Brandon Hall Group™ conducted a pulse study on Future-Ready HR during the summer of 2023. The goal was to understand how HR leaders are feeling about the rapid changes happening in the workplace regarding themes like upskilling, generative AI and HR technology. We surveyed and then interviewed 10 experienced HR leaders from a variety of industries including healthcare, higher education, technology and finance/banking. This blog lays out that perspective along with Brandon Hall Group’s point of view on what HR teams need to do to prepare for 2024 and beyond.
According to data from the survey, there are several key findings that senior HR and business leaders should take note of. Firstly, 60% of respondents believe that their HR organization has improved in using data and insights to drive decisions compared to the previous year. This indicates a positive trend toward a more data-driven approach to HR decision-making, which can lead to more informed and effective strategies.
Additionally, the survey reveals that 50% of respondents believe their HR organization delivers a good employee value proposition. While this is a positive result, it also suggests that there is room for improvement in effectively communicating and delivering the value proposition to employees. This finding highlights the importance of continuously evaluating and enhancing the employee experience to attract and retain top talent.
Furthermore, 50% of respondents believe their people technology stack is good. This indicates that there is a significant portion of respondents who feel that their HR technology infrastructure is effective in supporting their people management processes. However, it also suggests that there is an opportunity for organizations to invest in and leverage advanced HR technologies to further enhance their capabilities.
Interestingly, 60% of respondents believe that they need to improve their data-driven decision-making. This finding underscores the importance of continuing to develop data analytics capabilities within HR organizations. By leveraging data and insights, HR leaders can make more informed decisions that align with business objectives and drive positive outcomes.
On a positive note, 80% of respondents believe that their HR organizations are well-aligned with the business. This indicates that most respondents perceive HR as a strategic partner that understands and supports the goals of the organization. However, it’s worth noting that 80% of respondents also believe that their HR organizations need to improve in helping the company prepare for the future of work. This finding suggests that HR leaders should focus on developing strategies and initiatives that address emerging trends and challenges in the workplace, such as automation, remote work and skills development.
One HR leader we spoke with highlighted the power of metrics to move the needle on important process changes to drive better performance overall. This leader advised HR leaders to start where there is the biggest pain point and build consistency in tracking, reporting and acting based on data. Then replicate that approach to other areas. Over time, the data will tell the story and the operational teams will have no choice but to respond.
Overall, the survey data highlights progress made in areas such as data-driven decision-making and alignment with the business. However, it also identifies areas for improvement, such as enhancing the delivery of the employee value proposition and preparing for the future of work. By addressing these areas, senior HR and business leaders can further strengthen their HR organizations and drive positive outcomes for their companies.
When it comes to maintaining alignment with stakeholders in the business, HR leaders are engaged successfully in a number of processes and practices. Communication is always key and most leaders we interviewed hold regular meetings with their colleagues from the business. This goes beyond the proverbial seat at the table to a proactive, collaborative effort to address business challenges in partnership with non-HR colleagues. Another common practice that all of the leaders referenced is the importance of strategic planning specifically focused on HR supporting and enabling achievement of business goals.
The head of HR at a major research university spoke at length about the criticality of HR being in lock-step with the organization on goals. As overall organizational goals were finalized, HR commissioned input from the workforce on specific actions that were needed to achieve those goals. That feedback proved invaluable as HR formulated their plans and went back to the executive team. In fact, the level of effort has paid off on multiple levels as HR is now reporting directly to the president of the university, whereas before it was positioned on the chief financial officer’s organization.
A number of other practices are far less common across our panel, but all are being utilized to some degree of success. We found that members of the panel are continuing to expand their approaches. Many are engaging with employees and leaders in separate focus groups to test ideas, gather feedback, and ensure ongoing alignment of HR strategies with the needs of the workforce. The least common among some of the other approaches is using governance teams to help oversee various HR functions. While this is a very common practice in learning as well as compensation, it’s been used far less frequently in some of the other HR disciplines.
The effort appears to be paying off. Most of our panel indicated that they are more aligned than they were 12 months ago. But while the sentiment is that alignment has increased, there’s still room for improvement.
The value and power of effective HR leadership outcomes in a variety of ways. Across the board, the sentiment from our panel reveals that HR is valued, trusted, and respected in the organization. The executive team also relies on HR leadership in running the business. Sentiment is largely middle of the road, though, on other topics.
