Home' HR Monthly : June 2019 Contents 6
ow often have we heard that the world of human resources is
both art and science? The phrase starts to wash over us from its
excessive usage but, as is the case for many clichés, it’s also true.
In the age of industry 4.0, HR professionals need to equip themselves
with the latest analytical techniques and apply them actively. That’s the
science of our modern profession.
Regrettably, some people managers still practise the old ways of doing
the job. Hyperbole, rhetoric and bluster no longer wash when the world
expects quantitatively-based, robust assurance of human performance
and organisational culture.
It’s a question of when, not if, our profession’s digital dinosaurs will
be found wanting. This is particularly a risk with HR managers not yet
subjected to regulatory review within financial services, following the
standards set for this industry by the Royal Commission.
Data techniques and tools now sit across all major H R functions
such as recruitment; induction; development; project, change and
performance management; and remuneration and executive contracting.
It’s a professional obligation to source and apply these data-based
techniques for the benefit of your organisation. If you don’t, someone
else will soon be appointed over you who will. Oblige the trends and
seek help on which applications would best suit your contex t.
Some cynics have argued that data analytics will take over all
critical HR functions. I don’t share this view. A machine may be able
to complete certain tasks, but it can’t tell you how it feels after it has.
Computers like Watson can be programmed to simulate feelings, but the
natural responses and optional reactions of a human being are unique,
and will always be a cut above the next I, Robot.
But we still need to be careful. The chancellor of a leading Australian
university told me that his institution recently conducted an experiment
where two computers were programmed to talk to each other. The
professors leading the project discovered the two computers were
developing their own language as part of an intimate dialogue, leading
the university to completely shut down the computers and the project.
It’s scary, but also indicative that humans must keep an eye on their
machines to stop the creation of something like Hal, that threatening
machine from the sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Once we’ve prepared with good data analytics, the question then turns
to how we are handling the art within this profession.
The art of human resources is akin to painting. The great masters
like Rembrandt, Da Vinci, and Whitely created their finest work with
the application of sensitive and accurate brushstrokes. It’s no different
for HR professionals who also need to apply considered brushstrokes to
Leading HR managers are known for having the basic infrastructure
in place and are always seeking innovative ways to enhance it. They
are also experts at adding those finer details, such as managing
interpersonal relationships with bosses, peers, and their colleagues.
They exercise that fine brushwork of influence to push erstwhile and
intransigent colleagues through confronting conflicts. They take the
heat out of challenging issues. They find the right encouragement and
incentives to lift personal bests at work to even higher planes. They
coach and mentor their co-workers into contributions that add value to
the big picture not otherwise seen or thought possible.
Both art and science are important in our profession. The availability
of excellent data analytics tools has made the science of HR much
easier, as long as we ensure that we reach for, learn from and apply its
capability and rigour when needed.
The high ground in our profession is still there for occupation by
the master painters with their fine brushstrokes. But achieving the
level of master-craftsman doesn’t come easily. Keep in mind, Da Vinci
and Rembrandt took hundreds of practice canvasses to arrive at their
masterpieces. It involves a large amount of trial and error and, after
experiential analysis, admitting that nex t time you will seek to apply
your best contributions in a better way. •••
Peter Wilson AM FCPHR
How to balance art and science in the HR profession.
BY PETER WILSON AM FCPHR AHRI CHAIRMAN
To read past Perspective columns by Peter
Wilson, visit hrmonline.com.au
23/5/19 5:13 pm
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