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Business News/ News / Business Of Life/  Anthony Abbatiello | The top trends in HR

Anthony Abbatiello | The top trends in HR

Handling an 'extended' workforce and keeping up with advances in technology pose new challenges for human resource managers

Anthony Abbatiello of Accenture at the company’s New Delhi office. Photo: Rituparna Banerjee/MintPremium
Anthony Abbatiello of Accenture at the company’s New Delhi office. Photo: Rituparna Banerjee/Mint


The nature of work and the workforce is changing, indicates Anthony Abbatiello, managing director and global human resource (HR) consulting lead at Accenture’s Management Consulting practice. At the end of three years in an ongoing research programme at the US-headquartered consultancy, Abbatiello and his team have put together a list of 10 trends that are shaping the future of HR. These include the impact of technology and the rise of the “extended workforce", which will offer companies the flexibility to hire skilled professionals temporarily—to meet a specific business need or stage in business development.

Abbatiello was in New Delhi recently for a meeting with chief human resource officers of Indian companies. At Accenture’s Connaught Place office, he spoke about the need for HR to become more agile, more attuned to global labour relations, and adopt technology in a big way to stay on top of the spate of changes. Edited excerpts:

How are social media and cloud computing changing the HR function?

Digital—social, cloud, analytics and mobile—radically disrupts HR. It’s both how HR is preparing as digital takes over in every industry—retail, products, health, financial services—and how digital is disrupting HR as a function.

Social is starting to combine social media channels and HR, to help us source new talent. One of the areas we see as an example of this is employee-referral matching, where you show interest in a job and have the option to get referred by someone who works in that company and may be in your LinkedIn contacts.

Cloud is probably the biggest disruptor we’re seeing for HR right now because cloud technology is not an if, it’s a when. Most of our HR clients are moving to the cloud, whether that is in their core workday or goal success factors or starting to leverage top management suites in the cloud, and certainly to take advantage of the significant cost of ownership reduction. But the bigger benefit is more in the larger capability gain they are getting on the talent management side.

The second trend in this theme is social media and the democratization of work. Employees today are sharing much more, so there is a lot of social listening—we are seeing internal and external listening. We are seeing social media channels being able to provide information about a CEO’s likeability, leadership of the company, and what interview processes are like. It’s no longer in the confines of the employer. It’s now really started to get to a broader reach.

How can the HR function become more agile?

There’s the agile organization and HR supporting them as a function. And then there is HR becoming more agile. HR becoming more agile means more flexibility in the HR professionals so that they may be mobilized towards different types of business events. So I may do a merger today, I may run the performance management process, I may work on an emerging market or a new market entry strategy. HR needs to have the agility to move through these different types of flexing and contraction within their function.

What does this mean for HR in the context of an increasingly global workforce?

There are two areas where we are seeing this change. The first: The global talent map loses its border. This really is about HR becoming an expert in global mobility and international assignment management. As an HR manager, I need to understand the different kinds of labour relations and labour agreements in the different geographies. So that if my business manager says we are looking at expanding in these markets, I can figure out where is the best talent in the world for that job, and how do I broker that talent and manage that talent. Which lends itself to the next one about tapping talent anywhere, any time.

What is the “extended" workforce?

The workforce of the future and the future of work will obviously change. What we see in the extended workforce is companies trying to take a structured approach to how they manage the different tiers of their workforce—tier I being my full-time employees that I manage on a regular basis. The second tier may be my preferred suppliers that I go to for different types of initiatives—IT (information technology), supply-chain type of work. A third is starting to develop where you have agreements with different workforce entities that may be able to provide support for me in different stages of my business life cycle. You see this a lot around the seasonality of the retail cycle.

Around the holidays and different types of seasonal cycles, retailers will try to hire up temporary staff and then move them out. Taking that a level up, we’ll start to see many different organizations and industries—financial services, banking, hi-tech, healthcare—where clients will see which skills they’re going to need (at the time) and develop different contracts for those different types of work.

What this is creating is not just an opportunity for the fluidity I have in hiring or expanding during growth and contracting when we have different business events. But I’ve actually started to tap into a workforce that is actually looking for this type of flexibility. So I may work three months for one client, three months for another company. I may take off for two months and then work another two months. It gives me flexibility at different times in my life.

How can companies look at providing incentives now?

The companies that get this (see the previous answer) right will provide incentives for the individuals based on business result. So as the business leader I am still incentivized to get the business result I need and that’s why I am going after this skill or going after hiring these individuals. It’s a very similar model to professional services. I hire consultants, I hire actuaries or accountants to provide me with specific value in the result that I am looking for in a project. If it’s seasonal talent, if it’s contract talent, if it’s in the extended workforce, there are three ways in which you can drive incentive for the individual—by providing the opportunity; providing the fee base or salary base and then having a sort of incentive based on performance; and a value-based arrangement. This (last) is what we’re seeing a lot with the extended workforce—arrangements that are directly related to the business impact for the organization.

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Published: 27 Apr 2014, 12:10 PM IST
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