A few decades ago, HR was perceived to be a department that was concerned only with processing personnel activities, record-keeping, payroll processing & keeping the office running. HR’s forte was largely seen in transactional excellence.
But today, in an ever changing corporate world, HR has moved up the value chain. What was then a personnel and administration department has moved on to become a business partner. Over the years things have changed dramatically, and they are set to change even more after the pandemic. The key drivers of the transformation of HR department I feel are :
High quality Output/Excellence in service delivery: In recent years the market place has become much more competitive and customer expectation has evolved. This has made quality of service delivery extremely important, which in turn requires highly motivated employees. Some factors which directly contribute to to service delivery where HR has an important role are:
- Building capabilities- hire right people for right job, enhance productivity, develop and retain great talent
- Creating a culture of customer service, performance, and teamwork
- Bringing about trust, openness, empowerment & seeing the bigger picture of the organization
- Keeping the employees motivated, happy and engaged
Changing employee expectation & rapid scaling up of business: Just as the customer expectations have changed, so have the employee expectations. They do not want a workplace where they are just told what to do, but a workplace where they feel important and connected to overall organizational goals. At the same time rapid scaling of business means that the managers no longer have decades of experience in handling people, thus requiring HR’s help in engaging and motivating the employees
Rapid adoption of modern technology: Rapid adoption of technology to automate various pieces of work and collaboration tools that enable work-from-home are great productivity enhancers. Free up the HR from traditional school principal models of policing & disapprovals. Simultaneously, HR may make the employees feel like they are cog-in-the-wheel and may create a disengagement with the organization. Therefore organizations need innovative HR interventions to keep employee engagement and motivation at optimal even as the workplace is changing at a breakneck speed.
Above factors like these have immensely contributed in developing HR professionals as trusted advisors of business. HR function is often seen as a bridge which helps organizations and people meet their goals. Consequently, most of the HR related activities today are tightly woven with business goals to achieve larger objectives. While some organizations do continue to limit HR into a tactical role but good ones do see them as strategic business partners. HR is a critical differentiator in today’s increasingly competitive market. There was a time when managing transactions efficiently while keeping the costs below the radar was good enough. But today, expectations from HR are much, much higher.
- Every key strategic decision be it expansion, re-engineering or pivoting has a huge people angle to it. CEOs & CFOs need to know how to set the employee expectations, hire the right talent, make them feel valued and sometimes let some people go. While business leaders are focused on growth and profits; HR professionals are trained to consider the perspectives of compliance, risk, stability, employee morale etc. Thus HR brings a useful new angle to all business decisions. Further, the proactive communication from HR ensures the organization is more than ready to cope with all the changes. The smarter corporates today realise that they (HR) are enablers whose partnership with business enables better decision making and smoother execution.
- HR managers today are responsible for making sure that the organization has a bench of well trained leaders sourced internally or externally. HR helps CEOs and CFOs in making sure the growing crop of management is being groomed and selected as per organizational requirements.
- In many organizations HR keeps a check on culture and ethics. In situations where short term business needs may make it difficult for CEOs and CFOs to take a strong stance on these issues, HR acts as a guardian to organizational values.
I believe the ongoing transformation of the corporate world due to COVID-19-19 will make the role of HR even more central to organizational success. Trends like work from home (WFH), virtual offices, web based reporting tools, communication gaps, uncertain working environment etc brought in by COVID-19-19 are not going to end with the vaccine. It has become a way of working for the organizations. HR needs to rise up to the challenge and make sure smooth execution not only during the COVID-19 affected period but also adapt itself to longer term trends brought upon by COVID-19.
In recent months, the focus of the HR department has been on the wellbeing and motivation of the employees. A lot of importance has been given to the mental health and well being of employees. The HR function has also played a pivotal role in keeping employees engaged and motivated through virtual R&R, engagement activities, publishing heroic stories and many more such events. But most importantly, today managers have a lesser visibility into daily activities of the subordinates while subordinates may feel disconnected with the organization. The HR’s most important role in coming years will be to train the managers in ensuring highly productive teams in a virtual office environment, while making sure the employees feel connected & engaged even though they may have more work from home days even after COVID-19 ends. The corporate world has changed forever, and so will the role of HR.