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The Evolving Role of HR and the Agile Workforce

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Written by Pasquale Tangorra, HR Transformation Consultant at Veran Performance

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The Human Factor podcast by SAP
The Human factor Podcast

I know what you’re thinking, here we go again: an HR podcast about the future workforce – they even dropped the ‘A’ word in the title, classic. Let me tell you, these are not ordinary podcasters: Michael Esau (Global HXM Value Advisory) hosts The Human Factor podcast, where he interviews Tom Holmes, co-founder and director of Veran Performance, and Mark Brooks Lewis, founder and CEO of LavaSourceHR. What makes this worth a listen is the fresh perspective these two thought leaders bring around what’s coming for HR: with real-life examples, informed opinions and the expertise of their ground-breaking businesses.

The podcasts bring industry-leading insights on how businesses can prepare to face an evolving workforce by transforming how they champion people. The conversation is guided around some thought-provoking questions, and I’ve selected three key themes to give you a flavour of this episode:

HR today and in the future

Mark and Tom agreed that the role of HR has evolved from a passive paternalistic support model to legitimately sitting at the decisions’ table. Organisations recognise the People function’s role in driving the strategic position of a business from a talent and workforce planning perspective. This is true for most companies but, with a tone of consolation, speakers admitted that more recognition is perhaps needed.

Looking ahead, Tom sees the back office, i.e. HR and Finance, much more aligned to the innovative ways of working that most often characterise the front office – think about how consumer products change in response to market demands and trends, why wouldn’t the People function change with it? Transforming is key to keep up the competitive advantage of a business.

Changing workforce

Many people spend an awful amount of time thinking about why and what has changed in the workforce. For a start, two financial crises have reframed what people want. The two speakers run businesses that focus on the response to managing an evolving workforce: from talent solutions (Mark) to transformation consulting services (Tom), providing some great insights into the topic.

“when a human being comes to work, they want to achieve, they want to leave work thinking they had a good day, that they are seen, rewarded and that they’re growing”.

For Mark, the psychology around ‘productivity’ needs to change –“when a human being comes to work, they want to achieve, they want to leave work thinking they had a good day, that they are seen, rewarded and that they’re growing”.

Tom thinks there are two ways to address the issue: by predicting what is needed to engage employees or by asking the employees what they need – with the caveat that the HR tools to do such things need to be efficient and sophisticated.

The conversation shifted to culture. Unanimously, the recognition that people change jobs because of the environment, working relations and opportunities to be challenged and carry on a rewarding position was pretty clear. Tom emphasises the need for a better alignment between individual employee and their contribution to achieve business outcomes aimed at rediscovering the excitement and happiness of working.

AI, Tech and Robots – what next?

Here comes a controversial one. Some People professionals perceive HR tech as competition, but neither Tom nor Mark agree. For Tom, it’s a matter of fulfilling jobs: after working on a project to deliver a RPA solution (Robotic Process Automation), he can clearly see the benefits of removing the boring, repetitive and admin-heavy tasks from people’s jobs so that they can be engaged in much more effective tasks. In agreement, Mark pushes the barrier further and claims how AI would reduce biases in areas like recruitment, for example. Now, let’s be clear, AI is only as good as the person who programmes it – so, we might still be far away from a complete biases’ sanitation. However, they’re important tools to provide HR with the bases for becoming data analysis masters and provide creative solutions to a workforce market that’s become much more flexible and strives for a fulfilling career, away from past notions of company loyalty and basic benefits offers.

Mark and Tom answered these and more of Michael’s questions. If you’re interested in a fresh perspective on how employment contracts, recruitment and HR technology will transform, have a listen to episode 19 of the Human Factor: The Evolving Role of HR and the Agile Workforce, from wherever you source your podcasts.

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