“HR”! Finding the Human Relevance!


Many of the folks that’s spoken with me recently would know that in the last couple months, my life’s been revolving around the word “Relevance”. Yes, I’m searching high and low for search relevance engineers, and for those of you who knows about this very interesting space, it is darn hard finding good candidates.

So, how did the word “Relevance” become the topic of my blog today?

This is all thanks to a group of very interesting individuals. A table full of thought-provoking HR leaders, coming together for lunch and a rather futuristic topic of what tomorrow’s HR would look like. I must say, it was a hugely entertaining conversation, a little depressing, but mostly forward looking.

As we looked at the role of HR in the organizations of today, there was a rather clear definition of what business partnering versus transaction work looked like. So, I guess the whole idea of a Business Partnering (BP)/ Center of Excellence (COE)/ Operations and Transaction model is pretty much the standard in many organizations today.

We took a deeper dive into what does HR really stand for in today’s context and how does technology such as automation, AI and everything that we have yet to comprehend changes that. While there is a strong agreement that at the most basic level, the personnel administration part of HR would still remain, we all agree that the advancement of automation, and AI will drastically change the way employees engages with HR for such transactions.

“Self-service” is definitely becoming a norm, with some organizations moving to the use of chatbots to automate some of their frontend engagements, providing for faster service turnaround, which also in turn reduces the load and need for human intervention.

One may argue that this would lack the personal touch, but with improving technologies in AI and chatbots, that is soon becoming a thing of the past.

So, if the transactional piece of HR can be replaced by technology, surely as HR practitioners, we would need to find relevance in what we do in at a more strategic level and not compete with the robots for transaction work.

Surely, the human brains would be irreplaceable when it comes to decision making, or is that also now threaten by the rise of robots?

One of my favorite phases that I picked up last Friday was, “There is data and there is human. The result is a permutation of which human sees what data!”.

When we look at the emerging trends around big data, and how we’re able to analyze and present data in a way that enables us to predict and make sensible decisions. It becomes increasingly clear that the role of HR from here on is no longer in crunching that data and advising our business leaders on the multiple different outcomes.

The business leaders have a dashboard and a fancy tool for that these days. So, if as business partners, we are advising, and not making those decisions, how fast do you think that function can be replaced by AI?

If we look at the methodologies that we adopt and bring to our business, these are not complicated principals to grasp. Someone commented that “9 boxes are not that complicated, I’ve worked with a business leader that ran an entire exercise on his own!”.

I know of 2 camps of HR practitioners. On one camp, the forward-looking ones that are trying to work themselves out of a job. On the other, the anxious one that fear the day when there’s no longer any value they can bring to table.

I have to be honest. There was a point where I started to get a little depressed with how HR today’s turning out. For me, HR needs to move beyond finding relevance in everyday transactions and understand what drives the business forward.

It will not be with one lunch conversation, we would change the definition of HR and what it stands for. However, for me, it serves as a reminder that the very world of HR that I’ve built my entire career on is changing, and fast.

I read in an article that with industrial revolution, humans are merely the interim solution to what technology couldn’t achieve decades ago. While that’s a depressing thought, and perhaps it will be some time before “Skynet” takes over, we do live in the present and still have a job to do.

If you ask me what is the role of HR tomorrow? My answer is simple. The fundamental role of HR hasn’t changed. It is to integrate the “human” resources as a part of the organization. The thing that’s changed is the world around us, mindset of the new generation, technology, business environment, etc. It’s like making a cake, the cake is still the cake, we just have fancier tools and new ingredients to work with!

What’s your take on the “Role of HR tomorrow?”, do share them in the comments below and have a wonderful week ahead!

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.

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