10 predictions for HR in 2016

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Yes, it’s that time of year again when Santa is readying his reindeer, Fairytale of New York is on the radio and the foolhardy amongst us start making wildly optimistic predictions for the year ahead.


The famous Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr once warned “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”. Whilst I fully concur with that sentiment, like an inebriated lemming being merrily edged towards the precipice of a cliff, it’s time to take the plunge and give my ten predictions for HR in 2016:


  1. People Analytics (finally) goes into orbit

Okay, you’ve got me. I also predicted this in 2014 and 2015 and it didn’t exactly come to pass. Guilty as charged, but maybe it will be third time lucky? All the conversations I am having with HR leaders suggest that we are on the precipice of exponential growth in this area. The evidence to do so is compelling. Research from Bersin by Deloitte (as reported in the Wall Street Journal) into the benefits enjoyed by the 14% of companies who have already developed mature people analytics capabilities demonstrates they generate better talent outcomes in terms of leadership pipelines, cost reduction, efficiency gains and talent mobility. However, perhaps even more tellingly, the share prices of these pioneering 14% outpaced the S&P 500 by an average 30% from 2011-14. Hence my confidence in predicting that 2016 will be the year that HR stops just talking about analytics but actually embraces it like its cousins in Finance and Marketing; not necessarily to replace traditional intuition but to validate it by making decisions that are based on insights derived from data.


See also – 10 Tips to Getting Started With HR Analytics


  1. HR embraces an Open Source approach

Many of us realise that we are living in a time of unprecedented change. The world of work is set to experience a transformation not seen since the days of the industrial revolution and the pace of change will never be as slow as it is today. That’s quite a sobering thought especially as HR will be in the vanguard of this new age. Traditionally, HR and recruiting functions have worked in splendid isolation, but that will not suffice in the 21st Century when collaboration, co-creation and ‘open-source’ are key ingredients. The recent #HROS concept of Ambrosia Vertesi of Hootsuite and Lars Schmidt of Amplify Talent has deservedly garnered a lot of attention and momentum. Google too has opened up its HR black box in the form of the re:Work initiative. In 2016, look for initiatives like these to grow and new ones to emerge as HR leaders realise they are stronger together than alone.


See also – The Future of HR is Open Source


  1. HR starts to destroy bureaucracy rather than cultivating it

Like those other discredited 20th century doctrines, communism and fascism, bureaucracy is way past its sell by date. Bureaucracy can be more lethal than a particularly virile dose of salmonella and eats away at a company’s very soul. Instead of protecting it and allowing bureaucracy to multiply through mindless process, unnecessary approval flows and the dreaded organisation chart, HR needs to switch camp from gamekeeper to poacher, don its superhero cape and stamp out bureaucracy wherever it finds it. Instead of Rules, Precedent, Hierarchy and Fear, let’s see more Values, Transparency, Aspiration and Peers. (I admit that this ‘prediction’ falls into the ‘wildly optimistic’ category).


  1. Organisation Charts begin to disappear

One of the key tools of the oppressors is the organisation chart, which is arguably just as defunct as bureaucracy itself. How many organisation charts actually reflect reality? As the number of flexible workers grows the ability to capture this in an organisation chart diminishes. Organisation charts also imply that the ability to innovate and make decisions resides only in the upper echelons of the business. It doesn’t. Not anymore. Not in the creative knowledge economy we are now thankfully in. It’s time to send organisation charts the way of the dodo. Again, this falls into the ‘wildly optimistic’ category, but I guess I’m a glass half full kind of guy!


  1. The eradication of the Annual Performance Review continues

Speaking of pointless and outdated tools and practices, hands up who thinks the annual performance review actually has any relevance? Not many hands. Ok, hands up who thinks they are a complete waste of time, money and effort? Nearly unanimous. 2015 has seen the likes of GE, Deloitte and Accenture bin the annual performance review in favour of continuous, real-time programmes underpinned by technology and apps that help the employee, manager and co-workers share feedback. 2016 will see many other organisations follow suit.


  1. The Annual Employee Engagement survey continues to be marginalised

As it is pantomime season, it seems apt to twin the traditional annual employee engagement survey and annual performance review as the ugly stepsisters in our own HR version of Cinderella. Josh Bersin described them as absurd at the recent HR Tech World Congress in Paris. As Bersin went on to explain, the employee feedback and engagement market is undergoing serious disruption at present with the emergence of feedback apps, text analysis and regular sentiment surveys to listen to the pulse of the organisation. Whilst many organisations will continue to run the annual survey for the time being (response rates tend to be higher), 2016 will see them augment this with what Bersin describes as a new category of HR Software. Traditionally strong providers like IBM are doing a lot of work on amplifying the employee voice, and also look out for start-ups such as Workometry too.


  1. Anyone mentioning the ‘War for Talent’ is replaced by a robot

HR is full of lazy and over-used phrases like “seat at the table”, but the vote for the most tired one has to be the “war for talent”. It was first coined by McKinsey all the way back in 1997 when reality TV mercifully didn’t exist, Manchester United actually had a decent football team and yours truly was just embarking on a career as a recruiter. When it comes to marketing slogans, analogies with wars – like sex – sells, but surely when it comes to the war for talent, isn’t it time for a new idiom? Let’s make 2016 the year that anyone in or connected to HR will be ridiculed and replaced by a robot for daring to mention this tedious phrase.


  1. Someone (anyone) gives LinkedIn a run for its money

Whilst I’m a paid up member of the LinkedIn fan club, it’s about time someone took them on before hubris or megalomania sets in (some may argue it already has). Whether it’s sport, politics or business, competition is healthy. It doesn’t matter really if it is Facebook at Work (see recent TechCrunch article), Indeed, Google for Work or some as yet unknown start-up or even better all of them. It will be interesting to see how LinkedIn reacts once someone starts to muscle in on their patch – one suspects that the cycle of spiralling costs may turn full cycle. So come on Zuckerberg et al, get on with it.


  1. I’ll write a blog that doesn’t reference Josh Bersin

Well there has to be one joker in the pack. Of all the analysts out there, Josh and his firm Bersin by Deloitte are the most omnipresent and the purveyors of the best analysis and insight on the HR space. As such, it is extremely challenging to write a blog that doesn’t reference Josh or his firm, but I can confidently predict that at least one blog I write in 2016 will have contain no mention of Bersin whatsoever. I also predict that Liverpool will win the Premier League, Donald Trump will say something sensible and a great band will emerge from one of Simon Cowell’s dreadful television programmes.


  1. HR as agent of change

This could be my most wildly optimistic prediction of all, but as the pace of change intensifies and as the old ponderous bureaucratic ways of doing things continue to fail (why else would over 50% of the Fortune 500 from 2000 no longer be in existence?), HR needs to move from change blocker to change agent. Yes, it needs to consistently talk the language of the business and change its mindset of being a cost centre, but more importantly HR needs to be brave. It needs to embrace the opportunities offered through flux, changing employee attitudes, neuroscience, HR Analytics and technology to create real and lasting change in how talent is identified, recruited, activated and retained. Will this happen in 2016? Probably not but let’s at least start the New Year with a modicum of optimism.

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