shared by practitioners continues to be the lack of leadership support and trust in the capabilities of HR.

The argument against HR used to be that it did not speak the language of finance, and that it added little commercial value. Now, the same doubt is being cast over the function’s technical know-how in driving the digital agenda of their companies.

Which is why fears around the talent management function losing its hard-earned seat at the table, proverbial as it may be, are very real. Some would even argue that HR is still not yet even in the conversation.

One of the questions frequently posed by HR leaders themselves is whether HR is ready and equipped for the digital revolution.

Angie Ng, Chief HR Officer, Manulife Singapore, is one senior HR leader who recently expressed that anxiety.

“If I tell you I’m not nervous, I’m lying,” she tells me. “If you look at the last two to three years, technology has evolved so fast. I need everyone in HR to step up to the change.”

While a Deloitte study in 2016 showed that HR’s organisational skills, alignment with business, and ability to innovate had improved leaps and bounds, the function remains under huge pressure to evolve and drive innovative talent solutions.

Today, business leaders expect HR to be more than a cost centre. They expect the people department to stay connected to topline objectives by performing the following (non-exhaustive) list of “higher value” tasks:

  • Collecting real-time data on internal stakeholders
  • Turning data into actionable insights
  • Implementing productivity solutions
  • Providing strategic change management and training
  • Creating strategies utilising insights while keeping
  • aligned with business goals
  • Reimagining succession planning, talent development,
  • and employee engagement
  • Monitoring industry and market trends

With all the different hats HR has to wear these days, it’s not uncommon to hear people say that this profession is not meant for the faint-hearted.

One young HR professional even joked that she rarely left the office when there was still daylight outside.

I know this might come across as superficial, but the amount of work you guys have to do each day does sound like a huge load. I write about HR and company practices, and I talk a great deal with HR professionals of all levels, but I’ll never truly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes.

Yet as daunting as the picture might be, this is actually a great time to be in HR. This is your time to step into the spotlight, showcase your abilities, and shine as human capital champions.

It’s no secret that HR has traditionally been thought of as administrative, and more of a support function than a true business partner. But as HR thought leader Dave Ulrich says: “As HR moves to centre stage, delivering real business outcomes, the demands need not be threats, but opportunities if personal and department resources exist. Now is the time to be in HR — the demands have never been greater, and neither have the resources to accomplish greatness.”

So do heed Ulrich’s advice. It’s time for you to step into your own greatness!