Welcome back to part 2 of this 2 part series looking at the current and future challenges facing HR leadership as we head towards 2020. Last time we looked at these three people challenges:

  • Finding, retaining and growing the right TALENT for the future of your business
  • Having the right SKILLS for your current business needs to meet strategic goals
  • Increasing PRODUCTIVITY through leveraging the human elements that impact positively

You can catch up with part 1 of this series HERE.

This time we will continue to review the key challenges facing HR leaders over the next few years. The remaining two I have highlighted are:

  • Listening effectively to your people, feeding back to them and taking action to raise ENGAGEMENT
  • ENABLING HR to be the integrated function it needs to be

So, let’s turn to employee engagement:

By now we should be all aware that the traditional approach to employee engagement is no longer fit for purpose. Annual cycles of census survey and a 12 month action plan do not reflect the current employee lifecycle.

I like the concept that the employee/employer relationship is undergoing “Consumerisation and Customisation”. By this I mean that the way we need to approach our relationships with our employees and workers is like the modern approach that your outward facing Marketing team is now doing.

Consumerisation: Each employee now needs to be attracted to the Company Brand through an Employer Value Proposition (EVP). They use your website, careers page and social media as the “window shopping” to see if they are engaged with your brand. Once recruited and on board they are looking for opportunities to grow and socialise as well as getting value from the work itself. As they leave they write reviews about how the experience was for them on sites like Glassdoor which then gets read by other future employees.

Customisation: Employees wants to feel part of something amazing but are individuals at the same time. Your culture and brand is like a club they can associate with and be proud of. Yet within that club they want their own diverse needs and wants satisfied. A great couple of analogies are BMW Mini and Apple: You buy the car because you see from adverts it is youthful and will give you a fun lifestyle. However, there are 500 different options so you can be part of the “mini club” but still show your own personality.

Apple: You visit a coffee shop. It is full of people on their laptops. The majority are Apple laptops. However, you notice that people are increasingly putting stickers on the top showing their individuality.

Applying this to Engagement as we head towards 2020, HR Leaders need to look at both the macro and micro world of raising employee commitment. Build the macro Employer Value  Proposition and market it internally and externally. Enable the micro engagement through equipping line managers to give great one-to-one experiences with high EQ and create reward and learning environments that are easy to access and “shop” like a consumer.


To me this is the most exciting time to be an HR Professional. The HR Function is teetering on the edge of massive transformation. The period between now and 2020 will see an explosion of opinions of what HR will look like in the future. The Ulrich model is being questioned as being fit for purpose in the future and alternatives are being drafted.

So what is the Future of HR? What is the new model we should strive for?

I do not know the exact answer to this but we can draw some conclusions from the previous 4 areas I have written about:

Commercial Partnering: The HR Function needs to aim to be fully embedded with exec leaders with a commercial competence that rivals any other senior leader. This enables the translation from business need to people strategy. I predict that the number of HR Business Partners will decrease and a new “Super HRBP” will emerge to enable that most senior discussion at Director/VP level.

Data driven strategies: All the key HR challenges above need a vast amount of data to be crunched to get to the real underlying causes and trends to enable strategic plans and actions to yield results. This will require the use of technologies to make this simpler in a couple of ways:

Data generation: Census and pulse surveys, “shopping” habits on rewards systems and learning platforms, sentiment analysis from internal and external chat, recruitment and selection success, etc.

Insight: The use of an Analytics tool to compare and contrast different sets of data to see how the levers of one area interacts with the others. Insight then uses HR experience to translate to actions.

This will need a new skillset of taking the business need and applying the right data to the problem combined with an interest in numerical analysis – a new skill for HR? (Try Marketing
functions for resource).

Business process optimisation: The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bots is already here. Your first line HR support can be automated leaving the human specialists to focus on more complex areas. HR needs to be mapping out all their administration tasks. If not already in some form of Shared Services then this would be a good exercise to do. This is an OD/Mapping skill that is also potentially a new skill for HR. (Try IT functions for resource).

In summary, technology is going to change HR. But it will enable it to do more, freeing up the talented HR Professionals to think broader (Analytics) and focus more on more challenging issues and not the admin (AI and bots).

In this 2-part blog I have tried to bring together some of the current thinking around the Future Of HR. It is not supposed to provide all the answers but I hope it helped you start thinking in some new areas.



Selected further reading associated with this article:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/growth-through-people-a- statement-on-skills-in-the-uk