Congratulations and Condolences for HR Leaders in the Digital Revolution

February 12, 2019
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We are standing on the edge of a new era. In the outset of the fourth industrial revolution, in which digital is king, HR leaders are tasked with navigating unknown and rapidly evolving terrain.

For that, I have two words to say to my colleagues in HR: Congratulations and condolences.


We have been blessed with the opportunity—as HR professionals and as people in general—to live in what I believe is the most exhilarating time in human history.

Humanity is taking a quantum leap into the fourth industrial revolution, a technological revolution that will change the way we live, work, learn, and communicate. A revolution that will be remembered as a huge turning point.

So, congratulations are in order because you have the rare opportunity to shape and affect the way people understand what this “fourth industrial revolution” really means.

It’s a revolution that is running fast and all we can do is try to make clouds from the dust it leaves behind. It is a crazy hurricane that is constantly accelerating, destroying anything in its path.

However, inside even the biggest hurricane, there’s a quiet spot. This serene center is called ‘the eye’ and is an area of complete silence.

Our mission within the digital revolution hurricane is to find this eye. To find the quiet place inside the storm so we can identify our purpose and set a course forward.

My Condolences…

I also want to pay condolences because this is a huge responsibility. It’s a crazy world out there, and that can feel jarring — like you’re losing control.

Today, everything runs parallel. Unlike the past, you don’t study, choose a profession, work your whole life, and then retire and enjoy and have fun. Instead, many of these milestones happen at once.

Social media makes matters even more complex, blurring the lines between the professional and the personal. Managers now share Instagram photos with their employees, friend them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

If there was a “work-life balance” goal before, it has been replaced with “work-life integration.” A type of integration enabled by technology.

Today, startups need to change their approach when working with young, talented people. Experience isn’t the main criteria anymore and job titles don’t necessarily have the same meanings as they once did.

Job descriptions also lack hard lines as everything is fluid, creating a liquid workforce. You recruit talent for tomorrow, not for today.

With sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and other tech communities, it’s about working while being exposed. Like a display window, nothing is out of sight and everything is online and in real-time.

This creates amazing opportunities, but it also generates an extreme counter-reaction that can derail a journey before it has even started. The shelf life of strategic moves is shorter than ever. So, condolences to HR, as you are the ones who must be the “process police.” And on the other hand, you must also be the enabler of moving fast, failing fast, and keeping the relevancy of your people and business.


The Effect on HR

When we’re in a constant spin, we need to reinvent ourselves. Flexibility and reinvention are the newest and most relevant skills for everyone involved. It’s not just human resources – it’s brand management, culture management, and employee experience. It’s about marketing, experience creation, and storytelling.

An HR manager who doesn’t understand how technology and artificial intelligence impact the workforce is missing out big time. It’s like being given the keys to the race, yet blinking and being left behind.

It’s time to run in the race with everyone else.

One of the most promising, most emerging HR tech includes bots that track employee behavior to answer questions in a more personalized manner. Big data also makes it possible to suggest career paths based on previous knowledge and experience (think Amazon and Netflix).

These are also the same type of tools that can predict whether an employee is about to leave the company. Not by analyzing low performance and missing work days, but by looking at social media patterns. For example, if several of the employee’s friends were recently promoted, it could indicate that he or she will be considering a change as well.

Today’s employee is not just 9-to-5. They are 24/7 and we must buy into that.  

The Way We Learn Has Changed, But the Need to Learn Remains the Same

To be an HR manager in this day and age means being the responsible adult in a world of an overabundance of data. Look what happened with GDPR. The stories of privacy violations sound crazy, but they happen. Subsequently, HR needs to be involved in protecting employees and the business.

So, how do you build an HR department in an organization that’s run by founders and managers who didn’t come from the “corporate school,” but still manage to school everyone? The answer is somewhat contradictory in today’s job market.

The Job Market’s Contradictory Ideas

On the one hand, technology allows you to work anywhere at any time. This leads to client expectations of 24/7 treatment, putting tremendous pressure on the competition.

On the other hand, the war for human talent is real, which, in turn, gives the power to that talent. Potential employees expect flexible hours, the ability to work from home, fewer hours, and less stress, but they also want fun, meaning, and appreciation on the job.

While the digital revolution is reinventing the traditional approach to management, hiring, and evaluations, HR must tackle new dilemmas with novel strategies.

Courageous management means bringing in a VP of HR after the organization doubles in size in one year’s time without having enough weight to carry the growth.

How do you add 50 Kg on someone’s back without first developing the proper muscles and endurance? You can’t. They will crumble.

The Future of Human Resources

The recent paradigm shift has created a new focus for startups. No longer are the only two options to either “exist” or “be swallowed by a giant.”

Instead, success is now defined as sticking around, growing, going public, building a client base, and managing more people. As a result, companies are undergoing ongoing disruption. It is HR’s main mission to pave the way forward. After all, a company is only as solid as its workforce.  

It’s been decades since HR has had the opportunity to be at the forefront of change, so you are lucky to be sitting in the best seat at a most exciting time.

It’s time to start focusing on your organizational culture, on minimizing turnover, on your Glassdoor rank, and on long-term success. Now is the time for the “people of the future,” those who know how to build the plane from the ground up, but also know how to fly it once it’s in the air.

Organizations are relying on HR managers to coach them about how to stay relevant and close the gap between technology and people. Thus, HR experts need to be marketers, to understand technological concepts, to feel comfortable in the realm of customer experience of the digital age, and, sometimes, to just be the “adult” in the room.

To help companies remain at the forefront of change, I advise each of my peers to read an article every day. Bring the outside innovation into the company. Dive deep into the technology and learn how it affects the work, the employees, and the processes.

Ask yourself “why?” Learn from your marketing team, network with others, and share your insights and experiences. When you do, your startup won’t just survive. It will thrive.

Congratulations and Condolences for HR Leaders in the Digital Revolution
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