Human Resources as a function has always been about the ‘human’ part of processes. Previously, answers provided during interviews for HR roles had recurring phrases such as ‘people’s person’ and ‘affinity towards interacting with people’. An HR representative role meant sitting at the employee bay and being available to employees in-person. Move to the present where on one hand, automation and digitization have replaced most of these employee needs; on the other, HR’s role has transformed into that of a strategic business and advisory partner.
The pace of digitization has conventionally been driven by economic and technological advancements. However, currently the world is going through an unprecedented situation which has disrupted earlier trends and led organizations to re-think their approach. As an instance, business strategy acumen, coaching and conversational skills with empathy, and an aptitude for technology are the new additions into an HR professional’s skill set.
What did this shift mean for the wider HR function? Presently, the gamut of HR processes is digitally automated with multiple interactions reduced to a few, incredibly efficient digital touchpoints. Thus, employee life cycles can be managed with integrated technology platforms.
Digitization today starts at integrating sales feeds to financial forecasts, which translate into resource planning. Process automation has permeated to raising demand requisitions, sourcing, aiding assessments and selections using Machine Learning and AI based matching logics and on-boarding. Entire processes can now be managed through interactive and un-biased digital tools. Interactions across multiple leadership levels are seamless via on-the-go connect mechanisms, and the workflow also ensures all stakeholders are aware of the process status; and approvals are directed to the right decision-makers. Analytics has already started to play a key role in process hygiene control and continuous improvement.
Employees’ interactions with HR representatives have gone through a transformation as well. The shift is towards a digital interface, including tools for query resolution, credential changes or employment letters. For non-standard queries, there are options like chatbots and outbound calls. The most crucial shift is towards empowering managers. It is now not only about an employee’s career growth and compensation conversations, but also about designing HR programs which equip managers to become better mentors to their teams by becoming better coaches.
The learning function, earlier believed to be effective when delivered in-person, has transformed into a unique blend of digitization and experiential training. Digitization has considerably empowered the consumer by personalization of content and self-assessment. Those designing content and curriculum apart from having vast technological resources, can now also access a variety of delivery vehicles to aid their work. Advancement in collaboration technologies are competing to replicate experiential and group learnings; though it will require faculty to manage the technologies effectively. In the end it’s again going to require a deep sense of empathy in the curriculum designers and faculty, who will deliver in this new age.
With growth comes complexity and the subsequent need to simplify, lead and communicate in the most effective way. Leadership teams within organizations have seen the scope the virtual world has to offer and are leveraging it to stay connected with employees more frequently than before. Digital town halls, innovative newsletters, organizational communications and feedback sessions help in facilitating a technology-driven, connected organizational culture. People are increasingly using social channels as easy and real-time platforms to stay connected from the confines of their homes. Organizations are wise to use this trend to reach a maximum number of both internal and external audiences.
Deploying virtual employee engagement mechanisms to host digital events for the workforce, using smart tools for real time sentiment analysis and hosting rewards programs on professional platforms - HR is now leveraging the digital strategy of being ‘always on’. The culture is now future-ready, where the hierarchy is flat and people are involved.
Finally, exit processes have been a daunting experience for both HR and employees, with endless paperwork and pending clearance before the final exit interview. This process is also automated with employees raising exit tickets and approvals flow from respective supervisors to HR; then parallelly to other functions for clearance; leading to efficient closures.
Digitization has changed the HR operation model irreversibly. The employee-to-HR ratio has changed forever. The new-age HR professional is armed with a plethora of competencies such as functional expertise, data analytics, six sigma and lean methodologies. This is to ensure that HR processes remain relevant in the longer term.
Crucially, the role of HR has changed from being a talent manager to a strategic business partner. In the new normal, the ask from HR is to be actively involved at the highest levels of business decision making and to become the trusted functional advisor in order to design, enable and coach the organizational workforce.