The Four Most Pressing Questions from Our HR Trends Webinar

Our latest webinar, “HR Trends: Today, Tomorrow, and the Future,” explored the trends driving the future of the HR function and ways to respond – especially in a time of constant change. Panelists discussed how people and culture are increasingly critical to sustaining performance, especially through the lenses of culture, governance & ethics, leading with purpose, technology & people, continuous transformation and skills of the future. Panelists included:

  • Ann Hatcher, CHRO at Wellpath
  • Simon Linares, former CHRO at Direct Line Group, O2, and Diageo
  • Daniel Vacassin, Psychologist and Coach at IndigoGold
  • Pavan Bilkhoo, Master Practitioner at North Highland

Below are the most pressing questions the panelists addressed during the webinar, as well as a link to learn more.

HR is becoming ever more influential at the top table among organizations. Simon, you mentioned in our recent eBook that HR is making the switch from being an Advisory function to be much more of an Active Contributor. What's driving this?

Simon: I think the next three to four years are going to be an exciting time for HR and an opportunity for the HR function to drive value for organizations. We’re seeing HR shift from an advisory function to an active function. We’re also seeing HR-owned agendas shifting. Leaders from the Chairman and CEO down are taking these agendas more seriously – this gives HR leaders an opportunity to add real value to overall business performance.

There are three drivers contributing to this. First, there are a number of initiatives leading organizations to report numbers and figures around gender, reporting CEO pay as a single number and what it means compared to general pay. These initiatives have moved from areas of interest to Boards to areas that Boards must report on. To senior leaders, putting their name on a public report focuses them more in these areas than they historically have been involved.

The second driver is the role that proxy agencies are playing around scrutinizing these areas and their recommendations to shareholders. Proxy agencies hold a lot of power in this area and have criteria around reputation, executive pay, gender balance and more. Therefore, these topics will be pushed up the Board agenda.

Third is the role that tech and social media play in making things more transparent and difficult to manage. The narrative around your organization that the people have created is quickly becoming a driver of how positively or negatively your firm is perceived. Leaders need and want to be seen as doing the right thing. Putting it all together, the Chairman, the Board and executives have more focus around these topics, and HR must contribute more. It’s an opportunity for HR to step into this space and lead.

Why is culture important and what is HR's role in shaping and developing Company Culture?

Dan: The first reason why culture is important is that it drives an organization’s identity, and identity drives reputation. It starts to answer the question of who we are beyond the collection of people that work together – what binds us?

It sets the tone for behavior within the organization and sets behavioral boundaries. In setting those boundaries, it builds trust. In today’s business world, trust is an important commodity. Trust in the internal mechanism allows people to bring their best selves to work, driving inclusion & diversity and drives innovation, discretion and performance within the organization.

As for HR’s role in shaping and developing company culture, first HR must raise the topic. It’s easier now than it once was due to increased scrutiny as well as Board and executive interest. HR must ensure that company culture is on the agenda properly.

Second, the HR function needs to shape organizational approach in developing culture. It must be approached in a systemic way, making sure that culture aligns to leadership, who we hire and who we promote. HR must make sure that culture is aligned to pay and performance, what we celebrate and what we reward. It also aligns to a social contract.

Third, the HR function should not own culture as a people topic. The CHRO needs to make sure they build infrastructure around it and raise the conversation, but also needs to make sure that culture is a leadership accountability, not an accountability of the function.

Pavan, in terms of leading with purpose, how can HR help deliver a customer grade experience to its employees?

Pavan: There is really no one size fits all answer. If we go back to think about the investments organizations have made to better understand their customers, such as customer journey mapping and technology, you’ll see that not many organizations think about their employees in the same way as their customers – even though happier employees lead to happier customers.

HR can help drive employee experience through techniques as well as technology and data. In terms of techniques, there are customer experience techniques out there that can be used to help HR put people at the heart of the organization. From examining service design and touchpoints, not processes, to make decisions that are best for the employee experience. There are some things that employees don’t need to be aware of – ultimately, the fastest way of resolution will provide better employee experience.

HR also needs to better understand technology and data in order to help employees. The pandemic is the first time that regular feedback and sentiment analyses became the norm. The speed of action during normal times versus now is not the same. The heart of understanding employees is data that can be accessed frequently and easily.

The difficulty for HR is that employee experience goes beyond HR. But HR can help by really looking at CX techniques, along with technology and data, to make employee experience better and better each time.

Ann, how can HR leaders think about implementing agile ways of working? What impact is this going to have on the role of the HR Business Partner (HRBP)?

Ann: Through my Covid experience, I've learned the need for speed for HR responses to emerging organizational or employee needs. Our team learned that we could move a lot faster than we thought we could pre-pandemic. While we typically like to study a problem, examine research with partners like North Highland and take a few months to develop a solution, we realize we have no time for that now.

Now we operate under “80 percent go”, which is how a lot of our solutions worked. Don’t be afraid to fail. We've even had some solutions where we announced the solution and designed it after.

The impact of agile ways of working on HR business partners is allowing them to loosen up and to not be afraid of failure. Solutions can be created by segmenting the workforce and leaning on partners – it doesn’t all need to be solved in HR.

Interested in learning more? Click here to watch the full webinar.

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