Human resource leaders in Asia need to make 7 critical mindset shifts in the coming decade if they are to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment, according to a new report from CCL and the Singapore Human Resources Institute.

Although based on insights from companies in Asia, many conclusions in CHRO 3.0: Preparing to Lead the Future HR Function in Asia will likely apply to HR leaders around the world. Many of the trends that Asian firms face — the rise of new types of enterprises, the growing role of technology, and a fast-changing competitive environment — are like faced by companies all over the world as well.

The new Chief HR Officers (CHRO) 3.0 report is derived from in-depth interviews with more than 20 Asia-based HR leaders at Asian and western companies, as well as a survey of more than 75 additional HR leaders. It suggests a path forward for HR in Asia, and points to a changing role for CHROs at Asian organizations.

Incremental Challenges

Survey responses suggest that while the overarching challenges now or in the future may remain similar, incremental challenges around technology friendliness, flexible work arrangements, innovation, and creativity will determine the overall success of the HR function.

The report’s authors found that only 20% of respondents felt their HR organizations are prepared for the future. The finding underscores the challenge that HR faces over the next decade.

The HR function will remain focused on attracting and retaining talent, as well as developing a robust leadership pipeline. But a fast-changing business environment will require HR leaders to make significant changes in what they do and to their mindset in order to deliver on those needs.

CHRO 3.0 argues that tomorrow’s HR leaders will be characterized by 7 key mindset shifts:

1. From technology-shy to technology-savvy.Although technology is not a cure-all, there is little doubt that it is becoming an increasingly important enabler for HR and all other business functions. Successful HR leaders must embrace this change, harnessing technology to make the HR function leaner and more efficient while also allowing HR leaders to focus more on strategic priorities instead of administrative matters.

2. From metrics to insights.HR leaders often use data like a weather report — describing what’s happening. In the future, CHROs must use data to make better decisions. This means they need to learn to turn data into stories, and then drive HR and business strategy based on that data.

3. From Chief HR (Process) Officers to Chief Employee Experience Officers. In the future, most rule-based processes will be automated. HR’s focus will be on improving the employee experience from initial recruiting and hiring activities through retention and leadership development. HR’s role will be to partner with other functional units and act as an internal strategist, an advocate for people, a cultural change agent and a futurist, among other roles.

4. From doing-all to doing-what-matters-most. CHROs must push back on low-value activities and focus on identifying the highest sources of return-on-talent. This will require HR leaders to have real authority to drive change around areas related to the enterprise’s changing business requirements — leading change related to talent and leadership development, not just “encouraging” change.

5. From inside-out to outside-in. In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, HR leaders need to know what their organization looks like from the outside. They also need to understand how they can help their organizations adapt and thrive in a changing business environment globally and in Asia.

6. From rule enforcers to equal partners. Rather than being the “nanny” function telling others what they can or can’t do, CHROs need to become partners with other C-level leaders to achieve organizational goals, drive change, and execute strategy. This could include things like understanding what competitors are doing on the talent front and formulating ways to respond.

7. From “helpers” to “doctors.” Instead of being an order-taker and helper, CHRO needs to diagnose and advise the organization about how they can use talent and leadership to better achieve organizational aims. This could include taking on responsibilities outside traditional HR functions, such as corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, new country/new operations, or associations with partner enterprises.

 

The overall theme of the report is clear — to remain relevant, HR leaders must develop their skills, knowledge, and perspective the same way other business leaders do, with global assignments, cross-functional rotations, mindset shifts, and more. Rather than simply housing an enabling process, the human resources function must help drive an organization’s strategy and provide significant, measurable value.

 

Feel free to send questions or comments about the report to its authors Sunil Puri, head of Research, Innovation and Product Development, and Anand Chandrasekar, senior research faculty.

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