the future of HR

The Future of HR

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The Future of HR


With so much around at the moment about “The Future of Work” it seems only natural to think about “The Future of HR”. Certainly, it feels like there is a shift occurring in the field. The imperatives are there – technology, globalisation, growth, change – the business environment is evolving rapidly and the need for innovation and agility is critical. Whilst HR has largely gotten its desired seat at the table over the past decade, the hard yards are not over. The function must anticipate the impact of these factors and drive decisions that ensure the workforce can execute as required. The workforce is too often assumed to just materialise within business strategies. It should, however, be given upfront focus being the “primary source of competitive advantage” for most companies [HBR Call for a More Strategic HR]. Therefore, emerging HR must step up to its peers as an influencer of business outcomes and become a true strategic player.


A key enabler of this vision for HR is Workforce Planning and Analytics (WP&A). WP&A is increasingly recognised as a core part of HR’s move towards such a position but internal capability is growing but largely still lagging. WP&A is on a trajectory similar to today’s reward (remuneration for those less trendy) functions.  20 years ago, pay management was managed by recruiters or generalists with limited support from consulting specialists – and now reward is embedded in HR as a core functional offering.  We believe that WP&A is the next frontier for HR, but when?


Business leaders are increasingly recognising the importance of workforce data and seeing the inherent link to company performance. By the way, this is not just about reporting standard workforce metrics and dashboards. It is about providing real commercial and financial acumen, talking the talk of the Board, and understanding risks to strategy execution.  HR, if it realises its full potential, is the rightful leader of this conversation. To realise that potential, we have to build the function’s confidence in using numbers to shape and deliver effective solutions to meet business objectives. But first, HR has to decide that this is where it wants to go. This is a step-change in delivery.  For some HR leaders, it can be difficult to understand the value because past experience with applied analytics in this space is sparse. However, the impact of getting it right is huge.


Think about it – take your top two or three priorities for your workforce this year. Whether it is performance management, engagement, learning or leadership – imagine having the insights to correctly target and maximise the success of your program, tangibly show returns and impact, whilst genuinely supporting the achievement of business success for your organisation.  If analytics and INSIGHT were the starting point for all HR programs, the business strategy would be translated into workforce implications, thus setting clear priorities and focus for maximum success, and then setting the basis for measuring this success. From that, it’s easy to win the hearts and minds the people who make it all work, leadership and line managers.  This is the future of HR – customised, targeted and innovative delivery of solutions that drive real business impact.


The neatest thing about this dynamic, is that it really aligns HR with the business and with finance. It provides a quantitative basis for intricately understanding the workforce and facilitates great discussions. We have been in rooms of large listed companies where the dialogue created from WP&A has uncovered misalignment in business direction between a CEO, COO and CFO – and then brought them back together – now that is a great position for HR to be in!  This is the future of HR – “the inclusion of the CHRO in an informal triumvirate with the CEO and CFO that fuses strategic, financial, and people issues into business strategy” and it is recognised that for HR to achieve credibility in this triangle that “financial acumen is critical” as are “advanced analytical skills” [HBR Call for a More Strategic HR]


Every day, we help clients use WFP&A to not only shape the delivery of their people programs and to provide fact-based decision making, but to actually DRIVE business outcomes. Also to get the business case for some of those programs in the first place! These HR leaders are moving beyond HR functions that are still “flying blind” rolling out their standard toolkit of programs or reacting to burning platforms. Are you ready to take control of the workforce agenda and move into the future?