Uncomfortable reading for HR people this week in the shape of new research which shows they are largely viewed as ineffective and not fast or flexible enough to adapt their strategies to the changing world of work.

This serious ‘image’ problem is revealed in the KPMG/Economist Intelligence Unit report Rethinking HR for a Changing World, which asked senior executives across the globe for their views on how HR people added value to the business.

Survey respondents complained that HR wasn’t business-savvy enough, was struggling to cope with the demands of managing an increasingly mobile, global workforce and was too focused on the day-to-day tactical issues.

But perhaps the biggest message to emerge was the need for HR to get much ‘smarter’ in the way it uses technology to support the needs of the business and its employees.

Technology has already transformed HR practice to a significant degree.  Almost 70 per cent of the companies surveyed said their HR people were using web-based or mobile HR platforms to streamline their people management processes.  Many HR teams were also using apps and social media to gather data and improve employee communication.

The survey suggested, however, that HR people are nowhere near ready for the next technological leap – use of sophisticated data analytics which can help the business identify and predict talent needs and gaps and keep it ‘agile’ enough to cope with constant change and new challenges.

The report predicts that data analytics is the HR activity most likely to receive investment over the next three years and that the information it produces will eventually become as important to the CEO as the balance sheet and profit and loss statement.  But only 15 per cent of senior executives were confident that HR was able to provide insightful and predictive information about the current and future workforce.

HR people, they felt, were still locked into old approaches that centred around analysing historical information rather than trying to turn data into intelligent insight which could be disseminated across the organisation and used to inform business strategy.

Now it’s easy to come to the conclusion that this message about the need to be more technology-savvy and future focused applies only to HR people in big organisations who are running big talent management programmes and can afford expensive and sophisticated software systems.

But it’s important for HR people (or managers with responsibility for HR) in SMEs to wake up and smell the coffee too.  Thanks to developments in technology and the advent of the Cloud, sophisticated software is now within easy reach of companies of any size.  It can play a huge part in helping small or niche players get more business-savvy, foster collaboration and sharpen their competitive edge.

Here at Cezanne, we are helping to put HR at the heart of the business by adding new features to our HR software, designed to encourage knowledge sharing and improve communication and engagement.

Watch this space for more information about these exciting developments – and look out for next week’s blog, where we will be giving you some hints and tips on how HR can get more future focused and better support the business in achieving its objectives.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.