Outlook 2020: Gazing into the Future of HR with Lee Murphy, Senior Director HR, Microsoft Asia Pacific

February 28, 20178:08 am2106 views

With recent technological advancements resulting in automation of processes and emergence of shared services models, migration of HR to the cloud, focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning – all speak of evolution in HR in the fast-paced digitally disruptive times.

Do you think the role of HR will cease to exist? Will humans be soon replaced by AI and robots? Do these changing times demand of HR to be more data-driven, use Big Data to leverage on insights and translate them into business intelligence for better decision making?

How should HR managers and business leaders deal with a whole new tech conundrum of exploring possibilities – either going predictive, harnessing on Big Data, utilising BI for effective decision making, migration to the cloud and many more lateral shifts to be witnessed by businesses in future?

We at HR in Asia seek insights on how this disruptive global technological movement has made its impact on the critical role of HR in the times to come, through an exclusive Q&A with Lee Murphy, Senior Director- Human Resources at Microsoft Asia Pacific.

Stressing on the critical role of HR as change catalysts to challenge the status quo and cultural norms, by encouraging business transformation, Lee Murphy has some really interesting insights for those passionate about HR. Read on…

  • Gazing into the crystal ball, what according to you will be the key tech trends that will redefine the way HR works in future (Vision 2020)? Do you think the role of HR will cease to exist?

From my perspective, the key technology trends in the future are: artificial intelligence, machine learning and CRM. The way we use business intelligence insights and dashboards will change from helping you have access to information at your fingertips, to also gaining deeper insights from data.

Microsoft believes moving to the cloud will have clear productivity improvements for HR professionals. Cloud computing can have many different implications, but from a shared services perspective, business transformation and collaboration will have significant impact on the future.

In terms of talent acquisition in the future, technology can help filter and assess profiles – be it looking through keywords or volumes of resumes etc.

 Lee Murphy, Senior Director- Human Resources at Microsoft Asia Pacific.

Lee Murphy, Senior Director- Human Resources at Microsoft Asia Pacific.

I have been in HR for the past 20 years, and “will the role of HR cease to exist” was the first question I asked. Unlike any function, individual or team within a particular organisation, HR has to ensure that they are relevant to their mission and be well-aligned with business priorities, in order to meet business challenges of the future.

I think HR, from my own experience, has evolved significantly in terms of automation of HR processes and practices, shared services models, the way service levels are keyed, and the CRM approach to employee experience. Having said that, HR has never been more in demand. Business insights and intelligence produced from data-driven HR will be one of the fastest growing functional areas.

In terms of employment, data analytics is in demand, and the role as we know is always transforming. Strategic engagements, organisational capability, talent management, and being an exceptional place to work are some of the key areas that will see increasing relevance and need for HR professionals.

  • As HR moves to the cloud, what could be some of the challenges faced by organisations when it comes to data protection and security, especially with the shortage of cyber security talent in Asia Pacific?

As our CEO Satya Nadella says, “People will not use technology they do not trust.” Trust in the cloud is a key differentiator for Microsoft. So when we think about making investments in our data centres, the focus for our products, technology and people is cyber security.

We work with governments, individuals and other companies to build trust in the cloud and also trustworthy computing. For us, this is no different from the way we look at overall employee experience. This includes data quality and how we uphold data privacy and security for all of our employees.

From a compliance perspective, we are audited on data quality and controls internally. We are also trained on standards of business conduct. When it comes to privacy and the regulations governing privacy, there are several guidelines that we follow for control and data privacy.

Employees usually use tools and make choices when they access information on the cloud, which is why transparency on what information is collected and how it will be used towards decision-making plays a critical role. Also, security and encryption, legal protection and protection of fundamental human rights are important from a Microsoft perspective.

‘Trust in Cloud’ is a campaign that we at Microsoft are running, and you might have also seen our other campaign, ‘Public Cloud for Public Good’, to serve broader communities and build their trust in the cloud.

  • Tell us more about the HR Reimagined initiative at Microsoft.

There is no part of the Microsoft business that remains untouched or not impacted by the ‘HR Reimagined’ initiative. Be it finance, logistics, or even workplace culture, ‘HR Reimagined’ is a transformational process based on behavioural shifts to data-driven approaches and mindsets which have evolved through time.

We are focusing on design and implementation of predictive and other advanced analytics to provide deep insights on HR key metrics. We are also engaging our product teams to fine-tune offerings to employees. This includes improving employee experience through technology, analytics and reporting.

We are building upon capabilities such as visual analytics, in terms of deeper engagement with the business and what is expected, how do you connect the dots between some of the key business metrics that we are driving, and pausing to look at, it in the context of people metrics as well.

See: Future of HR: Predicting Top 10 Talent Trends in 2017

We seek to understand if we are able to draw conclusions and insights from data gathered through business and people metrics. This is how we traditionally operate.

