Why HR plays a pivotal role in the #futureofwork

May 15, 2023
  • people
  • artificial intelligence & RPA

While strolling through Vlerick and Hudson’s HR Barometer 2022, two conclusions caught our attention. On the bright side, priorities for 2023 include engagement and wellbeing, next to recruitment & selection. A positive trend, as an increased focus on engagement and wellbeing is one of the keys to realize a shift towards sustainable productivity. Over the past years, people have grown tired of hustle culture and fast-paced work environments. By investing more in engagement and wellbeing programs, organizations will be better equipped to have their employees work at their best without taking everything out of them. Win-win.

What is less reassuring, is that cultural change and digital transformation remain in the ‘areas for improvement’ quadrant of the HR Barometer, and – almost shockingly – strategic workforce planning is considered ‘no priority’. Lose-lose. Let us explain why. 

AI: from gimmick to reality

In today’s work environment change seems to be the only certainty. Think of the launch of Chat GPT and its staggering usage number of one million users within 5 days after launch. AI has the potential of spurring productivity in unprecedented ways. For HR specifically, AI can introduce completely new ways of doing candidate assessments & sourcing, skills management, analytical decision support and much more. 

Next to increasing productivity, AI will improve quality too. Developers can already ask Chat GPT to find flaws in code and Chat GPT will correct them immediately. Countless use cases can be imagined where AI supports and guides people to be more efficient at work. The good news is that we will see this happening in the near future. Microsoft’s Copilot is one example but the landscape of recently launched generative AI apps is growing at breakneck speed. Many of those have one shared purpose: taking productivity to the next level. So, what are we waiting for? 

While many leaders are rightfully excited about the business cases for AI, some important open questions could make their enthusiasm wear off a bit. Is our business ready for it? How will we match this untapped productivity potential with people’s desire to achieve a more balanced and sustainable productivity? If AI will automate more tasks, will it force people to only perform high-value and high-focus activities at work? Will AI be an accelerator to achieve a healthier work balance, or will it push the pendulum in the opposite direction? And that is where HR should kick in. As a strategic partner, HR can help make the right trade-offs to ensure that both business and people benefit from the advances of AI. 

HR in pole position

One of the crucial accelerators for AI, which HR should co-lead with the business, is empowering people for their future AI-supported jobs. According to a recent report of the World Economic Forum the top 10 skills for 2025 are all linked to problem-solving (creativity, critical thinking, …), people management and self-management. These skills will be of the essence to thrive in a context of constant change, even regardless of AI. Defining the most relevant skills for your business and preparing people to develop them must start now. This turns strategic workforce planning and managing cultural change into a ‘must do’ for HR to help future-proofing organizations. 

The stakes are high. The balancing act between people and technology will shape organizations. It will define into what type of organization your company will evolve. Once that vision is clear, you can start translating your future organization into the required workforce and skills. On their side, future employees will want to understand your purpose and vision upfront and will consciously opt in, or out.  

Let’s discover the future of work together

The future of work is more exciting than ever. It brings opportunities and allows us to shape scenarios that were unimaginable until now. Maybe ChatGPT even has some ideas on how HR can prepare for it? But whatever the answers it offers, now is the time for HR to step up and take the lead in co-defining their future organization, taking advantage of everything AI has to offer and turning it into an exciting outlook for people. With AI under the hood and HR in the driver seat to define the future of work, a bright future lies ahead. 

Let’s inspire each other at the Vlerick HR Day and start looking for a win-win together. Looking forward to meeting you there!

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