HR leader of the month: Rob Gower

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HR magazine speaks to the leaders of the function about what they think will shape it

What are your main concerns in HR today?

We may already be tired of talking about it but Brexit, and the terms on which we leave the EU, will have a big impact across many sectors. It is already presenting profound challenges of engagement and retention with current staff, and gives the country a big image problem with the international talent we are seeking to attract. Putting the rights and wrongs of Brexit aside, the way the negotiations are conducted means that we won’t really know exactly what we are dealing with until it hits us, which is never a good place for organisations to be.

What will become more important for HR over the next five years?

I’m really interested to see how increased use of big data and predictive analytics changes the world of work – although it may take more than five years to come to fruition in some sectors. The implications are huge when you think about how such insight could change the way organisations recruit and manage the performance of talent. Organisational access to such data also raises some pretty fundamental questions about the relationship between employer and employee and what information an employer can legitimately access. Within HR we need to ask ourselves whether we currently have the skills needed for such a future.

What subjects will HR still be tackling when you retire?

It’s hard to predict what societal challenges we will be grappling with in the workplace when I retire. The challenge of engaging openly and constructively with a broad variety of employees to build the trust will remain the same. Similarly, wherever people are the key organisational resource then HR will always be required to deal with the myriad complex and sensitive issues that arise when you bring people with different skills, outlooks and personalities together.

What do you plan to do to change HR for the better?

The best HR professionals I have worked with contribute to the success of organisations in ways far beyond the traditional boundaries of the profession. I’d like to role model such contributions in my own practice and develop the skills and confidence of colleagues so they can see that not only can they contribute in such a way, but that they absolutely should. It may take people out of their comfort zone but it is incredibly rewarding.

Rob Gower is head of HR services at the University of Sheffield

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