Talent acquisition and retention is a key part of most — if not all — organizations: this isn’t anything new, and has been the way of business for decades. Companies have always fought to seek and retain the best talent; develop the most effective hiring processes, onboarding processes and employee engagements — these have always been priorities.
However, it seems that today, more than any other time in history, an organization’s ability to acquire (and retain) a skilled set of talented workers, and have them fit in successfully with the business’ opportunities and challenges ahead determine not just its ability to grow, but its ability to survive.
And there are further complexities to consider too: the growing skills gap, the changing and evolving business environment, the rise of a millennial and generation Z workforce taking central stage of the workforce, and opting to freelance rather than become in-house, full-time team members.
The Central Role of HR in an Evolving Work Environment
Throughout these evolutions and dynamic shifts, HR (Human Resources) functions have been almost universally focused on supporting managers of all levels in their tasks and are most recognizable for their roles in recruiting, welfare and — in some extreme cases — as the compliance officers.
The key question is, can HR leaders, grow from being this very process driven function to become true business partners?
Most corporate executives and HR leaders seem to be doubtful, and I often hear that, “HR isn’t empowered to drive organizational change”.
Yet, regardless of HR professionals’ reluctance, these changes in organizational functions and the role they play into making business impacts have happened in the past.
In the 1990’s, as IT grew to become a business driver for any organization, we witnessed the promotion of the Sys Admin to the newly-crowned CIO role, and getting a prime seat at the CEO’s table. This CIO role is arguably the most important function in any organization for many years, getting the largest budgets and impacting the business tremendously.
Then, history repeated itself, in the mid-2000s: we watched the growth of the CMO. Thanks to the explosion of the internet and digital advertising, we watched as Marketing Managers who had been accustomed to focusing on brand, TV briefs and events, gradually turned into the individual that has the most impact on business growth — or, as we now call it, “growth hacking”.
Until that time, many marketing leads did not get a seat at the table, but today there is no question about it, the CMO role is a crucial business partner and has a prime seat at the decision-making table.
The Future of HR: Will it Evolve?
While the short answer is “yes’, the longer answer is that this lies in the hands of those team members fulfilling HR roles and tasks.
While in theory, nothing is stopping these individuals from focusing on welfare and compliance, although there’s no concrete reason to give them a seat at the table if they keep doing just that.
Because, a seat at the decision-making table means you have significant business value to offer the executive team. This is actually an amazing opportunity: a “perfect storm” for HR leaders to partner up with their executives and help them build the organization they need to thrive. HR Leaders should not simply be asked, “how can you help me hire faster”, but “what do you plan to do to help the organization adapt faster and for the long term.”
HR leaders have the capacity to think outside the box and not focus on what they used to do in the past, but on what the organization and its leaders need for the present and the future.
Chief HR Officers need to set the tone in this journey to create an agile, flexible organization. They need to help recode the organizational DNA to focus on business needs, to be an ongoing learning organization.
Organizations that support HR in designing and evolving into these super heroes that are driving business growth will reap the rewards of sustainable organizational growth in the years to come.
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