As we bring data together on our analytics dashboards, it is clearly powerful to have conversations as a trusted advisor with our business leaders. It is really impactful to know how to present data, and use functional capabilities to arrive at decisions. For ‘HR Reimagined’, we are looking at organisational dashboards and how metrics can be used around talent acquisition and external transfers.

At Microsoft, we are passionate about predictive analytics – like being predictive around attrition and retention risks, to being predictive about sourcing. Through ‘HR Reimagined’, we are looking at how to prioritise revealing candidates and how to make offers fast to the right talent with predictive sourcing.

  • What would be the skills of the future for HR professionals to learn and imbibe to be able to translate workforce data into meaningful insights and business intelligence?

As I said earlier, there are many skills that we need to build upon. However, one key skill needed by future HR professionals is being data-driven. You should be able to use data intelligence actively on a daily basis in all your conversations – not just intuitively or instinctively –and be able to bring together and present both analytics and insights. You need to be solution-oriented rather than activity-oriented.

So it’s not about how you fill your day with a series of activities, it’s about being thoughtful and mindful in terms of the impact you have on everything that you execute and deliver. It also means measuring impact against business strategy, which is the key.

HR professionals should also be change catalysts –or how HR reacts or responds to a situation. For us at Microsoft, it’s about using predictive analytics to stay ahead of the curve, and leveraging HR from the perspective of changing mindsets.

HR should challenge the status quo and cultural norms and encourage business transformation. This requires higher levels of skills and capabilities, which is what I would term “HR consulting skills.”

Investing in people development and analytics is another key area, and skills in behavioural coaching are no longer a nice-to-have for HR professionals.  The way you build resilience in your leaders, the questions you ask and the way you are able to coach as a trusted advisor is really critical. So coaching is another key skill required by future HR professionals.

  • Beginning now for the future, how can HR professionals harness the power of analytics for better decision making?

Looking back at my own journey using dashboards and business insights on a daily basis, as a HR professional, you need to be able to harness the power of analytics, leverage dashboards, and have conversations with business leaders in terms of aligning and understanding business perspectives from a HR standpoint.

  • What will the employees expect in the next decade and how can HR be a facilitator and enabler to meet the same?

If you go back 10 years from where we are now, it’s been quite extraordinary in terms of development from a HR perspective –looking at systems and technology, the pace of change in businesses, and the speed and urgency that’s required now, as most industries are being disrupted. It is about trying to work on the agility required in HR to meet employee demands. This is really challenging.

Over the next ten years, I see that most HR processes will go invisible – either through applications or through technology offerings that we can use to anticipate employee needs or experiences.

Imagining the workplace of the future, the impact that artificial intelligence and machine learning would have on employee experiences will be quite significant. For example, you will have applications that lead to self-service right from an onboarding experience. Use of visual aids for immersive experience, such as augmented reality will be the way to go for employee experiences going forward.

The drive for flexible working arrangements will continue. Drawing a balance between the social needs of working teams and sophisticated technology and video offerings will be important. Bringing teams together and having distributed models require focus, so you will see new working models coming into play, rather than having a whole office set-up where you expect people to arrive. This will be one of the major shifts I foresee. It would also be quite exciting to look at wearables, and how companies use them to monitor employee health and wellbeing.

  • How can HR professionals overcome resistance to Big Data and make most of the insights available?

The assumption that HR professionals are resistant to Big Data is not always true, and there will be a shift in mindset and culture as we migrate to deeper analytics. As you know, HR has always been working on analytics of some type, whether its payroll related or rewards, it just depends on how it’s packaged.

There will be significant investment into learning and development, in terms of how you upskill capabilities within your HR team, and raw modelling in terms of how HR leaders use business insights and people analytics.

Overall, I foresee HR as a function embracing these offerings to use different modules and models. The key here is how HR will become a trusted advisor and business partner, tapping into conversations with business leaders around relevant BI and data. HR will have a pivotal role to play in the years to come, in terms of how they use analytics and predictive analytics for decision making.

  • What are the key trends for HR professionals to stay on look out in 2017-18?

Bringing data and insights together will be critical from a HR perspective. From a technology perspective, how you use CRM, how you track employee queries or issues will be a key trend. The concept of HR as a business development manager will be surfacing soon.

You will see a shift in HR from an internal to external orientation i.e, HR for customers. In the next few years, HR will be spending 20 percent of their time on customer meetings and customer development opportunities, and working with marketing teams.

One of the key skills required by HR professionals in the future is the ability to tell stories. You need to have reference cases, and you need to connect with customers through HR.

So for us at Microsoft, we will delve more into business development without technology offerings, because we believe customers are more focused on issues related to people and organisation. HR has a great role to play in business transformation and people changes, so this will be one key trend anticipated to evolve in the near future.

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