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Is the Future of HR People and Culture?

HR needs to fundamentally rethink its purpose and approach if it is to shape the new world of work for future generations.

That was one of the key messages in a recent round table conversation organised as part of International People and Culture Week 2024. The round table was chaired by Perry Timms , Founder and Chief Energy Officer, PTHR with Camilla Miehs, Group CPO, Leman; Angelique Slob, people and future of work strategist; and Khalid Raza AVP HR.

The people profession, according to the panellists, has a critical role to play in creating the ‘magic’ that will help organisations navigate and architect an exciting future where the business and its people can reach their full potential.

To make this shift, HR practitioners need to shake off the shackles of the past and think about what they are here to do now, and next, rather than what they have historically done.

This was the key message to emerge from a panel discussion which brought together leading people and culture practitioners* to debate the future of the profession.  In a wide-ranging discussion, held as part of International People and Culture Week**, panellists debated whether the HR profession as it currently stands is still relevant, and what skills and tactics professionals needed to adopt if they were to make a real impact.

Towards people and culture

There is a growing recognition that HR needs to shift from a transactional to a transformative function.  But although momentum is growing, there is still a need for practitioners to broaden their field of vision beyond compliance and take on a more strategic and facilitative role.  As one of the panellists pointed out, the debate is no longer about HR needing to have a seat at the table, HR ‘is’ the table.

I was fascinated to hear the discussion about whether HR would eventually wholly evolve into People and Culture, or whether we would see something more akin to the legal profession emerging, with more defined specialisms and career paths coming together under a people and culture umbrella.

As I have long maintained, the task of creating happy, healthy and harmonious workplaces is not something HR can do alone.  To have any chance of moving the dial, practitioners will have to work hard to overcome negative perceptions of the past, adopt a collaborative, facilitative approach and build trust with leaders, unions and employees.

With rapid technological advances and the relentless march of AI, there is also a pressing need to understand what human/machine teaming looks like.  Technology presents an opportunity for HR to liberate itself from bureaucratic and time-consuming admin – we need to let AI  do the heavy lifting so HR can focus on the people.

Skills and capabilities for the future of HR

The panel identified five key skills HR would need to develop for future success:

  1. 1. Extreme critical thinking: If HR is to disrupt the system, it needs to show curiosity, awareness of what’s happening in the wider world and a willingness to ‘unlearn’’ what it had previously taken for granted
  2. 2. Systemic and multi-disciplinary thinking: A siloed approach is not serving HR well.  Practitioners need a broader understanding of the ecosystems in which they work, and an understanding of how a decision made in one part of the business will affect another
  3. 3. Data analytics: HR needs to improve its ability to understand what data is telling it about issues in the business and potential solutions to  problems.
  4. 4. Influencing skills: The ability to build relationships and the courage to speak up and work with others to facilitate change.
  5. 5. Abundance Thinking: HR is still stuck in an age of ‘scarcity thinking’ – a hang-over from the Industrial Age when resources were limited.  Drivers of change today are creativity, innovation, courage and collaboration, which when combined with technology, are all infinite resources.

A game plan for the modern people profession

The panel concluded with advice on the key steps HR needed to take to shift to a modern, progressive People and Culture function.

  • – Press delete on everything you have always assumed HR was for and concentrate on the one key question – what is our purpose?
  • – Remove the clutter (systems and processes) that get in the way of progress and focus on the people.
  • – Identify and understand your stakeholders.  Listen to them and identify their top five pain points.
  • – Create a safe space for experimentation.  Start small, and identify how you will learn from failure.

Panel Chair Perry Timms concluded the discussion by calling for the introduction of ‘boundaryless HR’.  “We need to go where the people and the problems are, where the systems are failing, and look at ourselves,” he said.  “HR is working really hard feeding a dysfunctional machine. We don’t just need to pivot, we need to start again, reboot our operating systems and completely upgrade the nature of what we are participating in.”

I couldn’t agree more.  We need future people and culture leaders who are bold enough to step up and drive real change.  We have an unprecedented opportunity to redesign the workplace, explore new, future-fit approaches and make a real difference to the experience of employees.

A new operating model for the people profession

In my latest book, Transformational Culture, I propose a new operating model for the people profession., I call it the People and Culture Operating Model (PaCOM). The operating model comprises four core areas (pillars).

David Liddle’s People and Culture Operating Model.

Please visit www.peopleandculture.com to learn more my People and Culture Operating Model.

                        author

David Liddle

David is the founder, CEO and chief consultant at The TCM Group. He is also the founding president of the People and Culture Association (PCA). David is author of two best seeing texts. His first book, published in 2017, is entitled: ‘MANAGING CONFLICT: a practical guide to resolution in the… MORE >

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