“Challenges are rippling across the HR function that range from changing cultural norms to regulatory complexity.” Scott Hamilton observes how all-important “people intelligence” can inform on-the-ground solutions for evolving expectations.

Economic and operational pressures are affecting HR leaders in new and different ways. Significant challenges are rippling across the HR function that range from changing cultural norms to regulatory complexity. And they also include the labor market squeeze, growing health insurance costs, leave management and a struggle to increase revenue.

Persistent HR challenges can’t all be resolved at once, and not every issue can be addressed immediately. Yet leaders who make incremental adjustments and maintain a selective focus can steadily improve people management and business results.

New expectations of workers require new thinking

The changing expectations of workers are forcing HR to adapt and innovate. Employees, joined by activist shareholders and even customers, have brought diversity, inclusion, a respectful workplace and pay equity to the forefront of organizational consciousness. And younger workers elevate the need for a defined corporate social responsibility policy — something that was largely on the back burner just 15 years ago. In today’s environment of information sharing and media use, what the law doesn’t regulate, customers will.

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Marking a departure from the traditional mind-set that prioritized a commitment to the company over personal needs — there’s now a focus on the individual. A newer wave of workers is looking for a more comfortable integration of their work and personal lives that previous generations did not demand. And in the absence of this balance — and a clear career path — they have no qualms about moving on to another organization.

In the interest of securing engaged, productive talent across their career span, employers need a remedy for the issue of employees with shallow roots in the organization. One best practice is conducting a workforce preference survey and developing customized, flexible rewards programs based on results.

The programs that are created should feature transparency and clear expectations for earning a bonus and other incentives — as well as growth opportunities and development support.

Evolving job functions put the focus on people management

Job functions have changed at a faster pace over the last 100 years, and computer technology is exponentially accelerating the speed of this evolution. While artificial intelligence, robotics, and technologies like software and analytics optimize certain functions, they also replace human beings. Talent management now requires aligning irreplaceable people skills such as creativity, curiosity, customer service and innovation with roles that enable business growth.

The process of managing performance is also becoming more sophisticated with a shift from qualitative assessment to quantitative analytics. Managers can now get a much clearer picture of employee scores, gaps and production, and link that insight to business output and customer feedback. At the same time, HR leaders are able to fully capitalize on the value of this information. By ensuring that findings are used in overall workforce planning, they allow for evidence-based, well-informed recommendations for managing people.

HR leaders are responsible for melding three often disparate viewpoints held by the CEO, the CFO and the HR function into one cohesive philosophy. What’s at stake with this consensus is the ability to mesh talent and business strategies — in alignment with the organization’s culture and key objectives. When HR leaders have a seat at the table where these decisions are made, they’re better-situated to contribute “people intelligence” that informs the best possible on-the-ground solutions.

This article is an excerpt from our 2019 Organizational Wellbeing & Talent Insights Report – U.S. Edition.

Scott Hamilton
National Managing Director, HR & Compensation Consulting

Scott leads a team of over 200 employees across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. in helping clients recruit, reward and retain top talent through sustainable HR and compensation solutions. He has extensive expertise in developing reasonable, timely programs that affect all levels and aspects of pay delivery and reward systems, as well as related HR strategies and programs.