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HR Opportunities and HR Software Disruptions to Watch

Posted by Mathew French

4 February 2020

Recently, IBM launched a significant study which looks at the real skills business leaders need most from their employees (and themselves) over the next three years, and the results may surprise you. The research, which surveyed 5800 executives across 50 countries, indicate that approximately 120 Million professionals in the USA need to be re-skilled to deal with AI and new digital business environments. Contrary to all the talk about the digital and technical economy, the biggest gaps in the workforce going forward are not 'digital skills,' but behavioural skills. In the context of the indicators illustrated by this IBM study, let's take a look at what HR professionals need to stay on top of in 2020 and beyond.

Closing the Skills Gap

It isn't just IBM's research telling the story that the skills challenge will not decrease. In fact, the skills challenge is only going to increase in severity and will continue in that manner for some time to come. Despite all the talk about machines and algorithms taking over the world, global labour markets are only tightening, as unemployment rates continue to decline. Compounding this issue, new skills requirements continue to emerge at the same time that other skills are concurrently becoming obsolete. And while digital and technical skills remain vital, the reality is that soft skills have surpassed them in importance.

Running on a similar trajectory, the half-life of skills continues to decrease, and yet the time it takes to close a skills gap has ballooned. IBM's research reinforces the fact that while digital and technical skills are in high demand (41% of CEOs are worried about this), roles requiring those skills can be filled fairly quickly. However, more than 45% of CHROs told researchers that irrespective of the fact that potential employees coming out of college have the digital skills they need: they’re missing critical capabilities in complex problem solving, teamwork, business understanding, and leadership.

The data shared in 'Closing the Skills Gap' is quite clear - digital and technical skills gaps are being addressed, but the leadership and behavioural skills gaps are not. Recruitment alone is not a sustainable solution to this skills crisis. Navigating this new environment successfully will require a fundamental transformation of how organisations manage skills, talent, and culture.

HR 2020 and Beyond

The aptly named 'HR2020 Report' canvassed the views of senior HR professionals across Asia, mainland Europe and the UK to examine the future of the HR function, and the HR profession’s potential to redefine its role at a more strategic level.

This report points to the fact that HR’s success will continue to be measured by its ability to master the language of the boardroom. However, that type of success necessitates that HR measures and commercialises its value to a level that has not often been achieved historically. The HR function now has the opportunity to assess the current and future business landscape for important developments. But it's what follows that is important. HR Professionals need to ensure that they have the capacity to form multiple relevant courses of action in partnership with the rest of the business by developing productive relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders. This may not sound like anything new, but given the rate of change happening socially, economically and culturally, the flow-on impact on business means that never before have HR Professionals had the opportunity to reinterpret their roles with greater degrees of freedom than is available to them today.

The HR 2020 Report identifies the following most significant issues occupying the minds of HR Professionals now and in the immediate future:

  • There is a clear opportunity for HR to proactively scan the horizon and set the course for the future of the organisation as a whole, not just the people agenda.

  • HR leaders are concerned about the impacts of economic and political risks on a global and regional level.

  • The war for talent and skill shortages dominate the HR agenda, and the soft-skills gaps will have a significant impact on operational capacity and organisational culture going forward.

  • Technological innovation can help drive efficiencies and fill some, but it won't be able to close all the skills gaps.

  • Human-focused HR initiatives remain key to tap into talent.

  • Apprenticeships to attract and develop skilled workers are a beneficial avenue for investment.

  • The trend towards growing labour market flexibility appears to be slowing down.

  • HR leaders are prioritising financial and life planning educational opportunities through benefits programs but increasingly worry about employees’ capacity to retire comfortably.

  • HR functions are taking steps to operate more effectively, but leadership and Boards would like to see more strategy and less process.

  • HR leaders should speak the language of the Board, leadership and stakeholders and support advice and decisions with data.

In addition to the above, KPMG's most recent 'Future of HR' Report highlighted several key factors for Australian HR Professionals to consider. In today's rapidly changing digital world, KPMG believes that the HR function must continue to move forward and play a key role in shaping a 'connected' organisation. Australians have the opportunity to double their efforts, not just on digital transformation, but also across the following four areas, to ensure that they provide the relevant support to ensure their businesses stay relevant and sustainable.

  1. Emphasising a culture for change.

  2. Embracing data and analytics capabilities.

  3. Focusing on the employee experience.

  4. Enabling the cohesion of digital transformation across functions.

The Future of HR survey results inspired the following key recommendations from KPMG going forward into 2020 and beyond:

  • Review organisational culture to see traits like agility, collaboration, innovation and metrics become more prevalent across the entire business.

  • Engage more deeply with data and analytics, particularly predictive data, to help with workforce shaping and planning.

  • Focus on employee experience and employee value propositions to be competitive in the war for talent, and to ensure that your workplace embraces cross generational workforces.

  • Focus on cohesive digital transformation across the entire business. Part of this is preparing for the advance of AI and automation, and its integration into a collaborative workforce using intelligence human-automation collaboration.

  • Embrace the opportunity to architect a connected enterprise – connecting people with values and purpose, creating the right employee experience and connecting as a function across the entire organisation.

