OPINION

Why HR is not dead

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Author and Future of Work consultant Jacob Morgan penned a thought-provoking piece in June 2015 entitled ‘Why Human Resources Is Dead’, which described the “death” of HR as we have come to know it, and the emergence of more people-and-talent-focused descriptors for these roles.

We are mistaken if we believe that HR is a redundant function in the 21st century, it is, in fact a core function of business strategy. As business partner, it is a key enabler that ensures the organisation is endowed with people who are skill matched to the organisation’s strategic goals and priorities.

Morgan is correct in his assertion that, “The idea of thinking of employees as capital assets is antiquated, but for many it's not enough to simply talk about how HR is changing and what the new role of HR is”. It is my belief that the evolution of HR is undeniably worth noting as it is moves away from viewing and treating employees as capital assets. A great journey lies ahead for all HR practitioners, and it is all about people. At the core of the evolution is the advancement of the existing HR department, which I expect to be a cultivator of intimate relationships between employers and employees over the next five years.

In South Africa, we are witnessing this renewed outlook on the human resources function. Organisations are beginning to recognise that they need to invest in a people-centred culture and be deliberate about retaining the talent that creates competitive advantage. I consider it a matter of priority to be intentional about an organisation’s talent and to have a “talent design” that is aligned to fulfilment of organisational priorities.

Organisations need to place emphasis on articulating their brands, such that it attracts individuals of the right calibre and culture-fit attributes and, once in the organisation, nurturing their development and facilitating meaningful career opportunities, which all work to engage and retain the “right” people for the organisation. Specific practices that will be affected by this imperative are leadership capability, reward and recognition (both immediate and long-term), career development opportunities, succession for sustainability and employee wellness in physical, emotional and financial terms.

It is equally important to articulate the organisations’s intentions to the affected individuals. Too often people exit the organisation in a manner that does not suit the overall people plan, which causes us to behave in a reactive manner. Often we find that, if the employees had known how important they were and what our plans were for them, they would either not have left or, if leaving was unavoidable, they would have somehow involved us in their thoughts and plans.  If we create the view of the future, share it with the stakeholders (affected employees, line managers, HR) then we speak one language and are able to collaborate with each other instead of working at cross-purposes.

Technology is also enhancing the HR function in ways we never imagined possible. It acts as an enabler to our efficiency and takes away the repeatable and transactional bulk that tends to keep us busy in an unproductive way.  In this way, technology, creates opportunities for us to engage personally and meaningfully with our key stakeholders – whether they are employees who require clarity or want to discuss their concerns, managers who need our guidance and support in fulfilling their people management responsibilities, or candidates who have a story to tell. What is important is that we, also, engage smartly with the technology that is at our disposal and draw insights that enable us to make more accurate decisions that will benefit the business.

I am eager to further evaluate and discuss the state of HR in the South African context when I meet with industry professionals at the 1st Annual Careers24 Future of HR Summit and Awards, where I will serve as a judge.

The event will address the exciting transformation of the HR function in the business environment, share innovative and strategic approaches to overcoming challenges, and forecast trends for 2015.

The summit will take place from 22 to 23 July 2015, with the awards ceremony on the 23 July 2015, in Gauteng. 

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