The Role Of HR In The Imagination Age

Krishnamohan Rao is an avid writer and Heads HR for Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd.

Having more than two decades of global experience, I have witnessed a sea change in outlook and perspectives in the human resource function. HR is not what we know today. The role has transitioned from operational to strategic, from compliance to partnership.

Needless to explain how technology has infiltrated our lives. We are now constantly connected. The instruments and devices that we possess are not only computers and phones—they carry digital sensors which creates Artificial Intelligence, as these devices now listen to our voices for stress, monitor our heartbeats and our diets. Oxford University believes 47 percent of today’s jobs will be redefined within 20 years and this does not seem unreasonable at all. To understand what the role changes are, it is imperative to understand how business will change in coming years. Embracing role changes will be easy if we foresee and adapt to business changes.

Customer centricity, globalization, innovation and agility will continue to be key themes driving business in the next few years. Central and common to all business needs will be – talent and therefore Human Resource will take centre stage and will play a very critical role in the Imagination Age. Work force dynamics will evolve rapidly as digitization and automation will be mandatory for survival. Data generated will be multi directional and key to analytics and decision making will be to refine gold from ore. Sourcing and managing talent will be the key factors for any successful business.
When I think of VAST and DIVERSE WORKFORCE, I imagine two themes – Millennials and Digital. These two themes will bring about a lot of changes in times to come. Human Resource function will have no option but to adapt and align to the changes to suit the requirements of the millennials and the digital world.
Offices Space will shift from Square Feet to megabyte per second. New technologies will lead to flexibility and new collaborative technologies will dramatically change the way we work in the future. These technologies are today giving us the freedom to work with flexibility from anywhere, any time and on any device. Hierarchies are being flattened as virtually any employee can connect or communicate with anyone else in the organisation. Connections of systems and devices will create more opportunities for business process improvement, capturing and analysing customer experience, and improving overall efficiencies. Able workforce will have the ability to become leaders without having to be managers. This digital workforce will have a voice within their organizations. Human Resource managers needs to develop their calibre to comprehend these subtle and profound changes and take proactive steps to create a competitive edge for business.

Traditional Leadership Style will Expire.
Organisation will observe a shift of a major part of the workforce from Baby Boomers to Millennials. As we move forward, in the next 5-10 years, there will be a major shift in the workforce population. Baby Boomers (employees born in 1950s, 1960s & 1970s) will be retiring from organisations and the next generation of employees i.e. Millennials (employees born after 1980s) will be taking up these leadership roles. Similarly, the Gen Z employees will be taking up the mid management roles.
HR needs to foresee, forecast and initiate the change in processes, policies and compensation to align with these Millennials a very restless workforce. This shift in structures, roles, and careers will change the way we lead, manage, reward, and move people throughout the company. It also pushes us to continuously learn—faster than ever. One major challenge would be the transition of the mind set of the leaders.

Top Management decision making will be non-existent. There will be a major shift in decision making process. Organisational structure will change from top-down hierarchical model to one of a “network of teams” in which people would be solving problems in a dynamic and agile way. In fact, fast-moving, customer-centric way of doing business will shift decision-making to the edges of the company, and a new way of thinking about management and HR will evolve. The key to high-performing organisations in the digital world will be the ability to learn fast.

Organisation Culture will create shareholder value. It would be hard to manage a “culture”. In coming times, it would be a necessity to define your culture, measure it, and find where and how it could be misaligned. This is because it will have direct impact on your revenues.
What exactly is organizational culture? Quite simply, it is the reward systems and implicit behaviour that takes place when nobody is looking. In other words, your culture drives all forms of optional and discretionary behaviour. Do your employees spend more time with clients or on quality or on safety? On compliance or on cost-cutting, or perhaps on building their own careers? Each of these micro decisions we make during the day are driven by the implicit reward systems, examples, and messages conveyed by culture. When “bad” things happen (i.e., misalignment, fraud, unethical behaviour, etc.), there is usually a cultural problem underneath.
When a company has a clearly defined culture (whatever that may be), it offers employees a sense of security and freedom— they know what to expect. This will effectively contribute to the top line results of any organisation.

Current Performance Management Systems will become redundant. I imagine this as a major challenge in coming times. The process needs to evolve from an year end feedback to a continuous developmental feedback and coaching. Evolved performance system needs to focus on helping employee improve their productivity, rather than merely following forced ranking and unappealing numeric rating.

We need to consider this , that despite the fact that many jobs are being replaced by automation and we have more technology than ever, we are not getting more work done. HR needs to take on the role of “Consultant to Human Performance”. One of HR’s biggest opportunities in the coming era will be to get away from designing more programs to focusing on “making work-life better. “If you think through what this means, it essentially says that, instead of managing the performance appraisal process, the on boarding program, the health and wellness programs, and the leadership development systems, we in HR now own all of this stuff with a focus on “how can we help individuals and teams perform.”

One of HR’s biggest opportunities in the coming era will be to get away from designing more programs to focusing on “making work-life better