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Sunil Puri: What Human Resource Managers Need To Know

In this two-part series, Sunil Puri discusses how it’s time Asian HR leaders get with the programme

In a research paper co-authored by Puri, it highlighted that only one in five leaders claim that their HR function is “future-ready”.

“The human resource (HR) leader of the future will be much like a Marvel superhero.” This was an analogy one chief HR officer (CHRO) made recently to Sunil Puri. Unfortunately, the reality is that most practitioners in Asia today are polar opposites from those much-admired comic book characters.

The statistics speak for themselves.

In a research paper co-authored by Puri, it highlighted that only one in five leaders claim that their HR function is “future-ready”. “In most enterprises, it is unable to keep up with the pace of change in business environment. Moreover, it is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts, not only due to technology and tools, but also from incremental expectations CEOs have of the HR function,” he points out.

Puri is the APAC Head of Research, Innovation and Product Development at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), which published his study titled CHRO 3.0: Preparing to Lead the Future HR Function in Asia. He says that to stay relevant in the future, incumbent HR leaders will therefore need a different mindset, skill set and toolset.

Through the CHRO3.0 research study, he made it an objective to identify mindset shifts HR leaders need to make, and areas they need to work on from a skill standpoint. The key highlights are:

1. Being open to adopting technology and make it a best friend
2. Harness the power of the multitude of data collected and turn it into insights that matter
3. Thinking about the HR leader role differently by keeping employee experience central
4. Being selective about taking on new responsibilities – do only what matters most
5. Thinking differently about how HR and the business interplays (through having an outside-in perspective)
6. Being equal partners with the business rather than a rule-enforcer
7. Playing the proactive or “doctor” role to solving HR-business issues

Puri recognises these shifts are not easy to make, and as with any change management process, will propel HR leaders out of their comfort zone. The first way to do it is to understand and appreciate that business-as-usual will not work. “Whatever has made HR leaders successful until now will not be enough to take their career to the next level, especially in view of the changing business-HR-technology-talent context,” he notes.

Secondly, HR leaders will have to be self-aware of their self-development, including their needs and strengths. This means they need to become agile learners to not only learn new skills and capabilities, but also to “learn the art of learning”. Finally, they will need to take immediate action to be ready for the next decade, and not procrastinate it by a few years.

“One of the leaders we interviewed used 360-degree reviews and the practice of journaling to be more self-aware and to centre her energy on key priorities. Another took a risk on her career, spending a few years outside the HR function, to get an outside-in view on the function and to understand what businesses need from HR,” he shares.

“A third, realising that the function will be more multi-disciplinary in the future, took on projects that cut across different functions – finance, sales, operations, or legal – within the organization. Yet another leader leaned forward to opt for a global rotation to expose herself to multicultural and multi-stakeholder environments.”

In his report, Puri also predicts three different types of Asian CHROs that will emerge over the next decade:

1. Global business partners: leaders with deep HR expertise and a career spent in multinationals
2. Business consiglieres: HR leaders who have spent the bulk of their career in business and made a mid-career switch to HR
3. New-age avatars: HR leaders in new age enterprises and startups who also wear a business and technology hat

The question is which one are you. If it is none of the above, well, it is time to get with the programme and start that mindset shift. Adds Puri, “Incumbent leaders claim that it will be a hard journey. HR leaders will need to be self-aware of their capabilities and development areas, be collaborative with other functions, and have the agility to learn new disciplines.”

Did someone say Marvel superhero?

You can read part one here.