HR future leader of the month: Simon Merrell

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the industry to discover the long-term trends they are planning to tackle in the years ahead

What are your main concerns in HR today?

Maintaining focus. There are so many competing demands for our attention, organisations and individuals can suffer if they can’t maintain focus. HR professionals have an important role in helping their organisation concentrate on fewer things that will make a bigger difference. We also have a role in helping individuals understand what happens when things compete for our attention. This might be explaining things at a physiological level or it might be about creating perspective. Information is great if it helps our understanding and decision-making but you can’t turn the tap off any more. We have to learn when and how to step away from it.

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

Relationships with artificial intelligence. While the lag between our acceptance of technology and the evolution of technology is well understood, we haven’t yet worked out what employees and customers are prepared to accept. The future has already been written: relationships with artificial intelligence will become increasingly common within the workplace. A purely technological/legal approach is not enough. HR has a role in helping organisations understand how employees and customers will respond.

What subjects will HR still be tackling when you retire?

Unless there is some great leap forward in evolution I would expect HR to still be dealing with the same people themes. I think our understanding of psychology continues to progress, and so our approach will continue to become more informed. Organisations will still require people, but their roles will be influenced more strongly by technology and decision-making intelligence. That might mean we need to keep reminding organisations of the value of their employees.

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

I am proud of what I do and will continue to work in this area as long as I keep enjoying it. I am also determined to improve and learn. In that sense, over time, I hope to add more to HR and those organisations I work with. I will also try to keep things normal. HR, like any other area of business, has its own language. It can be hard to understand, a little ‘faddy’ and therefore sometimes off-putting. I do try and remind myself and colleagues to keep things as normal as possible. If we can relate well to people it makes a big difference.

Simon Merrell is talent manager at Horizon Nuclear Power

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