Do you consider yourself an HR expert?

We asked 500 HR leaders from Australia and across the globe how they’d rank their expertise.

This lack of confidence is surprising until you examine the changing expectations of HR leaders. The role now demands new skill sets like people analytics, behavioural sciences, and employer branding. HR leaders must now wear many hats, which often leaves them feeling like they’re wearing none well enough.

New HR skills are required.

Our research shows 86% of HR leaders think the HR Director role will be unrecognisable in 10 years. Many see tech-savviness, creativity, and people analytics skills as the next wave of required skills.

More strategic opportunities for HR leaders

This change in the HR Director role is because companies are prioritising employees even more. They understand the value of attracting and retaining a stable workforce, many of which want to work for a progressive employer.

Part of that progression is introducing new work styles like the contingent workforce and gig economy. It also means appeasing the varying expectations of a multi-generational workforce and managing digital technology’s emergence in the workforce and the function.

It’s a lot of added pressure for the role, but also a big opportunity. This new visibility fundamentally transforms a traditionally back-office function into one that offers more strategic value for business growth.

HR leaders who are willing to pick up new skills position themselves to reach new heights in their careers.

Businesses have to work harder to attract and keep top talent within the company, which puts this new, data-savvy breed of HR leaders in high demand.

Here are four skills HR leaders should look to sharpen over the next three years to thrive as the HR function evolves:

1. Communication

It seems like a no-brainer, but 76% of the HR leaders we surveyed said they think better communication skills will be the most important over the next three years. Soft skills like listening, sharing, collaborating, showing empathy, and other interpersonal skills are high priority.

2. People analytics

People analytics is a data-driven, goal-focused approach to managing the workforce. It this approach, HR leaders use data to make decisions about their people processes, functions, challenges and opportunities. Though 76% of the HR leaders we surveyed see this as a critical skill, only 28% feel their current skill level is up to par.

3. Creativity

Employee expectations are evolving to those of a consumer. HR leaders need to get creative in transforming the HR-employee relationship and elevate the employee experience. Of the HR leaders we surveyed, 73% said creativity is a skill that will become more important over time, and 69% said they believe employee expectations of HR are changing. Just 28% rated themselves as expertly creative.

4. Digital skills

More organisations are migrating to digital platforms to streamline their processes, including the HR function. HR leaders who are comfortable using software to manage the tedious parts of people management are in the highest demand. Our research shows 73% of HR and people leaders see tech-savviness as a critical skill for the next three years.

HR leaders are business leaders.

As HR leaders become savvier with using data to support the function, they create an unprecedented opportunity to showcase HR as a necessity and a tool. HR and people leaders can demonstrate the value in a people-focused strategy and how it benefits the bottom line.

You can then lead the charge to drive those changes across the business, expanding your contribution to the company and adding more value to your role.

Conclusion: What’s ahead for HR

As HR requirements evolve, its leaders will need to take on different approaches and skills to meet the demand.

Ultimately, the HR Director or CHRO must be a leader of all trades in business and an expert in one: choreographing these new responsibilities with commercial awareness and demonstrative value.

The four-day working week: What HR and People leaders need to know

We’re all obsessed with telling people how busy we are.

We love to wax lyrical about how there are never enough hours in the day for everything we need to do.

However, this can heavily impact on many employees’ holy grail: work-life balance.

Yet, longer hours don’t necessarily mean greater productivity. Sage research reveals one in three full-time employees admit to being productive for less than 30 hours a week. That’s a whole day lost per working week.

In fact, despite working some of the longest hours in the Western world at 32.7 per week, Australia sits at number 14 in the OECD productivity rankings – far below Luxembourg at top spot, where the working week is only 29 hours.

So, are we better off losing that fifth day at work all together? A four-day working week not only makes workers hap,pier but more productive too according to recent studies. Plus, a 2015 national survey found 26% of all employed Australians would prefer to work fewer hours.

What examples are there of the four-day week working successfully?

