A year of change and continued progress for the HR profession

This year has been a remarkable one – politically, culturally and economically. There was the unexpected result of the UK elections in May and the continuing debate on the future of the EU, as well as growing geopolitical challenges. At one level, we can see continued globalisation and the opening up of markets and borders, but we can also see the potential for movement in the opposite direction.

Economic headwinds have slowed growth in Asia and the Middle East, and Europe is still largely flat. Little can be taken for granted, meaning that innovation, productivity, agility and resilience really are the watchwords of modern business thinking. We have also witnessed more corporate scandals and other institutions from sport to the media behaving in ways that show little regard for or even understanding of their responsibilities to their wider communities and stakeholders.

At the same time, there is an ever-growing sense of how extensively technology and democratisation of knowledge – what some are terming ‘Uberfication’ – can affect industries, organisations and the future of many types of job. The chief economist at the Bank of England recently estimated that half of all jobs in the UK could be ‘robotised’ or automated in the next 20 years. We can’t know if that’s true, but these are trends that we need to understand. We must ensure that we are humanising work just as much as it might be robotised.

There is so much, then, for us as a profession to step up to so we can play a deeper role in the future of business and of people and their working lives. I am sensing a new confidence in the HR and L&D professionals I meet. A resolve, perhaps, to put the human back into the heart (and mind) of business, and to make sure we are putting the human into human resources – a major theme of our annual conference in Manchester last month. But we are also seeing a greater recognition that only a professionalised, capable and informed HR function can meet the challenges all organisations are facing.

This year, more and more businesses have been rethinking their purpose, and the debate about corporate culture and behaviour has risen up the agendas of businesses, regulators, investors and government. The HR profession is part of this and has much to contribute, but we are also examining our own purpose more, and challenging ourselves to loosen our grip on rules and processes and become part of a more profound change. Innovation is happening in many ways now, and is evidenced by shifting away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

As the professional body, we will continue to make professionalisation a central plank of our work. Our international presence and impact is growing all the time: in November, we opened our Dubai office and hub for the Middle East, and we have launched our Middle East and Asia editions of People Management. Our recently published annual review shows that we’ve seen our membership numbers increase, including 14,500 new student members, a new range of qualifications underpinned by an online careers hub, and the continued growth of our digital content and community capabilities. Taken in conjunction with our ongoing policy and engagement work, and the efforts of more than 1,000 dedicated volunteers, we’re taking the voice of HR far outside its traditional confines.
Whatever 2016 may bring, it will present new opportunities for us to make a positive difference in a fast-changing world. I look forward to continuing to work with you to grow our profession with pride and confidence about our future.

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