Recently everyone is talking about the future of work or new world of work which could be caused by the new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), or the new business model, such as outsourcing of non-core business activities. As a professional human resources consultant, I also frequently discuss this scenario with my clients, especially with those who are working in human resources departments and find that indeed there are some traditional and typical HR functions which are or would be replaced by external vendors providing more cost-effective services and would be disappeared from the HR departments.
In the typical set up of HR department, there are so called 3-pillars organization which includes HR business partners, HR center of expertise/excellence (COE), and HR shared services. For the HR business partners team, it acts like the bridge between HR and the business unit or department which he/she works for. Once there will be any request about human resources from the business unit or department, the HR business partner should act quickly to fulfill this request. The satisfaction rate from the business unit or department is a key performance index to evaluate the HR business partner’s performance. Hence; if the business unit is still running ,the organization will still need the HR business partners team to provide services and consultation. Simply, I bet HR business partner can still survive under the future of work.
The second pillar in the typical human resources organization is HR center of expertise/excellence (COE). For this HR functional team, it focuses on reviewing and designing more effective organizations via the organizational structures, processes, related polices, and programs. For example, it would set up motivating career path for the research and development staff via enhancement of their technical or managerial capabilities and competencies so that these staff would be motivated and encouraged to stay within the company for the longer term in order to have a better career development, reducing their turnover rate for the organization’s benefits. In this way, we can easily understand what HR COE does is highly related with the company’s long term goals and strategic & organizational issues so that I also believe HR COE will be still necessary under the attack of those advanced technologies and business models.
As for the last pillar of HR functions in the typical set-up which is called HR shared services, I bet it is or will be replaced by external vendors or new technologies sooner or later and will be disappeared in HR organizations soon. In HR shared services function, it normally provides and delivers transactional and informational services. For example; it is in charge of your monthly pay slips. It needs to calculate how much your base salary, entitled bonus, and granted and exercised options and stocks are per month in order not to surprise you monthly. Besides; it also acts like HR help desk which can solve your questions and concerns about human resources, administration, or organization, such as how many annual leaves you are entitled with and what the reimbursement processes are. However; as the new business model emerges such as outsourcing of payroll administration to ADP and CDP which are specialized companies providing payroll management and the new technologies come in such as SaaS or cloud computing which allows the employees can get the answers about their concerns in 24X7, more and more organizations are and will be outsourcing or offshoring their HR shared services function and teams to external specialized vendors or companies.
Consequently, I believe HR shared service function and team shall not be existing in the organization in terms of cost effectiveness, competitive advantages, and synergies under the new world of work. However; this is like the dual sides of a coin. Once there is something disappeared, there will be another thing bumping out. With the outsourcing or offshoring of HR shared services function and team and the adoption of new technologies, such as SaaS or cloud, there are much more data about employees’ behaviors appeared and stored in the vendor’s or your own data center or cloud. In order to effectively extract insights and key information from these databases or clouds, the HR organization now needs people who are good at people analytics to help the company to handle and utilize these piles of golden data. Hence; the next question is how to build up the people analytics team and enhance its functional and professional relevance and expertise under the increasing importance of people analytics in the organization so that I propose several capabilities and competencies as below which are key for people analytics in the organization.
First, for organization wanting to set up people analytics team in HR function, it must choose the people who are really liking data and especially preferring working with piles of numbers so that he or she can dig out the key information from these data. Moreover; during the analysis of these employees’ behavioral data and information, those people analytical experts shall understand how to use effective hypothesis to interpret the data and select the appropriate matrix to find out the significant independent and dependent variables and go back to check whether the chosen hypothesis is right or not. Besides; the organization also needs to ensure that people analytics team has the capability to visualize data in a straight forward and easy-to-understand way for other stakeholders outside people analytics team to quickly understand what the key information and insight are delivered.
When it comes to the crucial competency requirements for people analytics function and team for the future of work, the first required competency is business acumen. People analytics experts shall not live in their irony tower of data without taking their current organizational and business status quo into account. Whether their organizations are driving cost down, revenue maximization, new market entry, or product portfolio expansion strategies, people analytics experts shall have different perspectives to run their analysis. Second required competency is story telling. As we know that purely talking about data is boring and not attractive, people analytics team shall understand how to explain their analytics and key findings in a story-telling way so that they can convince the audiences not only to accept analytical results but also the following suggestions. The final required competency for people analytics team is leadership. Whether you are the leader of people analytics team or leading the cross-functional team to run people analytics, you shall be able to coach the team to have solid business cases, structure the hypotheses, run simulations, and re-define the parameters in business cases etc. so that everyone is able to increase their awareness and capabilities of analyzing employees’ behavioral data.
As the new technologies and business models are on debut in the market, they can create higher efficiency for us to run businesses, such as cost saving on people hired. However; it could also make some negative impacts from other perspectives, such as job loss for individual employee and higher nonvoluntary turnover rate. As an individual professional worker, what you can do to face these new changes in technology and business model is making yourself open-minded and demonstrating your learning agility to learn the new things rather than staying at your comfortable zone without any willingness to experience the new world of work. In this way, you will stand at much higher possibility to find or even create a new job just like the rising people analytics job within HR function and re-define the future of your own work.