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Independence is our strength – covering the issues that directly impact on those with the duty of directing human resources

May 2020 – Issue 187

Ethical working and corporate responsibility
Globalisation and EU exit represents opportunity and challenge. Unfettered access to the world – without having to go through Brussels and all the bureaucracy – is a game changer, but independence raises fresh issues about governance, ethics, values and CSR that cannot be short-circuited. The eyes of the world are trained on how business activity impacts on the environment and the younger generation is active, loud and holding businesses to account for corporate culpability. It’s a “generational spring” that encapsulates equality, inclusion and human rights as imperative values and the connection between ethical working and the expectations of talent and skills so coveted, is undeniable and immediate. Bad news travels far and fast and it’s not just about one organisation, it is directly linked to shared values across the business spectrum, from; contractors and third-parties, to global partners and countries with which firms choose to do business. The employer brand is a beacon and there for all to see and it has to be inextricably linked to “authentic” and “lived” values, as the corporate veil lifts and transparency is no longer an option.

Succession planning – a new reality
In the past, the rigid hierarchical framework and sturdy ladder rungs made succession planning a linear process, where business projection and career progress could be plotted and aligned with almost Swiss timepiece surety. But the reality today is far from predictable or presubscribed. Much has been said of the culture for short tenure and it certainly has forced a change of approach, but there is now much more to contend with to achieve smooth transition and minimise business disruption in succession planning. The erosion of the hierarchical structure – the so-called flatter workplace – is an organic evolution driven from the culture for knowledge sharing and collaborative working. But for this to be a reality, the role of leader has to be recalibrated to support it, avoiding groupthink, siloed internal power struggles, conflicts and a lack of consensus about future planning. One of the predictions for this new decade is that conventional job roles and titles will be replaced by new ones, tuned into the forward-looking way of working and this will demand a radically different approach and mindset as to what leadership represents and what form succession planning will take.

Challenges of business legacy
Having five generations in the workforce has been heralded as a crucible of diversity and knowledge sharing. But if organisational culture is stuck in the past, with leaders coveting and protecting old conventions, the drive to change becomes a fight against the determination to maintain the status quo. This can lead to a battleground for business direction and decision-making, rendering the technology that must be adopted a lightning rod for disagreement. It’s a combination that can disrupt, cause lag, damage commercial competitiveness and impact employer brand. In the digital context, legacy is not a valuable attribute, it represents the elephant in the room sitting on the plans to full digital transformation. Legacy technology and methods of operating are difficult to shift, because memories are long, reliability is everything and a mindset to avoid disruption and cost makes it impossible to uncouple existing technology from the business processes dependent upon it. It can also lead to those possessing critical digital skills being repelled by people with sway, throwing rocks in the path of advancement at every turn. In the tide of constant change, any organisation – regardless of sector – looks static, uncompetitive and vulnerable.

Big data and analytics
Data and analytics is still HR’s Achilles’ heel. According to CIPD, just 40 percent of business leaders said that their HR team was able to tackle business issues using analytics data. Meanwhile, a Deloitte report reveals a lack of confidence from HR leaders too, with just 32 percent believing they were data “ready”, despite broad adoption. So, what is the cause of the profession’s laggard reputation? It is certainly not for a lack of data, as people matters generate a constant, rolling river of it. Some believe there is too much that is irrelevant, retrospective and siloed. Other opinions point to a lack of “story-telling” on HR’s part, while other departments – such as sales and marketing – wax lyrical about “real-time” and “prediction”. In fast-moving times, this is understandably seen as a critical indicator of business and market trends on which to inform on decision making. So, what is HR missing out on? All the signs point to AI and machine learning as the game changer, the capacity to integrate and interrogate data sources from across the business and the wider field. In data terms, this is proving a catalyst that is shining a telling light on HR’s data analysis credentials and a lack of critical data science skills in the practice. Then there is the growing argument that AI is being calibrated incorrectly, leading to binary sorting and even machine learned bias, in such key HR responsibilities as recruitment. This has to change and fast. As with all the subjects in this issue, we welcome your ideas for potential articles that will provide advice, information and insight to our readers.

As with all our subjects this issue, we welcome your expertise and insight in providing guidance to these challenging times.

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