Tracy Keogh, Liane Hornsey and Ashley Goldsmith (left to right)
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The effects of Brexit on recruitment and retention; the need to focus on underlying barriers to greater diversity; the power of employee data; the future for HR practitioners: executives in companies across the globe outline their priorities for the year ahead.

On Brexit

The UK’s planned exit from the EU on March 29 has created confusion for HR teams and employees, says Abakar Saidov, chief executive of global recruitment software company Beamery.

Recruiters are already seeing some of its effects, he says. “Since the referendum [on leaving the EU], Brexit has made people hesitant to look for new jobs until they have a better sense of what the future holds. As a result, recruiters have found it even more challenging than normal to recruit talent and need even more creative ways to attract them.”

This is likely to intensify when Britain leaves the EU, he adds.

On data

“Simply put, use it,” says Liane Hornsey, chief people officer at Palo Alto Networks, a global cyber security company. Decisions based on data lead to informed outcomes, she argues.

“Sadly, because we are dealing with people, too often the default human behaviour reverts to subjectivity and personal experience,” she says. Yet in other parts of a business, managers typically collect data before making decisions.

Angela Mahoney, vice-president, human resources at Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, a global pharma company based in Japan, agrees. “The insights now available to us are great and having data-driven conversations that lead to better outcomes and decisions is a no-brainer.”

Data help predict employee trends, says Hilde Haems, chief human resources officer at SD Worx, a Belgium-based HR services provider, adding that it has observed a strong relationship between poor uptake of mentoring and training programmes and absenteeism.

On diversity

Widespread allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace have had companies looking at their organisational culture.

David D’Souza, membership director of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a body for HR professionals, predicts increased action in the UK around the gender pay gap and consultation on the push for ethnicity pay gap reporting. “HR professionals need to maintain a focus on shedding light on the systemic causes for diversity gaps, and fixing the cultures that allow such gaps to exist,” he says.

Tracy Keogh, chief human resources officer at HP Inc, the California-based maker of printers and PCs, says companies must ensure that work on diversity and inclusion is “not just a walled garden around HR — it has to be truly embedded at all levels of the company”. In 2017, HP launched its ReinventMindsets campaign to champion diverse recruitment. This included a video campaign developed jointly between HR and marketing that focused on under-represented groups, with the tagline “HP is hiring and talent is our only criteria”.

Ashley Goldsmith, chief people officer at Workday, an HR software provider, says practitioners need to understand employee data and analytics.

“By leaning into data, HR teams can focus on a number of diversity workplace trends such as attrition and promotion of under-represented groups, pay parity [and] leadership succession planning,” she says.

On HR executives’ future

Are HR roles likely to change? “I hope so,” says Ms Hornsey. “HR functions have to be agile and adaptive and lead by example.”

They already have changed, says Ms Mahoney. “The HR business partner today has to be the Jack and Jill of all trades — coach, strategist, organisation designer, change manager, strategic communicator.”

She sees technology playing a greater role in recruitment and retention, thanks to innovations such as apps that can mine data sources and social media at speed for information, or recruitment tools that embed games for use in assessments.

Ms Haems says technology will help free more HR employees to take on advisory roles. The HR mindset must move from “processes” to “organisational design”, she says.

Ms Goldsmith expects new roles to emerge that “focus solely on [employee] experience”. She cites her own workplace’s example at Workday of wellbeing staff who organise programmes encouraging employees to join cooking and fitness classes and outdoor activities as well as mental health campaigns.

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