Long back while working on a business forecasting assignment, I came across a saying which is still very fresh in my mind; “FORECASTING is like DRIVING a CAR by LOOKING into the REAR MIRROR”. This is over two decades ago. Back then, the future was still thinkable then, there were certain fixed criteria which one considered in order to make a business forecast and then derive the functional aspirations.
Lately the disruptions have been more often, and more far-reaching if I may say so. And each disruption is overshadowed by something more challenging while one has overcome the previous one. The reach has been widespread and not limited to one industry or one geography. The scope of business has been extensive and so has been the impact; the butterfly effect, which when I read about for the first time I thought was only theoretical, but now one sees it happening in reality.
Human Resource (HR) function has been on its toes and why not? Aren’t all functions on their toes given the volatility in business. There are many battels to be fought, both external and internal and the HR leader as the commander of the PEOPLE aspect has to look through a TELESCOPE as well as a MICROSCOPE; to lead and also deal with the change.
While it is obvious that given the frequency and impact of change, the HR leader has her task cutout and there are multiple pinnacles that need to be addressed, let us consider a few, which in my opinion are being dealt at some organizations, but many especially in the Indian context, need more intense focus to keep an organization sailing through the storms.
FLUIDITY & FLEXIBILITY: Over the years, we have seen certain jobs becoming obsolete or their impact level diminishing. The organization must have the ability to absorb (retain and be fair) to people who have been loyal (and contributing) over the years. As a HR leader it is imperative to have an eye on SKIIL Curve, just like a PRODUCT LIFE Cycle. Keeping a eye on the skill curve, the organization needs to focus on developing skill and knowledge to make the employees ready to take on new jobs when their core skill becomes defunct. The idea is to have more ALL ROUNDERS in the team, that brings in flexibility in the management, and fluidity to the employee to devote his experience in the newly acquired skill set.
PERSONALITY AND SYSTEMS: The future will offer volumes, for an organization to effectively manage large volumes, it has to more and more engage with systems and processes that are robust. But don’t we come across PERSONALITIES who try to overpower because of their presence. This can come in handy for the moment but doing it over and again leads to the possibility of developing a similar culture in the organization which is deterrent to the positive growth. In future, the organization has to run with the systems that have been designed NOT to ACCOMODDATE and hence deliver TRUST in every action and decision that happens within the organization.
LEADERSHIP: HR Leader has to focus on the LEADERSHIP of the organization, current and future. Days have gone when experience used to be the key. Knowledge will make the difference in future. Knowledge comes from absorption of right information. HR Leader has to be keenly involved in identifying the leadership gaps and bridge them either through upgradation of the employees or hiring laterally. Leadership has to be made more agile in accepting change, in accepting a need to change and also in accepting the quantum of change that awaits every business spectrum. HR Leader has to continuously overhaul the key leadership parameters and test the existing and potential leaders against the impending facets of management.
MULTI CULTURE: One of the key challenges that I see is the multicultural prevalence in the same organization. Over the year’s organizations and businesses have strived to keep a same cultural thread across. Going forward one will have to maintain a culture as per the function and the talent there in rather than a standard culture across. While ethics and values of the organization must be consistent, the work aspects, the compensation aspects and the aspirational aspects have to redrafted keeping in mind the core aspects of a function and its market significance. The organization has to be made ready to accept these cross functional variations, and people must be trained to evolve with the new approach.
RICH IN EMPATHY: The future will say a lot about respect and compassion. Events in the recent past have indeed paved way to give an individual her/his due, irrespective of the position/function/relationship. The HR leader must inculcate this in the employees to make the organization rich in empathy, not only within the organization but also outside while dealing with partners/ vendors and all service providers to develop a symbiotic relationship. Beneficial to one and all.
Since the inception of formal organizations, never before have we observed the significance of looking into the future so vehemently. As a HR function while we have come much closer to business, our objective is to remain one step ahead of the business. In doing so we need to sharpen our skills to identify the impending change much in advance to resurrect the organization well in time.