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Q & A: What HR Must Do to Meet Growing Business Challenges

Friday, May 12, 2017
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This is part of a special advertising section featuring forecasts on navigating changes and challenges.

How will HR need to adapt to meet the growing challenges that come with operating in a business environment that's increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous?

Adapt or die, isn't that the old adage? While it may sound dramatic, it's the new reality that HR practitioners face in an uncertain business climate. They can no longer spend their days focused on routine, administrative tasks now that we have the technology to manage and automate these processes. However, where one door closes, another opens, and there is plenty of opportunity for HR to be more strategic.

HR is in a unique position to leverage insights from employee data to guide not only business leaders, but their own workforce as well. This will no doubt require a significant shift for HR leaders, who must refocus their efforts from process management to employee enablement and measurable outcomes -- all in order to more closely align with the business.

What are the biggest benefits to HR being more calculated, and aligning with broader business strategies?

While we all understand the significance of HR data as it currently exists, it has the potential to be much more powerful when unified with data from other parts of the business.

People are the largest expense and the greatest driver of revenue in most organizations today. To be successful, HR needs to understand how the depth and breadth of people information can be tapped to provide valuable insights to business leaders as well as a personal and engaging experience to every person in the organization.

What role can technology play to help keep the HR function agile and forward-looking? 

We need to be less focused on domain-specific systems and lean more on systems that use unified data to drive a meaningful, more personalized experience for every worker. Luckily, technology has evolved to the point where workforce and financial data now live in one system, positioning HR at the forefront of the business where we can strategize on budgeting, planning, and forecasting for major events like M&A, divestiture, reorganization, expansion and more.

From a granular workforce perspective, the transactional data that is captured each time a change is made, such as a new hire, job move, or compensation adjustment, rolls up into a holistic picture not only of the business, but of the individual as well.

That information can drive a unique and personal experience for each employee, much like how Netflix makes recommendations based on what you've previously watched. We know that engaged workers drive business results, so we need to better engage them by providing a delightful employee experience, where technology is an enabler, not a hindrance.

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At a high level, HR data that is unified with financials in one system can drive smarter growth strategies. As CEOs consider expanding their business, their teams must determine the labor, office space, travel, and infrastructure costs required, and then do a cost comparison against other options.

Drilling down into specific data such as open job requisitions, and budgeting for office space, travel between locations, or location-specific employee benefits puts HR at the helm of deciding if a company opens a location in Minneapolis rather than Sacramento.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for most HR departments today? How about in five years?

In the end, the most important thing for HR leaders operating in today's business climate -- where disruption is only an app away -- is ensuring that their practitioners have the right skill set and the right tools to adapt. Can they analyze data, not just collect it? Can they provide the business with data-driven recommendations that improve the bottom line, not just enforce policies?

If you cannot adapt to modern technology today, then in five years you will face an even bigger capabilities deficit as artificial intelligence and machine learning increase their ability to cut out inefficiencies and drive business value. By building the right infrastructure, skills and engagement framework, companies can be ready for the uncertainty ahead.

 

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