What the evolution of HR means for HR leaders

Jess Fuhl
Last updated on 3rd August 2020
3 min read

In the twentieth century, the global population doubled – and then doubled again. That’s gargantuan growth – and it has huge implications for the global workforce and employment.

The number of people over 65 is anticipated to double, reaching more than 1.1 billion in less than 25 years. It means the workforce is now, for the first time, comprised of five different generations, all working side-by-side, and all coming with varying expectations and standards. And it’s more diverse, mobile and technologically-enabled than ever. HR teams must not only keep up – but get ahead for companies to attract the best people in the war for talent.

In fact, for companies to get ahead, we are seeing the shift from HR to ‘people’. Just as Personnel evolved to become HR in the 1980s, HR is now transforming into a people function.

People Companies are organizations where people are the most valuable asset. They are organizations where company success is dependent on their workforce being successful – and they have several characteristics that reflect this.

Here’s what the shift to people means for HR professionals who want to get ahead.

Embrace the tech
Employees are increasingly seeing seamless customer experiences in their companies, and demanding the same from their employer; they want to book time off on their mobile at the touch of a button, as easily as they can shop online in the same way.

As a result, HR and people teams in People Companies are moving towards automating a lot of the traditional ways of working, and giving their employees autonomy to do things themselves to create better workforce experiences. This means HR and people leaders are free to focus on people.

It’s all about workforce experiences
Do your employees love coming to work? Only one third of US employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup. 16% of the US workforce are actively disengaged. The remaining 50 million employees aren’t engaged at all – they’re just there.

Companies which truly deliver great workforce experiences throughout the employment journey are going to have a higher percentage of engaged staff – and that’s going to make a huge difference to the direction and growth of a company.

HR and people teams in People Companies are putting workforce experiences front and center to reflect this – be it evolving year-end reviews into continuous feedback conversations, delivering self-service functionality for employees, or developing innovative and engaging ways for employee recognition.  They understand that it’s not simply about free lunches and ping pong tables, but creating meaningful work for employees that truly engages them. Successful HR and people leaders get this.

People are no longer just HR’s responsibility
An organization’s workforce is no longer purely the responsibility of a HR or people team. It is a business-wide priority, and therefore falls to everyone, especially senior leaders, to deliver great workforce experiences for their people and set the people agenda.

In parallel, rather than working within the boundaries of traditional HR practices, People Managers and HR teams are increasingly take a wider view of the business, collaborating with sales, marketing, finance and other divisions to drive people development and achieve the company’s objectives.

Actionable insights are vital
HR leaders in People Companies don’t just use people analytics for increase workforce visibility – they apply data science techniques to predict trends to make informed decisions about their workforce and their business. We call this People Science, and HR and people teams are seeing the addition of People Scientists into the business to lead this.

People Scientists don’t just analyze trends – they identify emerging patterns to understand workforce behavior, and make strategic decisions about certain patterns before they become issues.

HR and people leaders need to communicate the bottom line
Equally, currently, sales, marketing and operations are all using data to plan and measure objectives, meaning they can demonstrate the value of their contributions to the business and its bottom line. So too should HR as the department responsible for any organizations’ biggest asset: its people. 

For this, HR and people teams not only need data science skills, but ways to effectively communicate this with impact across the business; they need to infuse others with their knowledge and insight so that the responsibility of a company’s people – and how they use insight form their people data – sits with the whole leadership team

Marketing skills are increasingly valuable
To attract the best talent, HR and people teams need to market themselves to the best through their employer brand – or, as we call it, People Marketing. This means applying traditional marketing strategies to recruitment and how companies engage your workforce.

HR and people professionals should think about their reputation as an employer – what do external sites say about you as a company? Do you use social media to talk about being a great place to work? How do you use your employee advocates as brand ambassadors?

Employees have the potential to be one of an organization’s biggest brand advocates, so HR and people leaders need to make sure they’re tapping into that. Too many companies channel all their energy into marketing to the customer, but it is equally, if not more, important to market themselves to existing and potential staff to attract the highest calibre of staff to drive the business.

Ultimately, it’s a people profession
Nurturing your people is critical to growth. As HR increasingly evolves into a people function to reflect this, so too are the way HR teams work. HR leaders have skills vital to a company’s growth – they need to think about how they leverage this to build great workforce experiences for their company’s employees.

What’s your company’s HR profile? See how you compare to others with our online profile tool.

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HR Strategy Workforce Experience