The role of HR within a company is evolving. Over the years, the perception among the workforce is that HR serves the management – being called into a meeting with HR was typically never a positive experience, and usually meant either an instant dismissal or being performance managed into that ‘coup de grace’.

While policy is still important, HR’s main purpose is no longer just about governance – issues like the ongoing battle for talent have forced the change. So what are HR’s primary functions both in the present and the future?

Current HR initiatives and trends

A quick look around some of the reports gives us some indication of where HR is heading.

In Gartners’ 2019 Future of HR survey, ‘performance management’ came tenth in a list of HR leader’s top initiatives for this year, while ‘employee experience’ is up in third – signifying that a more proactive approach to harnessing the potential of the workforce is now commonplace.

Also within the top five key initiatives are ‘building critical skills and competencies’, ‘organisational design and change management’ and ‘driving digital transformation’. This tells us that HR leaders’ are tasked with building new digital cultures with their companies. That’s hardly a surprise, given how 67% of HR leaders believe that if their business doesn’t digitise, then they won’t survive.

This can be cross-referenced with a recent article by Digital HR. Included within the top four of their trends for 2019 are ‘future-proofing employees’, ‘enabling a tech mindset’ and ‘continuous learning’. Again, the general theme is centred around building a digital ‘employee first’ culture and developing employee skills are paramount.

Developing digital skills and cultures

Another of Digital HR’s trends – but seemingly towards the bottom of the list – is the use of People Analytics. Now, data in the workplace is something of a taboo subject – surely given recent scandals and bad publicity, nobody wants their employer collating all sorts of information, do they?

Surprisingly, Accenture’s recent ‘Decoding Organisational DNA’ report states that 92% of employees are open to the collection of data on them and their work if it improves productivity or wellbeing. In other words, they’re open to their data being harnessed if it improves their ‘employee experience’.

So, how are we currently faring on that front? Well, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, 80% of HR executives prioritised employee experience, but only 22% of employees felt that they had a personalised experience.

It shows that there’s still a long way to go, but HR leaders have a clear mandate to consult their own employees about a transparent introduction of data.

New technologies

Utilising data within HR will also facilitate the introduction of other new technologies like AI, machine learning and deep learning. And it’s not just about using these tools for automating menial tasks, such as CV sifting or interview setting, but actually solving business critical tasks.

When we go back to that ‘employee experience’ initiative, these technologies can be used to make data-driven decisions on the entire lifecycle of an employee, from engagement throughout the recruitment and onboarding process, to their ongoing training and development, as well as personalising their benefits and rewards.

As the technologies evolve, AI and machine learning can be used to identify high-risk workers in advance, and can recommend steps to re-engaging the employee.

Data can also be used to atomise critical roles and skills to help create a more adaptable workforce. In our own Future of Work Report, we identified that employment is likely to become more project-based – an agile workforce is therefore crucial to thriving and responsibility for creating this will fall within HR’s remit.

And what about the future of work?

From what we’ve read and what industry leaders are telling us, HR’s role in the future of work is about enabling the employee experience in order to develop a positive workplace culture.

The key to an autonomous and future-ready workforce is building a personalised environment that encourages optimal working and lifelong learning, and allowing employees to access resources as and when they need them.

This can’t be achieved without the use of digital. While there may not be the mainstream technologies available now, HR will soon be able to embed unified systems that create unique experiences for your employees.
If you’re seeking guidance on developing your company’s digital culture, InHouse offers a range of consultative services. You can view them here.