Due to recent client gigs I have been interacting with headhunters somewhat tightly. I try to keep an eye on my field, and tend to ask them what is going on with HR jobs in Scandinavia. One senior recruitment consultant said it. “There are loads of available HR managers, hundreds of applicants to open positions, including really good ones”. Many of the HR people in my own network are on the move, and very many HR people informing they are “looking for new opportunities” in Linked In, too. What is going on?

  1. Organizations are cost cutting and saving (at least in Finland), which means that internal development is often halted, BHR positions are discontinued, HRD budgets are cut
  2. HR pros with +10 years of experience are tired of the traditional way of doing HR, and are looking for something more meaningful. The number of HR pros willing to move their profession towards the agile, modern, open are growing, but the positions are few. We are witnessing the established “people management truths” and best practices dissolve. Our profession is finally changing! Many of the X-generation HR experts have been waiting for this for such a long time. So, skilled HR’s are competing for the higher profile modern jobs, because the same old HR is not appealing anymore
  3. The same HR-names are circling on the headhunters’ lists. We have a children’s song in Finland saying “piiri pieni pyörii”, which suits Finnish headhunting well. Basically means great candidates are found within a small circle of very good people with great records and recommendations. Scandinavia is very small. Everyone knows everyone
  4. The Y-gen and millenials are on the move, too, wanting to work for modern people operations or rather, choose to work in other functions than HR altogether. Having combos of highly relevant skills to work in the connected, data-driven world they just reinvent things, make mobile apps to handle “stuff”, and design an interactive ridiculously cool, personalized webpage integrated with social feeds and snapchat to cater for a communicative need instead of sending out a pdf newsletter on the intranet. Do you really think these people want the traditional HR managers to set up people practices for them? (Pdf’s? Grandma.). So hearsay tells that the younger HR stars with cross-pollinated digital skills don’t want to work for traditional HR functions, but choose something else, because they can. (They don’t want traditional HR’s to work for them, either, by the way…
  5. The traditional executives in larger organizations are not eagerly hiring HR Managers, either. Management is not really appreciating the value of traditional HR-practices (I don’t blame them) and frankly, most execs have no clue about the upcoming landscape of modern, contemporary, digital HR or self-organizing teams and organizations. So they don’t want to pay for the old stuff and don’t know (yet) to ask for the new stuff. Who is making the calls in larger Scandinavian organizations? An old school CEO (P>0.95, male in his 50’s, hardwired by industrial management thinking & behavior), with his old school, risk-averse VP HR (P>0.75, maybe), who does not have a LinkedIn profile and thinks Periscope has something to do with submarines. Analytics? Crunching people data together with financial data? Continuous deployment? Lean start-up? Teal? Will not ring a bell. In years. YEARS, people
  6. The SME executives seem to believe more in a “DIY-HR” than having professionals run their people operations. They have heard “Raising headcount with an HR Manager is useless and you can outsource or automate most of HR, and have employees/managers do the rest”. [Sidenote: I’ve seen and heard more super crappy DIY-HR-work performed (no matter if it is an attempt on modern HR or traditional HR) than heard about success stories of “DIY”-HR. You need to know the drill and love the game to be able to nail it, and most execs and managers do not love the internal HR game that much]
  7. Established small companies are hiring juniors to grow into a bigger HR-role as the company grows (such as digital recruiters). So they are not hiring experienced HR’s eithe
  8. (The public sector’s (HR) positions and people are not moving. And they never have. Period. So this is not a reason.)

I believe we are in the turning point of my wonderful profession. (Finally!)

Disclaimer: This is all my intuition, not based on any data nor scientific research, so go ahead, tear it to pieces and use common criticism. It’s just me and my biased point of view. Maybe the HR profession will continue as it is, when the economy hits off. (And maybe I will win the lottery).

What is like a big red exclamation mark from my perspective, but seems invisible for so many, is that the exact same development is going on in the employee-employer interface of knowledge work as is in the customer and end-user interface. Digitalization, data, analytics, lean startup service development, personification, individualization, tailoring, instant messaging, continuous information flow, transparency, recommendations and reviewing, … need I continue?

Because of sense of importance for top row, and impact on revenue streams (direct vs. indirect), the development in the customer interface is heading with a few years. Inevitably, want it or not, your knowledge worker talent pipeline is becoming digital, highly competed for and fully transparent. You need to know the digital groove to lead it! And you need to know what skills you need to buy/source/recruit to compensate for what you don’t know. But are we HR’s able to keep up with the learning pace and foremost; do we know what the relevant stuff to learn is? How quickly will executives start sporting with having hard-core modern thinking people professionals by their side as an asset? (I.e. when will they start recommending that to one another, since many executives are groupthinkers, listening mostly to the recommendations from their counterparts…)

For the ones who are saying a company can take in someone without HR expertise to lead the modern HR…Yes, with a killer HR-team this could be a great solution. Without it you’d mainly have a top digital leader/-performer trying to teach fish to climb a tree, hitting her head on the robust employee relations-, legal- and privacy frames in Scandinavia (due to lack of HR-game eye/experience), loosing her will to breathe in less than half a year.

So: as a semi-ruthless synthesis of this fully intuitive mumble is that the HR pro’s with +10 years of experience, who really are rocking the digital future are currently very, very few. The number of organizations or executives that understand or prioritize the need to modernize their HR or people operations are currently even less.

The rest? They are just playing the “traditional HR-manager’s musical chairs” together, heading for redundancy sooner or later.

The good news is that we might see a ketchup effect. All it requires is a big one who succeeds in modernizing HR with i.e. great impact on profitability, or a multinational crunching their data connecting employee engagement with customer NPS or revenue streams. This will start catching interest with execs and boards. Or maybe a chairman who insists on having a couple of millenials on the board, asking a bit too uncomfortable questions about outdated employee practices. I’m sure, when I speak with the same recruitment consultant in 2-3 years, she will say “There is a lot of traditional HR Managers on the market but not enough senior HR pros that can co-lead the digital change”.

To all of my traditional and modern HR-professional friends out there, let’s keep on surfing the change-waves in 2016. Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading,

Riina

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