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The Future of HR in The New Reality: Pathfinder CHROs in 2022

Feb 04, 2022


  • EDITORIAL TEAM Talent Management Institute
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The Future of HR in the New Reality: Pathfinder CHROs in 2022

Linda Aiello, EVP and Employee Success Business Partner at Salesforce, says,

"We've been catapulted to this future of work. Whether people like it or not." "With that, of course, is going to come different styles of working”.

KPMG's Future of HR research revealed that most business leaders see HR as an administrator and that about 10% of the global samples are considered value drivers within the enterprise.

That cohort was termed 'Pathfinders.'

After researching the Pathfinder concept, a bit further, it was discovered that Pathfinding HR organizations were more optimistic about the future and more likely to adopt the latest technologies than their peers. They also responded faster to the pandemic than non-Pathfinding organizations. KPMG professionals interviewed 18 HR leaders across the globe to build on their 2020 research.

Who is an HR Pathfinder?

Human resource organizations focusing on integrated and mutually-reinforcing capabilities, such as employee experience and data analytics, workforce shaping, digital HR, and learning are termed as HR Pathfinder organizations.

Characteristics of pathfinding HR Organizations:

  • It is important to address the changing challenges of inclusion, diversity, equity (IDE) in your workforce and understand what it means for the employee experience, culture, and future talent pool.

  • Challenging the existing talent management methods and adopting a new "total workforce" philosophy to fill talent gaps. This includes going beyond high-performers and focusing on all people for their current and future skills needs.

  • Experimenting with new ways of working and emerging technologies to help employees adapt to a disrupted world.

  • Questioning HR's strengths and potential and using data and analytics to examine how the function could work better with other business functions to create the workforce of tomorrow.

What pathfinders do differently?

An increasing number of CEOs are investing heavily in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, with three out of ten (30 percent) top executives planning to spend more than 10% of their businesses revenue on ESG initiatives in the next 3 years.

The spread of the pandemic has led the focus of CEOs to shift to the social element that is a part of ESG, with inclusion diversity and equity (IDE) being one of the most pressing issues that they must address.

HR Pathfinders embrace this shift. They acknowledge that IDE can be a huge benefit to the company and its culture, so it should be a key element of the plan. CEOs agree with this and believe that an inclusive and diverse organization can help draw talent, including Gen Z and millennials.

"The performance of any business is contingent on the effectiveness of diversity in all its forms: gender, age, race, physical ability, sexual orientation, and more," says L'Oreal Isabelle Minneci, who is the Global Vice President of HR (Luxe Division).

Investigating IDE data and gaining expertise in using data to find and attract the next generation of workers -- is a major feature of Pathfinders HR managers. They also use analytics to develop their IDE strategies.

They are uncovering hidden biases that may cause problems and lead to attrition. The solutions aren't just "check the box" actions to improve diversity. They require substantial effort and investment by management to change the way that the business operates. Companies must challenge their organizational norms and culture to allow diversification and advance their career advancement. Spectrum Health recognized that its recruiting pipeline lacked diversity. They found that many of the universities they sought to recruit from didn't have large numbers of diverse faculty or students. This caused Spectrum to create a multi-pronged diversity-based hiring strategy. This involves ensuring diversification of candidates for leadership positions and panel-based interviews consisting of decision-makers from different backgrounds and sourcing talent in a different way. To find different talents, it is necessary to invest in creating an inclusive pipeline of talent.

"As the result of paying greater focus on data-driven insights and trends, we've seen an increase in the number of women and minorities hired in the fields of leaders, physicians as well as nurses, among other positions. There is a long way to go, yet we are fully committed to our journey," says Spectrum Health Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Pamela Ries.

Best practices by HR pathfinders

In addition to gaining a better understanding of the experiences of employees by establishing listening sessions and diversity networks and ensuring that the employees were able to feel that their concerns and voices were considered and actions were planned is a good way to start with a few tried and tested methods suggested by veteran pathfinders.

Diversity of talent

Inclusion means making sure that everyone feels as if they are part of something. This goal became more difficult because of the remote nature of employees during the epidemic. However, Pathfinding HR organizations were inspired to be focused on inclusion to increase diversity and develop an identity. "We have found amazing talent that we might not have had before because we had a preconceived perspective on the type of candidate we had," Coleman from Microsoft says.

"Looking for people outside of our geographic centers or traditional sources for recruiting can help us identify talents who have diverse backgrounds and ideas." Linda Aiello, Salesforce's EVP Business Partner, has experienced the same.

