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Future Proofing Your HR Department

Sep 12, 2019 | Workplace Culture

Future Proofing Your HR Department

The rapid advancement of technology is changing the way we think of work, how we work and the future of work. The business environment is fundamentally being transformed by new technologies, from artificial intelligence (AI) to digital mobility and virtual team collaboration. As the prevalence of digital technologies overtake workspaces and automation challenges the labour market, the stability of traditional work becomes shaken.   The job security offered through traditional work is disappearing as technologies combine and mature.  Automation is redefining the workplace and where possible will become superior to humans. Digital technologies have reshaped the modern workplace, demanding new types of skills and a change in work culture. The trends point to the need for organizations to prepare for tomorrow or face stagnation.

As workforces are at the core of this discussion, HR departments are critical in navigating how to deal with the repercussions of the technology landscape. There are a number of key factors discussed below that should be considered.

Understanding the Technology Landscape

The news about the gearing up of HR Leaders to face the AI revolution and other emerging technologies is not comforting. Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends research shows only 26% of respondents felt their organizations were “ready or very ready” to deal with the impact of these technologies. If intelligent automation capabilities can potentially replace human tasks and jobs, then HR Leaders must step up to demonstrating and building an awareness throughout the organization of how human talent can be integrated with technology for greater efficiencies and productivity.  In evaluating technology, there is a further need to display a data driven approach in bracing for the future. Re-imagining and re-inventing work will require more big data analysis, alongside envisioning of all kinds of human and automatable tasks as a proactive approach to job structuring, necessary for the new way of work. HR departments must embrace data analytics and take full interest in understanding emerging technologies, thus preparing themselves to become the trainers.

HR Business Partnerships

Although the Canadian workforce is educated and highly credentialed, there is a need for more thoughtful collaboration with business leaders, academic institutions and HR Leaders.  Since intelligent automation offers greater efficiency and productivity, a vast majority of organizations will use AI, cognitive technologies and robotics within the next 3-5 years.  This serves as a driving force for HR Leaders to partner with business leaders and top executives. HR departments must have knowledge of the skills business leaders are demanding to strategize and tailor workforce planning.  In the same vein, HR Leaders must be influencers in the design of the curriculum at institutions of higher learning. This streamlines the educational process with the changing nature of workplace job requirements, e.g. the growing demand for a more digital, multidisciplinary and data driven approach to learning. This should be followed by internship programs that involve the cross-sharing of high-level technological practices between the existing workforce and trainees.

Human Capital Investment

If HR Leaders are serious about preparing for the future, then organizations should see employees as a form of capital, deserving of recognition and attention like other capital items such as office buildings and equipment.  Organizations that expect to succeed using AI and other sophisticated technologies will have to enlarge the training agenda. It is futile to invest in automated machinery with an expectation for increased productivity from workers accustomed to manual work.  There is no way around this important training intervention. The fact is the future path requires a coordinated and tailored organizational approach to re-skilling or upskilling in response to the alteration of jobs.

Culture of Lifelong Learning

How can HR Leaders help employees to thrive and in a business environment with rapid changes?  It is critical for workers to have a learning mindset to keep pace with the technological landscape.  Constantly, skill sets and career paths are being disrupted, and employees must have the capability to adapt swiftly and confidently. HR Leaders should promote self-driven learning and encourage employees to stay abreast with developments that enrich career paths. Investing in online learning platforms provide great opportunities for continuous learning. The use of competency frameworks with the sequencing of knowledge, skills and abilities for professional development can serve as powerful tool to drive a learning culture.

Embracing Alternative Work

It is not only re-defining in-house jobs that is concerning to HR departments. There is also the alternative workforce that is freelancers and contract workers.  This group is now being viewed as “mainstream” as this segment of workers has grown tremendously.  As employees search for more work life balance, organizations will have to embrace alternative work arrangements using digital mobility and virtual collaboration.  HR departments will have to seek out new ways to organize work, adapting to flexible work hours and supporting work from remote locations.  Ignoring alternative work arrangements could lead to the loss of talent to “mainstream” alternative workforce.

Work and organizations will continue to exist years to come, though not in the same form. Research shows that automation is unlikely to eliminate all elements of jobs, but more likely change the nature of work.  As we anticipate the future, HR Leaders will serve as forerunners to lead workforces through the waves of technological innovation.

At Pesce & Associates, our consultants have years of experience in developing programs to provide organizational capabilities to confront the future. For more information, please visit our website at or contact Elizabeth Hill, Managing Partner, at 416- 491-1501 extension 23 or at

Racquel Dalling

Pesce & Associates is a full-service Human Resources Consulting Group that provides comprehensive, strategic consulting services carefully tailored to each client’s unique needs.

16 Belgate Place, Toronto, ON M9C 3Y4


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