What is HR's role in the future of work?

At HR Leaders Summit, one leader cautions HR against forgetting their vital role in enabling business success

What is HR's role in the future of work?

Sustaining business success – what is HR’s role in it?

“The CEO is the person involved in the vision,” said Dr Yvonne McNulty, Senior Lecturer, HRM Program at Singapore University of Social Sciences.

“As HR leaders, our job is to actually build…processes and practices so that we can actually get to the how [to achieve that vision].”

McNulty set the tone for a day of discussions on HR transformation and the future of leadership at HR Leaders Summit yesterday (3 October).

READ MORE: HR Leaders Summit begins with a bang

In her opening speech, the academic reminded the audience that HR has a vital role in helping the business remain successful and competitive, even more so as we go into the future of work.

“Today I hope will…not be so much about ‘what’ you should do, but very much about the ‘how’ you can achieve the [CEO’s] vision,” she said, emphasising that it’s the CEO’s job to inspire the company and its leaders.

“HR needs to know the ‘how’ – processes and practices – because we need results for ourselves, our teams and the business.”

The future of HR
As for HR’s role in the future, she predicted two key areas leaders will be more involved in: data analytics and cultural management.

“In the Singapore of tomorrow, what is it going to look like for HR leaders?” she said. “It’s definitely going to have analytics and it’s definitely going to be about data.”

However, she cautioned leaders against harping only on Big Data.

READ MORE: How can HR thrive in the era Big Data?

“I’d rather that we focus on key, critical data – this is small data,” she said. “It starts with purpose. What is the purpose of the data?”

In terms of cultural management, it will involve more than just dealing with the influx of manpower, she said. HR would also need to be prepared to handle the movement of Singaporean workers across the region.

She also predicted two additional issues that will come up in the future: workplace harassment and inequality. The four areas she highlighted were drawn from her time at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference.

Heavy HR issues like workplace discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment will become more pronounced in future, with McNulty pointing out that they’re currently “coming into Singapore’s national conversations”.

As for inequality, she shared learnings from Professor Tommy Koh, Singapore’s ambassador-at-large. Koh had highlighted the issue of a living wage and how we need to move towards having a better understanding about people’s status in life and how it impacts the way we work.

In future, Singapore would have to better address and ensure that people should be able to go to work with dignity, regardless of their status and background.

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