In Australia, digital marketing company Versa trialled a four-day working week, allowing employees to take every Wednesday off. A year after implementing the initiative, the company’s profit almost tripled and revenue grew by 46%.

In New Zealand, wills, trusts and estates company, Perpetual Guardian, trialled a four-day week for two months, resulting in a 20% increase in productivity.

In the US, a technology start-up called Wildbit, founded by former Google employees, switched to a four-day week after its CEO, Natalie Nagele, learnt that most people can only really do around four hours of meaningful, cognitively focused work in a day.

“I looked at that and said, okay, as a team, where can we cut back,” she explains. “If we can do the same work in 32 hours and get an extra day off, that would be beneficial to our personal lives and our ability to recharge, so let’s just test it out.”

Possibly one of the most surprising examples of the four-day week is for Japanese car company, Toyota. Their Swedish car factory saw increased customer satisfaction alongside higher productivity.

The factory cut its staff’s weekly hours from 40 to 30 and saw a productivity uplift of 114%, which increased profits by 25%.

Managing Director of the factory, Martin Banck, said the shift to shorter hours resulted in significant positive change.

“Staff feel better, there is lower turnover, and it is easier to recruit new people. They have a shorter travel time to work, there is more efficient use of the machines and lower capital costs—everyone is happy.”

What do HR and People teams need to know to implement a four-day working week?

For companies considering the swap to a four-day working week, the advice is to implement a trial before pushing out company-wide.

Whether a four-day working week is right for your company depends on many factors:

  • Do employees want to reduce their hours?
  • How would working different, or longer hours, affect childcare?
  • Is your business set up to allow for this different working pattern?
  • Would you be able to implement this fairly across all areas of the company?

Flexibility is a fantastic benefit that should make your company more desirable to talent. However, switching to a four-day working week could be a big change, so you might want to consider other flexibility options first.

Also, it may not be what your employees want. Ask them what would make them more productive; don’t assume.

Would they rather the flexibility to manage their own hours across the week? Or to work from home? The only way you’ll know is if you ask them.

Such initiatives can help create a happier and more productive workforce – without necessarily switching to a four-day working week.

Five transformations to note in today’s HR operations

People management is evolving again.

Just as it evolved from Personnel to HR in the 80s, it’s now transforming from HR into the People function.

The HR Evolution

We surveyed 500 HR and People leaders from Australia and around the globe for a bird’s-eye view of how they’re adapting to the evolution and how these changes will impact the profession.

In the end, five fundamental changes to operational processes stood out as best practices for navigating through this evolution:

1. A new approach to talent acquisition.

One-third of the leaders we surveyed said they’re transforming their approach to talent acquisition. Building a better candidate experience is top of mind for many. Thirty-eight per cent have already begun updating their onboarding processes, and 48% plan to do so. How does this change take shape? Twenty-four percent of our survey respondents have already adopted Artificial Intelligence into their approach, while 59% plan to do so within a year.

2. Advance to real-time analytics.

One-third of the leaders we surveyed have advanced their people management systems to a single source for all people data. They’re taking advantage of smart data to get to know their employees in the same way the business knows its customers. Forty per cent of HR and People leaders make decisions based on data. An additional 51% are planning to start using real-time data instead of spreadsheets.

3. Prioritise building enhanced workforce experiences.

Workforce experience management is a new priority for many organisations. Thirty-eight percent recognise the importance of the workforce experience and have developed enhanced experiences for all their employees. Forty per cent of our survey respondents are using pulse surveys to monitor employee engagement. Almost half (47%) said they have plans to adopt new ways of working within the next 12 months to focus on employee experiences.

4. Continuous feedback is the new appraisal.

Employee appraisals are still relevant, but the process for doing so is changing. Instead, 40% of HR and People leaders continuously collect performance feedback in place of or in addition to an annual review. Thirty-six per cent of our respondents are transparent about organisational and personal goals across the business—fifty-two per cent plan to add this to their strategy within the next year.

