Opinion: Putting HR back into the boardroom

An industry leader shares how disruption is an opportune time for HR to reclaim a seat at the table

Opinion: Putting HR back into the boardroom

by Mitch Young

The global HR sector has been evolving itself for future digital disruption and workforce change, and Singapore’s must keep up or risk being left behind.

ServiceNow’s recent State of Work research of 500 global CHROs across 12 countries and 20 industries revealed that the HR function is increasingly driving digital transformation in companies and affecting business performance.

This was acknowledged by 59% of CHROs in APAC, 56% of CHROs in Europe and 54% of North American CHROs.

APAC CHROs were more likely than global counterparts to prioritise the digitization of the employee experience and 60% of them see great importance in data-driven decision making, injecting data and analytics into their processes, compared to only 44% in North America and 54% in Europe.

This digital shift in HR means that more global organisations are now able to focus on strategic work beyond the repetitive tasks that used to take up most of their work day, putting HR in a better position to further their vision for the organisation.

Singapore’s 43,000 HR professionals should ready themselves for the impending HR digital transformation that is storming the globe.

In July last year, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) launched the HR Industry Manpower Plan in a bid to strengthen the HR industry in Singapore and prepare it for the disruption and change that the future economy is set to bring.

The plan looks to strengthen the capabilities of the HR profession, enhance support for employers and nurture a vibrant HR services sector and HR ecosystem.

This includes enhanced internship and training programs, a national HR certification scheme, and a program to help small businesses boost their HR functions.

HR has been and, in many cases, is still burdened with repetitive administrative and transactional work – work that maintains the status of HR as a cost centre rather than a value centre.

While certain administrative tasks exist as necessary HR functions, it doesn’t serve to attract the best talent.

In fact, this work serves to keep HR in the backroom. Respondents from the study also revealed that HR leaders and organisations need future-ready HR professionals that are more strategic than administrative.

As reiterated by MOM, the HR industry in Singapore should be focusing on building the workplaces of the future that are more innovative and efficient.

By deploying technology and automation, HR leaders can strengthen the capabilities of their team and free them from repetitive tasks to focus on strategic work that contributes to real business outcomes, bringing the HR function from cost centre to value centre.

On top of the HR Industry Manpower Plan, HR leaders themselves must think about their technology landscape in a new way.

The good news is that HR can move from the backroom to the boardroom and have a seat at the table when collaborating with senior management on people strategy and employee engagement.

This can be achieved by thinking beyond traditional core HR systems and finding new ways of managing work across the enterprise.

Here are the top three things they need to focus on as a priority:

- Improve service levels: Instead of through emails and phone calls, HR leaders should spend time with their teams in the frontline to understand how they can streamline certain processes by building a knowledge base and automated solutions to ensure that employees still get direct access to information without compromising on service delivery.

- Embrace technology: Each day newer technologies emerge to address evolving challenges in the HR space to make the world of work, work better for people.

One such technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Certain cloud services come with add-ons such as an AI automation engine that is designed to predict outages, automate routing and workflow, predict outcomes and benchmark performance while maximising overall productivity.

Increasingly, AI chatbots are being leveraged to provide service functions to employees – this includes retrieving data or records from a system, answering questions and submitting transactions.

- Look beyond HR: Employees across the business often work with other departments to meet their HR needs and CHROs must recognise this.

Whatever solution is chosen for automation workflows shouldn’t be limited to the HR function. An effective platform extends across an enterprise and automates end-to-end employee processes like onboarding and employee transitions.

Effective service management platforms also provide metrics and data that can enable HR leaders to make better business decisions while providing employees with a great service experience.

The HR sector, many professionals would agree, is under constant pressure to increase efficiency and add greater value to the organisation. New technology is already playing a pivotal globally, helping to meet that demand.

Singapore’s HR sector must shift towards a value centre that is adaptive and relevant for the next phase of economic development awaiting Singapore. Are you ready to meet this challenge and elevate the profile of your team?

The author is Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan at ServiceNow


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