How HR can prepare for future challenges

There is a big risk for HR professionals if they don’t get better at being agile, one expert tells HRD

How HR can prepare for future challenges
A big challenge for HR across Australia is to prepare their workforces for the future of work which is going to be dominated by automation and AI, according to Aaron McEwan, HR advisory leader at CEB, now Gartner.

“Our research shows that from a CEO and board of directors perspective, the HR function is one responsible for preparing for the future of work,” he told HRD.

“They also see the HR function as responsible for stewarding and shepherding the cultural vision of the CEO. So I think HR is well and truly in the hot seat.”

McEwan added that HR needs to equip itself to move at the same speed that the business and the economy is moving - and that’s a big challenge

“When you look at the typical talent management processes that HR is engaged in, those things are not necessarily moving at the same speed of change as the organisation,” he said.

“There is a big risk here for HR if they don’t get better at being agile themselves and improving those processes because the business will simply sidestep them.”

At the moment, the leaders of the business are going direct to market to solve their talent challenges which is particularly concerning from an HR perspective, said McEwan.

“If you think about how important culture is and how important digitalisation is to compete and be innovative, then one of the big opportunities that HR has in this environment is to look at the contingent economy.”

There is a really interesting component in Australia that is very different to the contingent economies in other parts of the world, he said. That’s because the component of the contingent workforce that’s growing really fast is professional and sales people.

“So if you look at most other regions in the world, contingent workers are typically being driven by the likes of Uber drivers and Airtasker,” he said.

“In Australia, you have got highly-educated, highly-skilled professional and sales people that are increasingly looking for more flexibility, but underneath that they still want to be part of a culture and part of something bigger than them.”

McEwan said there is an opportunity for Australian organisations to embrace flexibility and really look at how they engage with contingent talent.

This includes offerings like an employee value proposition, a workplace culture and conditions related to work such as access to development opportunities.

“Those are the things that if they are offered to contingent workers - as well as permanent workers - will position those organisations to have the first pick of the best talent that’s in the contingent economy,” said McEwan.

“That’s increasingly the exact talent we are looking for in terms of being highly-skilled, well-educated and digitally-savvy – they are the people in demand in organisations.

“So if we don’t start treating them a bit more like we are treating permanent employees it is going to be increasingly difficult to attract that talent. And as the cost of that talent increases it is not going to be feasible to simply throw more money at them.”

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