5. Adopt flexible, employee-driven learning and development.

Learning and development opportunities are a trending offering amongst employers. Forty-three per cent of HR and People leaders offer employee-driven learning. Employers are also opening up to how employees can use their new skills. Forty-one percent of HR and People teams offer flexible career paths.

More changes to come

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Flexible working, data-driven decision making, and continuous performance management are just the beginning of the HR evolution. Ninety-four per cent of our survey respondents say they expect further changes in the sector over the next three years.

In this sense, today’s HR and People leaders are in the best position to pioneer the evolution of the world of work. Technology is creating new methods for these leaders to attract, manage, and engage people. Those who take advantage are on the cutting edge of a new digital world of work.

Workforce visibility: What every HR leader should know

How many people work in your business? It’s a simple question, but one many Australian HR professionals are hard-pressed to answer without several weeks of research. And in a fast-changing business environment, that’s several weeks too long.

Having consistent, accurate, and up-to-date information about your workforce is essential. It allows your business to be more efficient, responsive, and effective.

But having the right processes is only part of the story. Global research firm Aberdeen Group says the value of workforce visibility is in “the ability to define the talent required by business needs in terms of skills, behaviours, and attributes.”

Essentially, it’s the acknowledgement that obstacles are overcome through different skillsets. HR leaders need to be able to see the make-up of their organisation to match individuals with different goals.

Making people tick

Workforce visibility will help you become a more efficient HR professional… and a better manager. It helps you understand your people’s needs and desires and find ways of empowering them to contribute more to your business.

On the other hand, bad people management shoehorns individuals into roles or teams to fill a resource gap. It’s detrimental in the long-term because it disengages people. Employees who feel involved in their work are less likely to consider leaving their current position for a raise.

When offered a 20% raise elsewhere, only 37% of engaged employees would consider leaving, whereas 54% of unengaged employees would leave. So it’s vital you know what makes your people tick.

Efficient environments

Businesses need to design better working environments, to help employees become engaged and effective.

A Gallup poll reveals only 24% of Australian and New Zealand employees feel engaged at work, while 60% don’t feel engaged, and 16% feel actively disengaged.

Many top workplaces in Silicon Valley now include everything from go-karts and climbing walls to volleyball courts. These may seem like novelty ideas, but they can stir creative juices and attract top talent.

Coupling a positive environment with the right training and motivation programmes can reduce staff turnover costs too.

“People care if you take a genuine interest in their future. Development planning should be something a manager takes a real personal interest in – not an HR-driven mandate,” says Forbes contributor Victor Lipman.

Building for the future

Understanding your workforce will help you plan more effectively for the future. It helps you identify the natural leaders with the ambition to get to the top.It also helps you think more clearly about business strategy and the direction your business is heading.

Don’t just think about the skills you need now, think about what your business will need in five or ten years’ time. Then, start training your star performers to fill these roles.

This way, you can support the aspirations of top talent, place the most important people in your business at the heart of its future, and reduce recruiting costs.

People are your core asset. With the right technology solutions, organisations can gain greater visibility into people strategies across their operations. It’s about HR having the necessary information to guide workforce planning, ensuring the right resources are in place, and delivering a great employee experience that retains and engages your best talent.

9 habits of highly successful HR and People leaders

We’re all creatures of habit. However, how do we know we have the right habits to help us thrive as HR and People leaders?

With valuable nuggets from Facebook to Ford Motor Company, let’s take a look at the habits the most highly effective HR and People leaders practice day-to-day.

1. They don’t shy away from taking risks

When Facebook’s Head of HR, Lori Goler was initially offered the role, she turned it down. “I didn’t think I had enough experience,” she says.

“Sheryl Sandberg then called me and said: ‘No man would ever turn down more responsibility because they don’t have the experience.’ It just struck me that is the ‘lean-in moment’. That’s the moment when you go for something you don’t think you can otherwise do.

“If you have the ambition, don’t hold yourself back. Lean in to it—look for ways you can learn and grow. Take those opportunities and risks in your career.”

2. They always put their people first

Australian employees say work-life balance is what matters most to them, topping health, life satisfaction and safety.

