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Human Resources

Realising the Future of Work

By Jan Karasek, partner, and Magda Stawska, senior manager, both from the Advisory Department at KPMG in Poland
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Organisations worldwide are entering an era of monumental change: digital disruption, globalisation, redefined business models, changing demographics, growing talents in multigenerational teams, regulatory compliance, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and machine learning (ML).

Global business leaders forecast the next era as being that of human-machine partnership. Though divided in their views of the future, business leaders share common ground on the need to transform. Speed is omnipresent in the business world these days. Moving at the speed of the business isn’t just about going faster; it’s about dealing with the complexity of a fast-moving environment. Dealing with frequent changes reflects a larger challenge that HR faces: moving at the speed of the business.

Big challenges are ahead…

But not everyone’s prepared. Technology is taking over and accelerating the pace of change exponentially. Consumers have come to expect goods and services right away. Organisations have scrambled to keep up and everything else starts to move faster and faster. HR departments are expected to speed up by adjusting processes to match rapidly evolving priorities.

HR faces main challenges to move at the speed of the business: getting the right information and ensuring processes are able to move quickly. This doesn’t mean redesigning processes every time something changes; it means having processes that are fundamentally designed to adapt to change.

KPMG’s latest survey, The Future of HR 2019: In the Know or in the No reveals apparent ‘disconnects’ between HR teams and their senior leaders. The disparity among leaders regarding AI and its impact on the workforce is striking: more than half of HR executives surveyed believe AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates.

The 2019 KPMG Future of HR Survey represents the views of 1,201 senior HR executives from 64 countries and 31 industries. The survey results identified four key areas in which HR has the opportunity to double down on transformation, to help shape their organisation in the rapidly changing digital world:

  • Emphasise a culture for change: Organisational culture was viewed as ‘task-oriented’, with ‘low risk-tolerance’ and ‘hierarchical’. Alternative terms such as ‘agile’, ‘collaborative’, ‘innovative’ and ‘managed by metrics’ are more promising signifiers of companies ready to face disruption, but were identified in less instances; 42% of respondents stated ‘culture’ was a top barrier to moving from initial phases of digital business transformation, and HR functions may be restricted by cultures that makes it difficult to instil change. Where does your current client fit on this scale?

  • Embrace data and analytics capabilities: Beyond the challenges involving redefined workforces and the application of new skills and modern employee experience, today’s HR leaders need to meet the arrival and proliferation of AI, robotics and machine learning head-on. While 70% think HR can provide value to organisations through analytics, and 41% agree their organisation is effective in bringing data from various sources to make workforce decisions, less than 20% are looking to HR to address analytics as a top issue. HR is in a prime position to take advantage of people and performance analysis to understand the culture, performance and workforce of their organisation in detail. Data and analytics capabilities are critical to shaping and intelligently managing the workforce of the future. Does your client leverage HR, and involve them?

  • Focus on the employee experience:  HR’s inevitable need to deliver critical new skills and redefine workforce and moving employee experience to the top of C-Suite agendas. Only 12% of management boards are looking to HR to address employee experience, and 24% to address employee engagement. The retention of vital skills and capabilities is critical in ‘managing’ the gig economy, and Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) are a key component in the war for talent, competitiveness and future success. Creating modern employee experience (EX) and defining the right employee value proposition (EVP) to match the needs of five generations in the workforce seems to be undervalued by senior management. What is the EVP of your client?

  • Enable cohesion across functions: As automation and AI find their place in organisations, governance for digital labour has not been cleanly established. Cohesion around governance, strategy and integration across functions, with established ‘owners’, ‘implementers’ and ‘enablers’ will support wider IT strategy and planning. Who would currently own, implement and enable automation in your current client? How do you think this would change for them in five years’ time?

Unique new skills are becoming critical to success, even survival, in the digital era – along with a new employee experience designed to attract and retain the best and the brightest, and meet the need of multicultural and multigenerational workforce. According to the World Economic Forum, more than a third of the skills considered important today will change within a few short years amid the proliferation of digital processes and the integration of digital and human labour. Future-focused workforce shaping is a key component of tomorrow’s successful workplace.

Dramatically realigning workforces to facilitate collaboration between employees and advanced robotics, automation and AI is also imperative — and this coincides with a demographic trend bringing five generations together within a workforce that’s more diverse than ever. Beyond that, exploiting the full capabilities of data and analytics tools for informed decision-making and predictive insights will be indispensable.

Uncertainty continues to prevail

Many businesses are exhibiting uncertainty and inertia. They apparently don’t recognize what today’s transformation trailblazers know and are clearly acting on: uncertainty in this era is today’s new normal. The trailblazers are exploiting uncertainty and doubt as a critical opportunity to drive new competitive advantage and leap ahead of the pack.

Many HR executives surveyed were confident about HR’s strategic value and performance; 40% agreeing the HR function is considered a core value driver by their senior leadership, and 34% at least slightly agreeing. Time is of the essence. Today’s HR leaders need to be initiating and sustaining the proper and right dialogue with business leaders.

The Future of HR is NOW!

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