by Jeff Wellstead

Based on my direct experience and rather expansive review of the research from Josh Bersin, the HCI (Human Capital Institute) and several of the HR transformation consultancies I liaise with, I would say the top HR trends for 2017 will carry on from 2016, but will have shifted in importance from an ‘interesting thought’ to a ‘business critical imperative.’

The top five areas in particular are the following:

  • The need for new talent

The rate of business model, product and digital disruption will increase exponentially. This will lead to an urgent reaction on the part of HR to hire in newly skilled talent. Areas such as machine learning, the ever evolving digital landscape, data science, marketing tech and digitally savvy leadership; all require new expertise that most organisations don’t currently have available in their workforce. Alongside these new skills needed, HR are faced with a significant challenge to stem the flow of attrition. Baby Boomers are beginning to retire in droves, and even those that wish to stay on and work, HR need to support them through this period of organisational change, guiding them into new roles as coaches, mentors, directional indicators and teachers.  At the other end of the generational workforce, Millennials are trialling HR with their tendency to shift roles like they are changing clothes. They have a need for purpose, empowerment and expect the same digitally native experience at work that they enjoy outside of work.

  • Say good bye to hierarchy

Organisational structure will be revisited in a dramatic way – old hierarchical and silo’d structures being dismantled in favour of more agile, lean, nimble and cross-functional team structures emerging as the core unit of production and innovation. Employees who would traditionally sit and work in one area, may now be involved in a number of project teams where their experience and knowledge can be utilised. As the structure becomes flattened and all employees are enabled to have a voice, HR is able to identify new potential leaders growing within the company, who can be further nurtured to help drive the future of the organisation.

  • Upskill in human capital management

HR’s role has been extended beyond people management and processes, it is now focused on innovative ways to improve the whole employee and candidate experience. Alongside the adoption of cloud and mobile technologies within HR, new skills are required urgently around digital workforce enablement, people analytics, organizational science & psychology, digital L&D, recruitment, on-boarding, performance management, collaboration, communication and productivity.

“Today, high-impact HR organizations are moving away from a “service provider” mentality to becoming valued talent, design, and employee-experience consultants.” Deloitte

  • Foundations of culture and engagement

Culture and employee engagement have been hot topics over the past few years in HR, but we are really starting to see these set in stone as a foundation which HR builds upon. They have become core concrete factors in increasing recruitment, attraction, reducing unwanted attrition, improving productivity and discretionary effort, and driving innovation, sales and delivery performance. Companies that live and breathe a great culture which aligns with the business goals and enable their employees to have a voice and get engaged, are already reaping the rewards of an empowered workforce of brand advocates.

  • Embarking on the HR Digital Transformation journey

The digital transformation journey will be paramount – understanding through a digital assessment of current assets, prioritization of critical projects, intelligent HCM technology market scanning and running RFI/RFP processes whilst justifying budget to your CFO/CEO will become a reality in 2017 – the time for reading, researching and contemplating is over!

Where do I get this from?  In a very recent webinar with Josh Bersin (Bersin by Deliottes), he outlined in advance of his 2017 survey findings, that 20th century organizational structures (classical hierarchies and top-down management and decision making) are dying out – giving rise to devolved decision making by cross functional teams who work in sprints of activity, are funded via micro-budgets and able to deliver at unheard of speeds.  Digital transformation is not just shiny new technology – it’s a new way of organizing, engaging with customers and employees, and how we build networks of expertise and trust – through cooperation and collaboration – working faster, better, smarter than ever before.

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