One of the most noticeable changes in today’s workplace is the rapid technology that businesses adopt. Technology has also changed the way that human resource departments work. HR is now pushed to not only to be digital but also do digital. As part of a recruitment strategy, for example, AI has been widely adopted by companies to ease the workload of HR departments.
With tech changing in the workplace, HR is also expected to change their strategy in order to help businesses thrive. However, is HR able to do that? Does HR now have to face more challenges than before automation exist? To answer the curiosity, we have sought answers from two HR professionals, Andrew Chan and Ankita Poddar.
Andrew Chan, Founder and CEO of ACI HR Solutions, commented that technology has largely been a positive inclusion to businesses when used effectively. However, we should not forget that human touch is also needed within companies’ operation. “Integration between technology and human capital has probably been one of the biggest challenges faced by modern-day businesses,” added Chan.
The shift from the traditional workforce to a modern one is also an issue for HR as Chan said that this is particularly so for millennial who are less driven by income or status and are skewed towards personal development, flexibility, and social responsibilities. Chan emphasised that HR still has more to do in order to provide conformity for employees or companies will have tougher times in retaining and recruiting talents to fuel growth and expansion.
Similar to Chan, Ankita Poddar, HR business partner at Amazon, in the interview also cited that technology comes with its benefits and hurdles. “Technology plays a key role in connecting talent across the world, information flowing faster than ever before, allowing people to work from all corners of the world and significantly expanding the talent pool. However, it has also played a big role in creating new lifestyle diseases. It has reduced the shelf life of professionals, introduced an economy that is constantly connected and forgets to switch off which in turn leads to a large chunk of the workforce constantly battling with both physical and mental wellness,” said Poddar.
It is with more importance than ever that HR should address those challenges and issues like harassment, diversity, fairness which have long laid in the dark for decades. Creating a new future of work is not easy, said Poddar. However, “technology can be a great aid in solving this. It can allow for faster and broader communication and education, it can help quicker deduction and in implementing solutions,” she added.
The good side of HR today
For the time being, human resources have been playing the role of companies’ right-hand man and only with a good HR, will the company be able to thrive. This is especially so in today’s savvy automation, where being in HR means that there are more opportunities.
“HR professionals, today, have more opportunities than ever before to create true impact. We are at a sweet spot where we have enough influence to change things yet are not burdened by immense expectations. It is the ideal time to experiment, create and influence change,” Poddar stated.
Chan also added that “HR has elevated from an admin back-office function to be one of the most important positions in an organisation. There have been far more opportunities for HR professionals to advance their careers than ever before.”
The dark side of HR today
However, the HR position is not without its difficulties. The HR position may seem precarious even for people in human resource. This position comes with increasing responsibility. “HR folks who don’t embrace the new demands will find it difficult and much more challenging to stay competitive in their current position,” commented Chan.
“The only downside I can think of is us not making the most of the opportunity and getting stuck in the rut of repeating the same mistakes over and over again; for us to undermine the potential of the profession and to hold ourselves back. There is also the ambiguity of not knowing the outcome of our decisions in real time,” Poddar added.
‘Things we (HR) put in place are usually one-way doors and we have a poor measure of figuring it is the right action or not.’ – Ankita Poddar
When asked about the darkest side of human resources today, it is revealed that making a decision is one of the greatest problems HR faces. With retrenchments and company structures that are hard to fix, here are the opinions of both professionals:
Poddar: In business, either you make money or you do not; you create a 5-star product or you do not. However, in HR you will never know if the person you bought on board is a better fit than the one you did not. You have no way of knowing if the performance management system you put in place is the right one until a year has passed; is the engagement survey that you designed a good reflection of the sentiment on the floor? You will never really know. More often than not, you will lie awake at night wondering if you made the right decisions. In addition, the decisions we make impacts the careers of many. Living in ambiguity with that kind of impact can lead to sticking to a safety net and dissuading us from experimenting.
A few years ago, I would have said that the darkest side is having to deal with all of the above and it being a thankless job but that is fast changing.
Chan: Dealing with retrenchments and company restructures – since the GFC in 2008, this has become far more common in businesses. With the advent of technology, particularly AI technology, human displacement will become an issue HR will be increasingly dealing with.
Solution for HR today
Like a wise old mantra, there will be solutions for every problem, including the dark side HR department has to face today. According to Poddar, there are two ways to overcome this.
By putting in place indicators that will help you determine whether the outcomes are as intended. Focus on both input and outputs measures. Spend significant time determining the right measures. Once you have this in place, it becomes easier to course correct every time you observe that you may be heading in an unsatisfactory direction.
You should keep experimenting and embracing the spirit of failing fast. Have fun with it. Realise that the only way to create true impact is to experiment it until you hit upon the perfect solution. Nothing is set in stone and most things can be fixed if tackled on time. Most importantly, you should put every decision into action.
Likewise, Chan suggested to up-skill, retrain, and educate yourself beyond HR. The role of HR and its function is far more involved in business than before, so a fuller understanding of business administration is also becoming increasingly important for HR professionals.
“Continuous improvements will determine whether you will thrive or survive.” – Andrew Chan
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