She adds, "We don't have to make hiring decisions based on geographical location. We now have the chance of tapping into market opportunities we might not otherwise have access to and truly change the look of how and who we recruit."

The power of change is in the minds and hearts.

HR Pathfinders understand that major changes can only occur if employees, managers, and leaders recognize their biases and then adjust their behavior to reflect on the situation. We see companies constantly reassessing the essential leadership skills to encourage more diversity in thoughts and experiences.

How can pathfinders lead organizations to a new reality?

A new "total workforce" strategy for talent management is the right way to go. This method involves becoming focused on employees, rethinking how we manage performance and enhancing the digital capability, and helping employees develop the competencies they require not just for the present but also the future.

The employee-centric model

Employees' experience can directly affect the customer experience and centricity. Those who offer exceptional customer service also tend to concentrate more on creating customized and personalized experiences for their employees. It's not a surprise that we've witnessed an increase in CEOs' employee experience and culture priority. The HR department is receiving more focus, and the pandemic is only increasing that focus. Setting up the right culture for your organization and ensuring that employees have a positive experience are two of the most important traits for HR Pathfinders. Salesforce's Aiello stresses that within her organization, culture is seen as their greatest competitive advantage.

"Our founders were as intentional about the culture they created as they were about the products." "There is no shortcut to building culture, and the vision must be clear," adds Dean Tong, Head of Group Human Resources at Singapore's United Overseas Bank Ltd (UOB). "Organizations continuously send out signals that are important to them, such as through review processes, guidelines for promotions and sourcing strategies, and the list goes on. To change your culture, alter the signals.

The core of employee-centricity

When implemented properly, modern technology creates more efficient processes centered around employees and seamless user experiences. Amy Coleman from Microsoft talks about their efforts to perfect self-service and develop enjoyable apps for employees throughout every aspect of their work, starting with time entry, co-working, COVID-19 health check, and obtaining relevant information regarding your particular employee's profile. In the 2020 Future of HR research, 60% of Pathfinders have rated the investment in new learning and development platforms and virtual working technology as top priorities for investment. These technologies also can aid in creating a more personalized employee and customer experience.

How to become a Pathfinder?

When the idea of Pathfinders was made part of the KPMG research of 2019 and was first examined & analyzed, it was discovered that the Pathfinders tackle all of their key areas, like shaping the workforce data, and analytics, digital experience for employees, and education, as part of a larger system. The past 3 years of Pathfinder research have revealed some constant themes and signals that organizations can investigate and test as they begin their pathfinder journey to discover.

1) Your value should be defined.

Here are some ideas for a strategic conversation starter: in what ways will our workforce's structure, size, organization, and capabilities change in the next three years? How do we get involved with Generation Z to experience the best early career experience and the benefits of working in a hybrid environment? Perhaps the most important question: What does creating a better future look like for us?

2) Provide More

The ability to provide analytic insights and data is crucial to discovering the solutions to a business's biggest questions. The Pathfinders interviewed in the KPMG 2021 survey indicate they're using data analytics to better understand their workforce and most importantly -demonstrate how issues with people affect business strategies.

3) Create end-to-end capabilities

i) A methodical strategy for working together with businesses to uncover the questions and hypotheses that must be investigated and could be undertaken by business partners who are equipped to participate in extensive discussions.

ii) Integrating data and insight analysis, which involves integrating different sources of data (internal and external and quantitative) with predictive analytical methods and enabling technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

iii) Storytelling and visualization techniques for data to assist in converting insights into action on the ground.

iv) Teams of agile project delivery which makes modifications to the process, policy, and procedure.

4) Be the creator of the brand new operational model

One can get significant results by designing an HR structure that includes:

  • More integrated: moving away from isolated Centers of Excellence to Communities of Practice, such as "talent and learning" (recognizing that learning is a key factor in developing talent and empowers employees to take responsibility for their growth).

  • Less process-driven.

  • More focused on the purpose, experience-centricity, and business outcomes.

  • More comprehensive in developing the entire workforce by ensuring it's in the right size, shape, and equipped with the appropriate capabilities. This is a change from focusing on "top talent' and allowing every talent to excel and create rewarding opportunities for various groups that comprise the workplace.


There is a dire need for innovation at an enterprise level. To protect our planet and our societies, it is impossible to go back to the way things were.

Innovation doesn't originate from the top-down direction but through collaboration, which involves the thoughts and ideas of all workers by engaging them in new ways of dialogue. This won't just help society solve the current sustainability challenges; it will also inspire and motivate our work environment more than ever before.

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