Remember those old-fashioned vice president of human resources roles? Or human resources director? Ok, so maybe those haven't gone away. Indeed's 12 common HR jobs report last month signals no major shifts or changes in what we've always viewed as traditional HR roles (i.e. director of human resources, human resources manager, recruiter, employment specialist, etc.)
However, the role of human resources leader is evolving to adapt to technological needs in the workplace. And do we have to remind anyone of the digital transformation that accelerated this in the last 12 months?
Harvard Business Review in August reported on the future of HR workplace and found HR has a “tremendous opportunity, and responsibility, to provide workers with guidance on the skills and capabilities they will need to be successful over the next decade as new roles continue to emerge.”
Future HR: Chatbots, VR and Algorithms
What kinds of roles do they envision for the next 10 years? Chatbot and human facilitator. HR data detective. Algorithm bias auditor. Human bias officer. VR immersion counselor. Human-machine teaming manager.
The roles support five themes HBR researchers developed:
- Individual and organizational resilience: HR professionals need to develop comprehensive views of employee wellbeing, encompassing the emotional, mental and spiritual health of workers along with the physical, according to HBR researchers.
- Organizational trust and safety: Senior HR leaders must take accountability when it comes to data privacy to ensure fairness and explainability.
- Creativity and innovation: Setting a strategy for the future of work, as well as proposing reskilling and upskilling efforts for current employees.
- Data literacy: Being more data-driven will allow HR leaders to "provide more accurate insights around everything from employee performance and retention to the engagement level of C-suite leaders," HBR researchers found.
- Human-machine partnerships: Judgment is usually easy for humans, according to researchers, but still hard for computers. This needs to be a solid partnership in order to have an impact on the workplace.
“Keep in mind, many of these new roles would rely on the creation of other jobs of the future (predominantly in HR), some which have already been created and many of which haven’t been 'invented' yet,” HBR researchers found. “For example, a Human-Machine Teaming Manager may find themselves working with a Chatbot Coach to enhance an AI-powered candidate experience. These dependencies would also inform career paths. Someone with several years’ experience as an HR Data Detective may be a prime candidate for the role of Head of Business Behavior, another new HR job of the future.”
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Be Digitally Immersed
What other skill sets are will come in handy for HR this decade? Jon Ingham, trainer and learning facilitator with the Strategic HR Academy, said all HR and especially HR tech specialists can and should be digital residents. “There is so much opportunity for digital technologies to transform HR tech, and specialists need to be on top of this,” Ingham said. “The easiest way of doing so is to use the technologies.”
Many of the potential benefits of AI may be limited and debatable so far, but HR should still be experimenting with them, he added. HR professionals need to develop their use in an agile, iterative fashion and get involved now in order that they are able to access their benefits once the technologies are more mature.
Wisdom, Not Data, Artistry
HR has been called on to employ data scientists, and businesses do need to have or ensure access to data science specialists, according to Ingham. However, he noted, this isn’t the main need in HR. “Data is important but much of our data, especially about the most important aspects of people and organizations, is qualitative and subjective in nature,” Ingham said. “The required capabilities are not so much about understanding data as they are about drawing insights from this and other evidence, plus calibrated intuition. And then making a case based upon these insights, including through storytelling.”
When it comes to a data skillset, Ingham called it more an art vs. a science for HR specialists, one that is focused on “wisdom, not data.”
“Plus,” he added, “AI will quickly take over operational analytics, and so the key skills for HR tech are about understanding the potential use of data, not doing the analysis on it.”
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Video Skills for Fast, Fresh Communication
Paul Rubenstein, chief people officer at Visier, said that being able to write, edit and send a three-minute video to people across time zones is a powerful way of communicating for HR professionals.
“It meets people on their mobile devices and arrives in the format made familiar with social media,” Rubenstein said. “Today's consumers –– who are also your employees –– want communications within organizations to be effectively viral. Gone are the days of multi-day projects with editors and professional videographers. Pick up your phone and record, and then use Quicktime or a straightforward software tool to edit. Get messages out there in a fast and fresh way.”
Another core skill that is important for HR leaders and teams is an understanding of the advantages of AI, according to Rodney Turner, director of HCM strategy/evangelism at isolved.
“While AI is already being used across many HR teams, especially in the areas of recruiting, performance management and employee engagement processes, the HR practitioner should possess a solid understanding of how AI can be leveraged not only to relieve the HR function of burdensome tasks, but also better manage the workforce and improve HR service delivery,” Turner said.
HR leaders that embrace this technology will be able to evolve their roles from tactical to strategic, which creates opportunities to lead digital transformation efforts that align to organizational performance goals, Turner added.
The key opportunity for HR tech today is to help employees improve their own productivity, performance and wellbeing, Ingham said. For example, HR needs to avoid any temptation to use increasing amounts of data to monitor and manage people more tightly, but instead, provide the insights from analytics on this data to individual employees who will often be placed to make best use of it.
“HR tech specialists therefore need to be deeply immersed in their organizations, close to their people as well as the business, and with a desire and curiosity to understand how people could be supported better,” Ingham said. “This orientation is supported by natural empathy for their people, and knowledge of general principles from psychology, sociology and anthropology.”