the paramount role of HR

The CX Revolution

The HR function plays a vital role in creating an agile, well-managed organisation.

Human resources teams don’t always get the credit they deserve. Yes, most of us would acknowledge that without HR professionals working in the background, important functions such as recruitment, training, employee administration and career management would grind to a halt. However, the work of HR departments is much more than an administrative necessity. They are crucial to the creation of effective and sustainable organisations and play an important role in identifying and developing the leaders of tomorrow.

The work of HR departments has changed markedly in recent years, with purely administrative tasks being outsourced or automated. That has allowed teams to focus on projects that drive performance within the organisation. This often means helping businesses to navigate changes brought about – by among other things – new technologies arriving in the workplace and the lingering impact of the pandemic on working practices (McKinsey 2023). Equally important, HR are also at the centre of nurturing a corporate culture with employee experience at its heart.

Part of that experience revolves around job satisfaction and opportunities for career development, not just for employees in general but also the rising stars who will progress to fill leadership roles.

Nurturing Leaders

Identifying and nurturing tomorrow’s senior managers is a complex task. For one thing, there is no one-size-fits-all leadership profile. Leaders can be defined in terms of owning the situation they find themselves in and successfully addressing the often messy problems (Forbes 2024).

Beneath that broad definition, there are many approaches to management. Three styles have recently been identified that are prevalent in the workplace. Transformative leaders who work to develop their teams. By turning followers into leaders, they supercharge performance. Then there are adaptive leaders – the once who challenge the status quo and drive change. A third group, Inclusive leaders seek to identify the individual talents and strengths of the people on their teams and assign roles accordingly. These styles often reflect the personalities and values of the individuals concerned (Forbes 2024).

There are times when a certain type of leadership will be required. For instance, if a business is squaring up to rapid and unpredictable changes in its target market, there may be a need to appoint adaptive leaders who are comfortable addressing problems related to uncertainty and risk. So, from a personality trait perspective, you’re looking for someone who not only embraces but welcomes the challenge of working through dynamic situations.

To take another scenario, businesses that have adopted a hybrid work model will require leaders who can manage teams remotely, demanding that managers are skilled at fostering team cohesion, even across video links.

So, the challenge for HR is to develop bespoke career development programs that are relevant to individuals while also aligning with the requirements of the business. Actions range from workshops, seminars and mentoring on a day-to-day basis through to secondments through to secondments and encouragement to acquire formal qualifications. There may also be a need for succession planning. All this should be done in a collaboration between HR and the relevant functions within the organisation.

The Move Towards Skills

There is, of course, a bigger picture. HR’s role in creating a motivated and productive organisation extends far beyond the management training programs. In an ideal world, every individual within an organisation should be pulling together in support of a common purpose.

Creating that kind of culture is not necessarily easy. We have been living through some difficult times. Most industrialised economies are still dealing with the economic aftermath of Covid and the war in Ukraine and at the same time the arrival of AI is altering working practices.

We are still in the foothills of the AI revolution but what we know already is that the nature of work will change. An increasing number of tasks will be automated. Some jobs will be lost and new ones created. Employees will have to be reskilled, either to take on new roles or to work alongside AI tools.

All this has implications for HR departments. Teams and managers are themselves working out the use cases for the various tools and technologies that are coming on stream (McKinsey 2024).

Meanwhile, the HR function will be vital in preparing the wider workforce for the changes ahead – not just those wrought by technology, but also the necessary responses to the evolving expectations of customers and the imperative to drive efficiency throughout the value chain.

So, what does this mean in practice? Well, one thing we are likely to see is a focus on skills-based strategies. Broadly speaking, this will require a move away from a culture where the value of employees is defined by job titles and experience towards one which puts the emphasis on the acquisition of skills.

This is an important shift. A move to a skills-based approach drives agility (Forbes 2024). When employees are encouraged to update existing skills and acquire new ones – rather than focusing on progress via a hierarchy of job titles – organisations are better equipped to introduce new working practices and seize opportunities. In short, they become more agile.

Against this backdrop, HR plays a vital role in providing opportunities to acquire skills that will be the bedrock of a sustainable business while also maintaining a positive employee experience.