HR future leader of the month: George Harris

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the function about what they think will shape it

What are your main concerns in HR today?

My primary concern is the approach by many large multinational corporations that HR departments can be exploited simply as cost-saving measures. Workforce planning is operating on a need to know basis, as proven by the rise in success of short-term agencies. This, coming with a high price, leads to a dysfunctional labour force where a lack of foresight is evident. Employee legislation loopholes such as zero-hour contracts have only exacerbated this problem. The drive for profit is not coming from an increase in sales or innovation but from cuts in the permanent workforce, often leading to a degradation of productivity and a lack of continuity.

What will become more important for HR over the next five years?

Flexible working has had a huge impact on employees. Combining this with recent paternity laws, I believe that the labour market is being increasingly driven by the candidates. This will only enlarge as diversification of skills continues over the coming years, where it is the labour pool that holds the businesses in their hands. Flexible working enables those looking to retire, first-time parents, or part-time carers to continue contributing to the economy at a pace of their choice. In five years’ time businesses will be far more obliging and open to the concept of flexible working, sensing that this is the best way to help employees to flourish and become more productive.

What subjects will HR still be tackling when you retire?

Unions still have an influential voice, but one that is beginning to be muted by the empowerment of standalone employees. The labour market is becoming increasingly able to take on their employers at will. The vast technological developments of the last half century have enabled those willing to represent themselves, without needing a union rep.

However, unions will continue to tackle the problems of mass workers, getting to the heart of issues such as NHS pay.

What do you plan to do to change HR for the better?

It’s about developing the next generation of business-focused, commercially savvy and people-centric HR leaders. It’s important this next generation are coached, mentored and provided with a range of opportunities so they can form solid partnerships with the organisation. It’s also vital so HR can continue to keep pace with the rest of the business.

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