As HR leaders look toward the future of work, there are several questions to consider to ensure they are looking at all critical aspects.
- Are we equipped with the necessary technology and infrastructure to support remote work and flexible work arrangements? This includes evaluating communication tools, collaboration platforms, and cybersecurity measures.
- Do we have a clear understanding of the skills and competencies be in demand in the future? It’s important to assess whether our current talent acquisition and development strategies align with the evolving needs of the organization and the changing nature of work.
- Are our HR policies and practices adaptable to accommodate a diverse and inclusive workforce? This involves examining policies on flexible work hours, parental leave and remote work, and ensuring that they are inclusive and promote work-life balance.
- How are we fostering a culture of continuous learning and development? It’s crucial to assess whether our learning and development programs are agile enough to keep up with the rapidly changing skills landscape and whether we are providing opportunities for employees to upskill and reskill.
- Are we leveraging data and analytics to make informed HR decisions? Evaluating data capabilities and analytics tools can help identify trends, predict future workforce needs and make data-driven decisions to support the future of work.
- How can we leverage generative AI to enhance our HR processes and improve efficiency? This involves exploring the potential applications of generative AI in areas such as candidate screening, employee onboarding, performance evaluations, and talent development.
- What ethical considerations should we consider when implementing generative AI in HR? It’s important to assess the potential biases, privacy concerns, and transparency issues that may arise when using generative AI in HR decision-making processes.2023 Brandon Hall Group™. Not Licensed for Distribution. 7
- How can we use generative AI to personalize employee experiences and enhance employee engagement? This includes evaluating how generative AI can be utilized to create personalized learning and development plans, provide tailored feedback, and offer customized career development opportunities.
- What impact will generative AI have on job roles and responsibilities within HR? It’s crucial to assess how generative AI may automate certain HR tasks and how this will impact the skill sets required for HR professionals in the future.
- How can we ensure that generative AI is used as a tool to augment human capabilities rather than replace human interaction and empathy in HR? This involves considering how generative AI can be integrated into HR processes while maintaining a human-centric approach and preserving the human touch in employee interactions.
Brandon Hall Group™ POV
The future of work is now. If you are feeling unprepared, you are behind the curve.
The Future of Work has been a topic of speculation, research and discussion for a few years. The pandemic catapulted it to the forefront. And while many aspects of life have largely returned to a somewhat normal state — work is the exception. Modern work will never be the same again. HR teams who don’t have a plan and an approach that they are proactively bringing to their executive teams and already implementing are behind and risk seeing their companies fail to navigate the transition successfully.
Data is king. Measurement and Analytics aren’t just nice to have.
HR leaders must lead the charge on the inclusion of people-related data in larger analytics strategies. The HR organization must be the source of truth on workforce trends and sentiment not just in traditional areas like succession planning, learning and engagement but in anticipating and understanding the impact of future decisions on the health and effectiveness of the workforce. To be the champion of a healthy employee experience, HR must be rock solid in their understanding of every aspect of life for their workforce — inclusive of talent pools outside the organization.
Focus on upskilling of HR teammates.
The changes in the workplace are driving changes in how HR approaches its work as well; in particular, looking at HR professionals at all levels and their business acumen, understanding of data science, workforce optimization, organizational performance, and change management. All are critical skills for the success of the HR professional of the future.
The time for action on the role of AI in your business is now.
Most of the panel we spoke with has some level of learning effort directed at understanding the reach of AI and its potential impact on employees and employment. At the time of the study, most were formulating plans. We are past the time when plans are good enough. Companies must act and develop policies, procedures, and governance for AI within their business. Government oversight is coming and will bring with it a new layer of compliance requirements for most businesses. A proactive approach is critical for the company to be early adopters and influencers in the space.
Without question, HR has a critical role to play in leading their organizations through the massive reset that’s happening in the world of work. Much of the effort of the previous decades in building HR’s business acumen and strategic capabilities has prepared the industry for this moment. Now isn’t the time for HR to rest on the progress that’s been made. Now is the time for HR to step up and lead from a place of confidence and expertise. Your leaders and your employees are looking to you more than ever before. Make yourself future-ready. Make your team future-ready. Make your company future-ready and navigate the new world with quiet confidence.