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Tim O'Rourke

Crowne Finch


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Blog: The World of HR – Today’s frustrations, tomorrow’s dreams Part 2


Last week we told you about a time travel challenge we posed some of our clients.

We asked them in 20 years’ time, when you look back at HR, what would you tell people it was famous for?
We asked them to complete the sentence: “A long time ago, in a company far, far away, there was an HR department that…” (difficult to explain out of context – read last week’s blog if you missed it).
Having kept you in suspense, here’s more detail about the themes that emerged from a group of international HRDs:
1. The reduction or removal of HR headcount having been replaced by technology or their activities transferred to line-manager/employee.
Phrases like:
  • “HR almost disappeared and were replaced by a very sophisticated portal”
  • “HR provided all employees with an “accessible anywhere” portal to answer questions, access data and information and perform administrative tasks”
  • “Line Managers (not HR) were accountable for the human capital they had been given the responsibility for”.  
Some interesting insights in these observation are clearly the recognition that technology is replacing some (many) HR interactions with clients that are currently face to face, and secondly, that HR may almost, but not quite, disappear.
HR is not just about administrative tasks, but in the eyes of some of these individuals, this is the work that overwhelmingly consumes the majority of HR resources.
Clearly this is a common direction of travel for many businesses and the clear realisation that HR departments in the future will be leaner, meaner (?) and more “niche”. So, what would these future HR teams specialise in?
2. HR changed to become more futuristic, integrated business support instead of a “traditional” service provider of resourcing, training, ER, comp and ben, employee surveys and so on.
This was represented by insights such as:
  • “HR would not be viewed as separate support, but fully integrated into the business”
  • “HRBPs spent most of their time on consultancy instead of operational stuff”
  • “HR replaced the need for external consultants in integration and change leadership”
  • “Business Leaders acknowledged the part HR had played in the success of their organisations through coaching and consulting” and tellingly
  • “HR did what the business imperatives dictated, not what HR wanted to do!”
These statements provided some perspectives about the new role of client-facing HR roles and the different knowledge base required to be successful.
There was some discussion about the continued relevance and importance of these “traditional” domains, but a recognition that the pressures highlighted in Theme 1, were taking much of this away from internal headcount.
The above are not intended to be the best answers, or the only answers, but the process of asking the question, inspired, challenged and created a lot of thoughtful discussion and debate. So, what actions are you taking today, to make HR famous in 20 years’ time? Have a great week!
Tim O’Rourke is director of HR transformation specialist, Crowne Finch.

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Tim O'Rourke


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