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Key takeaways from Denmark’s HR Conference 2019

Author - Anders Filtenborg. Director

In cooperation with The Confederation of Danish Industry, once again this year we held HR conferences in Copenhagen and Horsens, with several hundred participants. The key focus of this year’s conference was how to work together in a digital age, when technology and innovation impose new requirements on HR.

The conferences helped shed light into HR’s role within the digital transformation. In addition, we also presented the results from Ennova’s HR Survey 2019, which showed the most important current trends/top priorities at the HR departments. The time spent at the conference also gave us the opportunity to peek into the crystal ball with regard to the future of HR and the megatrends that will impact companies.

Here is an overview of the key takeaways.

HR MUST FORMULATE A WINNING VISIONARY AGENDA

According to Thomas Geuken, Associated Director at Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, HR has ample opportunity right now to establish an important role for itself in the organization. HR needs to set a so-called winning visionary agenda, based on an HR perspective, and to help lead the company into the new possible futures.

The time has come to switch from an agenda focused on improving efficiency, which is dictated by corporate finance and marketing, to one led by HR. Previous HR work was based on getting the most out of the employees, while now the focus is on getting the best out of the employees.

Dedication, talent and passion for your work is the new agenda, and the important elements going forward will largely involve talent and the ability to innovate. And its HR that understands what employees want and is able to make the company responsive and agile, so as to ultimately retain and attract the available talent.


CHALLENGE THE WAY YOU MANAGE YOUR ORGANISATION

It’s no good to stick your head in the sand and hide from the megatrends in hope that they will just pass. HR (and the companies) are in the eye of the storm, where the workers, work and workplace are facing serious challenges from different megatrends, including technological development, acceleration and complexity as well as sustainability and individualization.

This is why HR needs to have the courage to challenge the way we run our organisations today. This refers to the way we organize the work, conceive decision-making and develop models for cooperation and networks. All this permeates the individual employee’s expectations of the organisation.

A direct effect of this is that companies need to move away from the perception of having a workforce of 3,000 to 3,000 workforces of one. One example is the way HR can be more data-driven and, based on this knowledge, play a part in customizing benefits and experiences for the individual employee.

In any transformation, the changes that this implies for the individual employee must be translated to the employee's day-to-day work. In other words, what does it mean for me? Often, in such cases, we communicate using the same language and forget that different employees with entirely different perspectives are involved in the transformation – some are apprehensive, others see opportunities. Here too, HR plays an important role in getting everyone on board.

FLEXIBILITY, NEW WAYS OF WORKING AND BEING IN BETA MODE

Hanne Taarup presented a practical example of how HR is in the process of working with establishing a new visionary agenda. She works as Transformation Lead at Schneider Electric and is responsible for managing change projects at the company.

To be specific, Schneider Electric found that several parameters in the workday presented challenges to the company. New types of tasks, which again imposed new requirements (new tools and methods), in combination with employees who increasingly had different desires with respect to their work life (e.g. flexible hours, special schemes for senior employees, etc.) increasingly put pressure on the workday and on progress in the organization. 

Therefore, HR was tasked with examining these issues and determining possible solutions. With the project firmly rooted in management, HR began assembling a core team, which would help define the project and ensure progress. It was therefore HR which helped establish the framework for the transformation that Schneider Electric initiated. “In order to succeed, it is important that you get started and dare to experiment,” underlines Hanne Taarup. Initiative before governance thus worked for Schneider, and the transformation is well underway.

As a result of this work, HR is now guiding the organisation in a new direction and, in the long-term, hopes to also find more time to focus on value-creating core tasks, such as competency development, recruitment, development and retention.

HR HAS THE NECESSARY SKILL SET TO ENSURE INVOLVEMENT AND ONBOARDING FOR EVERYONE

Troels Wendelbo, ELT People Partner from LEGO Group, also agrees that HR is the department with the necessary skill set to ensure a successful transformation in the organisation. More specifically, HR is the department that can ensure knowledge sharing (thus fostering a sense of security among the employees), laud the change-related successes and make sure that everyone feels involved and onboarded.

In Troels Wendelbo’s opinion, in the new future, HR will have 4 core tasks:

  • Simplify (help ensure that work procedures and organization are simplified/made accessible to all)
  • Enable data intelligence (ensure that decisions are data-driven and not based on gut feelings)
  • Humanize the organization (put a human face to the changes and involve everyone)
  • Challenge The Legacy Dogma (dare to challenge the “norm” and think innovatively with respect to the workers, work and workplace)

When it comes to digitization, HR also needs to lead the way with respect to the human aspect, and it needs to elevate the organization. Many companies are still driven by the logic of the past concerning how we can control and how can we manage. However, we are moving into a new paradigm, where we must challenge ourselves with respect to the logic that underlies the choices we make concerning management, performance and talent.

Among other things, at LEGO Group this means that the responsibility for learning has been passed on to the individual employee, such that all employees now have access to LinkedIn Learning, which replaces more formalized training programs.

TECHNOLOGY CAN STRENGTHEN OUR TALENT

The common message among the day’s speakers was that HR is certainly not in the process of being out-competed by digitization; quite the contrary, HR is in control of moving people and the organisation in the right direction.

In an age of hyper agility, HR therefore imposes requirements on thinking innovatively, daring to expose blind spots and challenging the organisation.

As Thomas Geuken concluded:“We put skill sets out of work – not people!”

P.S.: Want to find the presentations from the conference? Please go to the Confederation of Danish Industry's page Danmarks HR-konference 2019 (presentations are in Danish).

Anders Filtenborg. Director
Author

Anders Filtenborg. Director

Anders has many years’ experience in management and as a executive consultant. His core competence is communication and he advises global companies on the results of their employee engagement surveys and related strategies. Anders is also head of Ennova’s sales and marketing.