What will 2018 bring for HR?

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How should we manage our practices as the world around us continues to change?

Gosh, what a year this has been. We’ve seen a royal engagement; music industry reinvention after an unsigned artist won big at the Grammys; and a general election which didn’t quite go to plan. We've had continued uncertainty around Brexit, threats of World War III when Trump and Kim Jong Un went head to head, and the biggest secret on television exposed early by one of its own presenters (it’s ok Prue, you’re still good in my books).

As I do each year around this time, I'd like to reflect on the highs and lows of the year – personally, professionally, publicly – and what my focus for the next 12 months should be. My starting point is a LinkedIn article I wrote this time last year in which I proposed that 2017 should be the year of the people leader. A year where businesses placed people and culture front and centre. Where HR professionals did more to evidence the impact HR can have on a business. And a year where leaders, across the business, made time to improve their leadership potential.

This was the year that a new breed of people leader and people-focused business had to come to the fore.

And I believe it did. To an extent. There’s still a long way to go in some areas of course. But based on the conversations I’m having with my HR peers, and what I’m reading in the wider media, I truly believe that the spotlight is on our department. And for positive reasons. We’re driving the conversation forward. We’re changing the way people are inspired, empowered and enabled within a business. We’re making a real difference to the way businesses are led, operated and succeed.

But what will 2018 bring?

First: technology. Specifically, artificial intelligence (AI) in HR. From wearables to how we view productivity, this is a debate which doesn’t appear to be fading. As the HR tech space has exploded, this is a whole new sphere of excitement and one I am particularly interested in watching develop. I firmly believe AI can help us make our people, and our operations, stronger. Though it’s critical that we approach this strategically, understanding the challenge we face or the insight we’ve gained fully.

Another interesting area is how we manage our practices as the world around us continues to change. We’re facing rises in the minimum wage and the living wage, more uncertainty around Brexit trade and migration, plus an evolving gig economy where the boundaries between employed vs self-employed are being questioned. Our strategies must move with these changes and ensure that the business remains profitable. We need to ask: what is our role in business transformation? Because it has to be more than just administering the change. We need to be the key player in ensuring people embrace it. That they trust it, believe in it and are fully up to speed.

Internal communications has often not been given the time of day it deserves. However, as HR professionals, communication is now an essential skill we must possess. Or if we don’t have the ability, we must find people who do. I recently said on Twitter, and I’ll say it again now: HR communication must sit within our department, directed and driven by the HR team with support from marketing or communications specialists.

The need to grow our own talent, improve local recruitment and place a far greater focus on retention throughout 2018 and beyond is a given. There’s so much more we can do in these areas – apprenticeships, partnerships with local schools and colleges, and even with likeminded employers. We need to think about collaboration and creativity to draw people into our businesses at every level.

Part of this is about seeing employees as individuals, something I have championed for these last few years. Not too long ago I wrote about whether it was time to kill off talent pools, and I stand by this article. Part of the evolution from leader to people leader is recognising that we can no longer treat our employees the same. Everyone has talent; it’s our job to help them work out what that is, what they want to do with it and then support them to do so. Chalk and talk training and sheep dipped performance reviews must become history. Personalised career conversations, regular performance discussions and tailored learning must come to the fore – it’s what our people want and it’s time we delivered.

So here’s to 2018 – whatever it may hold!

Eugenio Pirri is chief people and culture officer at Dorchester Collection
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