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Senior HR Panelists Session: The Future of HR Professionals --- 3rd Day at the SHRM Conference (Part I)

What role do HR professionals play in organizations when facing today’s challenging economy? Where do innovations come from? What skills and competencies do HR professionals need?

Today’s general session featured a panel discussion of four senior HR professionals and addressed above timely questions. Angelia Herrin, Editor of Research and Special Projects of Harvard Business Review served as the moderator. The panelists included Michele Toch, VP of HR & Administration, Northrop Grumman Information Systems, Shannon Deegan, Director of People Operations - Strategy, M&A and Staffing at Google, Conrad Venter, Global Head of HR, Deutsche Bank AG, and Paul Records, Senior VP and Chief HR Officer for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospital.

The role in HR has changed dramatically over the years. HR needs to be the counselors, business advisors, and the project managers of a company (Toch). HR is the department that initiates and leads changes. Venter emphasized the value that HR brings to an organization. Transformational HR has replaced yesterday’s transactional HR. Deegan linked HR with ROI (Return on Investment). In Google’s culture, analytical skills are important. Google builds a “trustful” environment that welcomes employees’ feedback and innovative ideas. HR needs to demonstrate results and help increase productivity (Venter).

Innovation is crucial. Besides technology, innovation can come in a variety of forms, including new business models and process (Toch). Innovation needs to be supported by the leadership team of an organization. Companies are recommended to recognize and reward people with innovative ideas. Google allows employees to spend 20% of their work time on any project they want to work --- literary, an employee can take one day off every week to work on anything he/she wants (Deegan). Corporate decisions in Google are incredibly transparent to all employees. The company creates a culture that encourages employees to connect with each other at work. Kaiser Foundation used internal social networking tools to encourage employees to share information (Records).

Everyone agreed that HR professionals are facing many challenges in the work place when facing such a tough economic downturn. The panelists shared their experience regarding to training and development with a tight budget. When discussing the skills needed by tomorrow’s HR professionals, Toth believes that loving people and knowing the basic HR functions are not enough; they also need to have the knowledge of accounting, finance, marketing, technology, and strategic management. Venter believes business should come first among everything. There is no future for a HR person if he/she only focuses on the traditional HR functions. Records suggested the ability of developing people and delivering (business) results are the key. In conclusion, a company’s HR strategy cannot be separated with its business strategy (Deegan). Google’s “people strategy” moves people from one part of the business to another and develops people with multiple specialties.

The professional of HR has changed, which brings challenges and creates opportunities for those who can adapt to the new competitive environment. Do you agree with the panelists? What do you see the future of HR?

References:
Pictures of Angelia Herrin (1st from the top) Michele Toth (2nd) Shannon Deegan (3rd) Conrad Venter (4th) Paul Records (5th) were downloaded from: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok06292010

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