As we embark on this exciting New Year, we look at distilling the key trends from various voices and explore some of those in a little detail. We believe many of these trends are likely to grow and impact the way business and HR is managed today.

The business drivers

HR is increasingly getting more integrated and tightly aligned to the specific business drivers. As markets across the globe become more competitive organizations are looking to design and implement unique HR practices to attract and retain employees. The problem of talent is increasingly getting strategic in nature for most businesses. The changing demographics of the working population is forcing companies to adopt a digital mindset and be more agile in overall business operations. The traditional organizational silos and workplace collaboration models are being challenged thus forcing organizations to look at ways for people from diverse teams to effectively work together. All of this is making HR and HR leaders focus more on strategic aspects than tactical or operational excellence.

The changes in HR business Partnering

Over the last decade one can attribute the growth of HR business partner roles across organizations to the need and awareness of HR to be a strategic partner. After Dave Ulrich identified this in his seminal work – Human resource champions, as one of the key roles for HR to perform, we have seen more and more HR organizations embrace this concept. However up until now that meant you focused on transactions for a particular business and worked closely with the business leaders. With the HR technology adoption ever increasing and almost reaching 80 to 90 percent adoption in administrative areas like payroll, leave and attendance and even performance management, this role is likely to be truly strategic in the future. With the mundane transactions being digitized and in some cases even automated, HR business partners would now be tasked with strategic HR and Organization development interventions that have a positive impact on the business.

The rise of analytics

Another key trend we see rising in 2018 and even beyond is the importance of analytics. HR will very quickly move from simple dashboard which just presented past data without really telling the story, to engaging in conversations based on data. Primarily aided by the changes in business expectations from the HR business partner role with HR digitization, analytics will demand HR professionals to become more comfortable with data analytics and using that to tell a compelling story for specific business actions. This would mean that more cross functional collaboration and individuals with diverse background will now become part of HR primarily in the HR or People analytics function. With organizations looking for correlation across multiple factors and building their own data models for prediction of certain people or business outcomes, analytics is slated to become an important enabler for HR to perform the strategic role.

The rise of AI and Robotics

In this journey of HR becoming more strategic closely followed by analytics is use of artificial intelligence and robotics. In many places organizations are looking to automate and move repetitive and predictable transaction processing to machines. Many organizations are already using chat bots to answer employee queries or even assist them in completing simple tasks like applying for a leave. Artificial intelligence is aimed at helping HR professional become more efficient and effective and eventually more strategic. Using the data generated and consumed by HR systems, AI can help the HR user identify the right talent and even assist in predicting their likely success in the organization.

The learning imperative

All of these forces are making learning an always on phenomenon for everyone in the organization including HR professionals. Business and HR leaders need to embrace that company growth goes hand in hand with employee growth, and companies need to answer to the needs of employees at all levels to stay competitive. This means that while HR is focusing on becoming more digital and automated and powered by AI , analytics and robotics, it also has to understand the wishes, needs and capabilities of employees. It needs to develop employee intimacy to design relevant employee journeys that enable both individual and the organization to optimize their potential. This means that HR has to deliver learning in real time to help employees become more productive

The Productivity era

With automation, digitization and artificial intelligence taking the bulk of mundane and routine transactional part of the work tasks, humans in organizations will be increasingly focusing on tasks that involve complex problem solving and designing unique solutions to customer or organizational challenges. HR will thus start to focus on quality than quantity especially in terms of talent acquisition. Armed with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence HR will learn to deliver high quality talent for business needs while also identifying ways to improve productivity of existing talent pools.

From controlling to enabling

All of this would mean HR would need to become a more enabling function than a controlling one. The entire approach to various talent management system practices needs to become more organic in nature. HR will not design and then command and control various HR interventions but would rather stimulate and enable such interventions to happen in a distributed manner. HR is likely to then present data and trends based on such interventions for the next iterative decision process. It’s going to be a delicate balance between letting go and being accountable. HR will have to learn and also teach the skill of empathy to be successful in the competitive global business environment.