need for Human Resources Management to play an increasingly meaningful
and transformational role in the boardrooms of organisations has been a
source of considerable discussion since Dave Ulrich published his notion
of the HR Business Partner and subsequent papers on various iterations of HR competencies.
webinar 2016 Predictions for HR: A Bold New World of Talent, Learning,
Leadership, and HR Technology Ahead, recently published on the Bersin by Deloitte
website, is in many ways a game changer for a profession that has been trying to define itself for a number of years.
at the HR function through a variety of functional lenses rather than
the traditional HR lens, I believe there is a need, in a fast changing,
disruptive and connected world, to radically relook at the skills and
perspectives required by an HR team. The need to break down silo
thinking is emphasised in Gillian Tett’s recently released book The Silo
Effect and this applies to HR as much as any other discipline.
skills and disciplines that I believe should be represented in a future
HR dream team are described below. Several of the skills that are core
to HR effectiveness are not even related to traditional HR:
- An anthropologist or social psychologist:
In the final analysis the role of HR is to assist organisations to be
more effective and adapt very quickly to disruption and transformation.
For this change to be effective, a deep understanding of social and
organisational dynamics is required at a level far greater than the
average HR or OD practitioner brings to the process. In her book
referred to earlier, Gillian Tett, a financial journalist who ran the
New York office of the Financial Times and who also has a PhD in
Anthropology, points out the relevance of the discipline to business and
organisational effectiveness in facilitating deep organisational
- A marketing expert: One of the key
roles of HR in the modern organisation is to assist in facilitating
organisational culture that is relevant to the strategy. In fact,
organisational culture should be the internal representation of the
organisation's external brand or reputational aspiration. The two
should be inseparable and, just as an organisation needs visibly to
represent its brand values externally, it needs to represent these same
values internally with the same rigour. This internal ‘marketing’ is not
usually a strength of HR practitioners. A further marketing expertise
need is to develop an organisation's employee value proposition (EVP)
and to market this in the competitive talent market, thus building an
- A customer-centric HR operations manager: The
Bersin predictions show how critical HR technology will be in the
future and how, for the most part, it will be a game changer. The person
who runs the HR customer services operations should have a background
in running externally focused customer services operations such as those
in organisations like Discovery and Multi-Choice.
media expert: The need for understanding social media and social
technology in its widest sense will be a key skill required for
communicating with staff and other stakeholders in the future. This is
an indispensable new addition to the core skills set.
- A business analyst: Big
data and data analytics will be as relevant to HR as to any other
organisational discipline. This analysis will form the basis for
strategic workforce decisions that are based on accurate, real-time
data. Again, this is not currently a core HR skill.
- Business leaders:
The greatest, and generally justified, criticism of HR practitioners
has always been that they do not understand the business of the
organisation for which they work. Many organisations place
high-potential line managers in HR to provide them with a learning
experience about the people side of the business. This is an excellent
grounding for future leaders; it is also an excellent opportunity for
business leaders to shape HR practices to ensure that they are relevant
to the business. In my view, this exposure to HR would be suitable for
operational managers and strategists as both are relevant to aligning HR
strategy and practice to the needs of the business. It can be
anticipated that they would bring experience in leadership which goes
beyond the traditional HR approach that is often driven by processes and
compliance rather than by good leadership.
- HR leaders:
Although all the aforementioned disciplines and skills will become
increasingly essential to the effectiveness of HR, clearly there is a
need for HR professionals. They should be in roles that are specialist
to the profession, such as IR and remuneration, but also in roles that
integrate all the skills mentioned above, experience and expertise into a
coherent team that designs and facilitates the execution of the
organisation’s people or HR strategy.
such a dream team is constituted depends on the organisation. It may be
that certain expertise such as marketing is sourced from the marketing
function. Or, the HR operations and customer service operation falls
within a larger central services division.
the team ends up being configured, one thing is certain: in a world
characterised by disruptive innovation and a whole new generation of HR
technology, a radical rethinking of HR is required. Because our
professions are largely responsible for how our brains are wired, it
will be almost impossible for HR to reinvent itself in the way that will
be required in the future. The silo approach to organisational design,
in this case HR, will not be sufficient to provide the level of
innovation necessary to compete in the future. Multidisciplinary and
diverse teams, which include some thinkers from ‘the fringe’, will be
required to generate the levels of innovation required for an effective
future HR team.
is a strategy and leadership consultant and author. His latest book,
Shaping Africa’s Talent, will appear in mid-2016. He is also a part-time
faculty member of USB-ED where he is responsible for the HR Executive
Programme. Further areas of expertise include organisational design, and
talent and human capital strategy.