Pity the uninformed Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) desperate for a clear path to workforce bliss in 2017. Innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning promise unheard-of productivity acceleration but threaten workers who fear job losses. Rapid technology advances are opening up tremendous opportunities but sourcing scarce talent in a global market can stymy recruiting. SAP Radio host and moderator Bonnie D. Graham recently challenged three HR experts to share their perspectives on how CHROs can shake up the status quo and get it right in the new year during an episode  of Changing the Game with HR entitled, “CHROs and People Strategies: New Year Resolutions and Beyond.”

Create digital-first culture

Tina Marron-Partridge, IBM Global Business Services Talent and Engagement, sees HR leaders facing a defining moment in their profession, forced to modernize the workplace culture for a consumer-grade experience.

“In a digital world, you need a digital-first culture,” she said. “It’s really important for leaders now to think about corporate culture and what they are trying to create in the modern world where the way we work and how we work and who we work with needs to be quite different…We need to be more efficient, in flatter structures, and more agile in order to make decisions and work together in different ways.”

Marron-Partridge believes there has never been a more exciting time to be in HR as forward-thinking organizations orchestrate new competencies like data science across operations and branding to make a much bigger difference to the company.

Adopt digital mindset

Yvette Cameron, Senior Vice President of Strategy at SAP SuccessFactors, said digital technologies are only the beginning. CHROs need to adopt a digital mindset similar to marketing.

“For years [marketing] has used digital technologies and approached relationships with customers from a digital mindset,” she said. “This mindset hasn’t permeated how we engage with our workforce. Not only bringing in the technologies, but bringing in some of the processes and ways of thinking, like deriving workforce sentiment from data collected and inferred from an employee’s use of technologies across the organization. We have to engage with employees as we do with customers, using that digital mindset to further drive the digital culture.”

Cameron discussed how innovations like conversational language chat bots are fundamentally changing HR from a top-down hierarchy to an organization engaged in a dialogue with managers and employees about policies and projects that drive business outcomes. She also talked about using technology to remove bias from the hiring process, tremendously expanding the talent pool for companies.

Adapt to embrace complex change

Drawing from the lyrics of singer David Bowie’s iconic 1970s hit song, “Changes,” Dr. Patti Fletcher, Leadership Futurist and Solution Management at SAP Successfactors, said HR needs to focus on providing support for change. Representing the voice of employees to company leaders and vice versa, the CHRO needs to be a technology expert in new ways.

“People are aware of what they are going through, and what they need is a catalyst for change, and then they need to be enabled for change…People do not change when you tell them; they change when you enable them.”

Fletcher predicted success for those people who succeed because of complexity, not despite it. She was especially excited about innovation. “Cognitive technology will completely transform HR…I do not see it as replacing [human] intelligence as much as augmenting people to make us more efficient, much cleverer, and much better as human beings and how we work.”

All of the panelists agreed that HR, like the rest of the business, is just starting this major digital transformation.

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