Whether it’s avoiding burnout or boosting workplace productivity, creating an outstanding work-life balance has significant benefits.

Could a top-notch work-life balance even have a positive effect on the way managers lead their teams?

According to Stewart Friedman, absolutely. Professor at Wharton University and Worldwide Head of Leadership at Ford Motor Company, he will be sharing his experience at the 2019 Australian HR Institute (AHRI) national convention and exhibition, taking place in Brisbane from 16-19 September.

At Ford, Friedman led a program called ‘Total Leadership’, set out to improve leadership abilities by increasing peace and harmony in leaders’ lives.

In his session, you can find out how this proven method works, what it takes to create a better balance, and how you can use this approach for your personal development or to support managers within your organisation.

3. They embrace change

Like a plane making slight adjustments to its course in order to stay on track, HR and People leaders need to continually assess how their strategy can be revised and updated—and then push for that change.

“HR leaders need to be continually assessing information to determine whether to continue or alter the course of a project,” says Holly Burkett, Innovation and Performance Consultant at Evaluation Works.

“We also have a responsibility to step up and embrace our role as change agents.”

4. They keep up with technology

Successful HR and People leaders know that technology and innovation will accelerate exponentially. So, understanding their organisation’s technology strategy has never been so important for HR and People teams.

Speaking at the AHRI national convention and exhibition, Stephen Scheeler, former Facebook CEO for Australia and New Zealand, current Senior Advisor to McKinsey and Company, and Founder of global advisory The Digital CEO, will explain how digital experience and skills will have a pivotal role in leadership going forward.

He’ll share how you can digitise your leadership style and help other leaders do the same.

5. They’re always listening

Too often, leaders rise to the top and lose touch with what’s happening on the shop floor. They build a great team and then let things run themselves.

Angela Nguyen, Vice President, HR and Talent Management at Ad Exchange Group, explains: “Listening is our biggest advantage. Effective HR leaders never rest on their laurels because they understand that business operations and innovation don’t wait around for the complacent.”

6. They stay grounded

“It’s easy in the midst of policies, procedures and initiatives to forget the ‘human’ element,” says Rohit Paul from Academy for Urban School Leadership.

“Early on in my career, I was surprised to find out that our director made every member of our team, regardless of title, log into the HR hotline and assist.

“Her agenda was simple: you learn the impact of the work you do when you connect with the people who are affected by it.”

7. They treat their staff well

Are you winning the war for talent?

Winning goes beyond just hiring the best people. It’s about offering them what they need so your organisation’s not just attracting but engaging and retaining top talent.

Flexible working is just one trend that sets companies apart in attracting the best. 80% of employees Sage polled placed importance and value on flexibility, so it’s no wonder 54% of people are willing to move jobs to work for a flexible employer.

However, less than half of non-shift working Australians feel they have a say in the hours they work. That’s significantly less than other countries, such as the UK where just 6% of employees still work 9-5.

Speaking at the AHRI national convention and exhibition, Robin Boomer, Senior Executive Advisor at global research and advisory firm Gartner, will explain the most effective ways to attract and keep top talent, including recent workforce trends and the role they play.

He’ll also reveal how you can prepare your organisation and HR team for technological and demographic changes.

8. They use data to inform decision making

Truly data-driven HR focuses analytics on the goal of adding value and driving performance across the organisation—all the time, not just every now and then, or on specific projects.

As HR and People leaders scale and build their teams to meet the demands of the business, they’ll increasingly need data insights at their fingertips to drive decision making.

9. They look to the future

Don’t get caught up in the idea the future is yet to come. As Dom Price will explain in his session at the AHRI national convention and exhibition, it’s already here.

The Head of Research and Development and Work Futurist at Atlassian will explain that the future of work will depend on overcoming present challenges like scaling and disruption.

Price will share the five ‘obsolete’ ways many of us work, with new approaches HR and People teams can take, all underpinned with real-life examples. Price will also share some of the collaboration hacks he’s found over the years.


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