Roadmap Shaping The Workforce of the Future

Further Disruptions Ahead - HR Software Continues to be Transformed by The Changing Nature of Work

Chris Forman, Founder and CEO of Appcast believes that HR Software and HR tech isn’t changing how people work. Rather, he feels that the nature of work, who works and how they work is changing…. and technology developers are endeavouring to keep up. But that doesn't necessarily mean HR Professionals are on top of the changes - across the workplace, or in HR Software. Generalists in small to mid-sized organisations are more likely than their peers in larger enterprises to struggle with the demands of staying on top of HR tech demands. This is especially true if there isn't an in-house IT partner to provide support.

The Sierra-Cedar 2018-2019 'HR Systems Survey' identifies the need to have someone who serves as an 'architect' to look at HR software systems and is prepared to do the demonstrations to investigate the plausibility of each potential application in forming part of a sophisticated digital ecosystem within the organisation. That's because it is highly likely that organisations are going to end up with a significant multiple of solutions being used as part of their digital ecosystem going forward.

The HR Systems Survey results indicate that the average big company has 11 HR software systems of record. L&D research by Josh Bersin shows that larger L&D teams can have up to 22 different e-Learning tools in that area alone.

If you're an HR Professional in a mid-sized organisation and you're wondering where to focus your attention regarding HR software during the next 3 to 5 years, Bersin has predicted the following HR Tech disruptions:

  1. Cloud HR software platforms will continue to grow expansively but new players are starting to emerge.

  2. Employee Experience and Talent Experience platforms have arrived and will continue to proliferate going forward. 

  3. The HR Tech architecture has changed and will continue to do so in order to meet up with the changing nature of work. 

  4. The recruiting market is on fire and filled with AI.

  5. Learning technology has matured, and you can now learn 'in the flow of work.' 

  6. Well-Being and Health Tech is merging with HR software tech.

  7. Technology to promote inclusion, diversity, and to spot and diagnose harassment, are here.

  8. Engagement tools mature and 'Action Platforms' are emerging.

  9. Analytics, organisational network analysis, chatbots, and natural language processing are hot.

  10. Despite the change and disruption, the potential for improvement is significant.

HR Jobs of the Future

As the nature of HR and of work itself continues to change, we know the skills everyone needs to do their job will too. This holds true across the entire organisation, including roles in HR. If you're an HR Professional (or aspiring to be one), what HR jobs could be available throughout your career? Experts offer the following job predictions:

  • HR data scientist/chief technology officer: Data and analytics will increasingly drive the job of HR―and this is the person who will head the effort.

  • Employee experience specialist: This HR professional will focus on the entire worker relationship with the company, from benefits to training to career trajectory.

  • Head of talent-acquisition technology selection: New talent acquisition platforms are emerging and evolving. This specialist will comb through them to find those most appropriate for the organisation.

  • Head of candidate experience: The hiring process should provide job candidates with all the speed, convenience and efficiency of the best online consumer experiences. This person will oversee that effort, ensuring that applications do not simply go into a 'black box.'

  • Performance coach: This HR specialist will help maximise the individual contributions of both management and non-management staff.

  • Organisational psychologist: While not technically an HR position, organisational or industrial psychologists use the principles of psychology to develop a more holistic approach to HR, marketing, sales and operations.

Expansion of the Human-Automation Collaboration

We've already discussed the rise of the human-automation collaboration in our Blog on 'Optimising the Future of Work.' However, it would be remiss of us to publish a Blog on the future of HR in 2020 and beyond without touching on what will be one of the most monumentous transformations the workplace has ever experienced.

KPMG isn't the only organisation whose research illustrates that extraordinary advances in technology are poised to dramatically transform the nature of work. As the pace and scope of change escalates, today’s forward-looking business leaders must address a critical question: what will my workforce – and business – look like as skilled employees and smart machines begin working together?

As we've already indicated on our Blog about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation, machine learning and cognitive platforms, coupled with the integration into the human way or working will result in as yet untested collaborations. This means businesses in every industry need to explore and understand the advancing integration of humans and machines in the workplace.

As business leaders grapple with today’s unprecedented challenges, KPMG’s Rise of the Humans report series provides key insights into the current environment and intelligent solutions that can help businesses succeed.

Here's KPMG's practical advice for shaping a workforce of bots and bosses:

  • Now is the time for leaders of business to conduct conversations for a higher purpose. To identify the dilemmas, challenges and key considerations that will shape the future workforce and deliver on business objectives.

  • Organisations need to develop transition strategies to manage the disruption to the workforce. Leaders need to be aware of their role and develop the skills required to ensure success.

  • Traditional supply and demand forecasting must be replaced with agile workforce shaping. a structured yet agile approach to determine the appropriate shape and size of the workforce incorporating all elements – e.g., employed vs. contingent, human vs. digital, career ladder vs. career lattice, etc.

  • Early movers are already learning lessons about the best way to deploy Intelligent Automation. One lesson is the importance of preparing the workforce and enabling them to re-skill themselves for new roles.

Want to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest HR statistics, metrics and trends? Then take a look at our most popular White Paper from 2019. We will be updating it for 2020, so stay tuned for that soon. In the meantime, this paper contains the most significant trends of the last few years, all curated for you in one place.

White Paper: HR Metrics, Statistics & Trends

Image Credit: Rise of the Humans Part 3 by KPMG

Topics: HR technology, hr software, Cloud HR Software, HR technology disruptions, Skills gap, Soft skills, Behavioural skills, HR 2020, HR 2020 Report, Closing the Skills Gap, HR Systems Survey, Rise of the Humans

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