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over 1 year ago by Peter Fitzroy

What does a Next Gen HR Leader look like?


The phrase ‘Reinvent HR’ is certainly not a new thing to be written about but there can be no doubt that business is being reinvented, and at a faster rate than ever before. Whether it’s the gig economy, FinTech, or AI, the way we go about work is going through a transformation and that means HR is transforming with it…

With this transformation, brings many questions? Common questions I get asked all the time,

‘What capabilities do you think we need in our new HR Director?’


‘How can I tell a good HR leader from a bad one?’


‘What should my HR be prioritising today?’

Unfortunately there are no simple answers to these questions. It isn’t one size fits all. All companies are different sizes, with different business models and at different stages of maturity or stages of digital transformation.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a phrase that springs to mind...

But what I can share is a few common traits we are seeing from the best HR talent in Thailand and how you can start applying today...

1. They are focussed on driving culture

It seems like it’s took a generational shift to realise that people want to be happy and do meaningful work. Of course Peter Drucker’s famous quote, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ was written decades ago and business leaders and management scholars have long known that if you have a happy and engaged workforce you get better results. The problem has always been how do you manage it and see tangible returns? Far easier to manage say, strategy than identify the unspoken behaviors and patterns of a workforce.

But these are testing times. Recruiting talent is at an all time high, at the same time keeping your talent is at an all time low. The need to understand culture and how you can use it for positive business performance has accelerated as baby boomers have retired, and millennials have took over the workforce. With differing views of the world, different expectations of what they want to get out of their career, together with the pace of technological change and ‘war for talent’ means people don’t want, nor have to work in a place where they are not happy.

Great HR leaders know this and are embracing this challenge. They know having a great culture is a key driver to retaining talent and attracting fresh talent. They are working hard to link culture with positive business outcomes by understanding and defining what their company culture is and what makes their company a great place. They are building comprehensive playbooks with frameworks that drive engagement, attract talent and progress careers.

Companies like Google, Netflix, and Zappos are well known examples of successful businesses who have developed unique cultures to a point where they now have a ‘cult’ like following.

New HR startups like Culture Amp and locally based are culture and engagement platforms that can help you collect, understand and act on employee feedback in real time to develop and harness your culture for positive results.

2. They are increasingly looking at people data

According to HBR, more than 70% of companies rate People Analytics as a high priority, yet Big Data budgets account for only 5% to HR. I suppose it’s unsurprising that I hear HR Leaders not using people data enough. Sometimes this is because their global HR systems haven’t been rolled out locally, often it’s because they don’t know how to use the data but mostly it’s because they are too focussed on non strategic HR work.

The best HR people are not only obsessing over data today, but they are being strategic with it for business decisions. Just because you’ve done a survey and found out your staff love the new free gym membership, if you can’t tie that back to an increase in productivity or revenue, it’s not adding value. Whilst no one expects HR to be designing these statistical models (yet!), you need to be able to interpret data and look for patterns. The best HR people are working closely with their IT department to ensure they have this performance data and also working in tandem with Finance to use their people metrics like ‘Quality of Hire’ to determine things like, ‘What are our new hires real impact to the bottom line?’

CEO’s are increasingly looking at their HR Director to play a more significant role in business outcomes, so being able to interpret and translate your people data into business language for your boss to understand and make key decisions from, is a skill that is going to become a prerequisite in the coming years.

Companies like Visier are providing very cool people analytics and workforce solutions that can help companies predict outcomes and make better people and business decisions.

3. They are focussed on business issues not HR issues

This follows on from the importance of people data. CEOs and the best HR leaders know that having people first strategy can drive business strategy and getting them right results in one in the same. People analytics, performance data and HRIS systems being used today are making it opportune for HR to offer performance insights and advise their leadership teams on business issues that can be solved with people.

The best HR people I have visited are business partners first, HR second. They are working closely with the major stakeholders understanding what are the problems, threats, and opportunities in each business function. It might be advising the customer service team, looking at the link between the team and an increase in customer complaints. It could be with Marketing to understand how to drive sales through better employee experience. Wherever it is the best HR people are involved in all aspects of the business, in the meetings, out and about, talking to employees, acting as business partners, strategic thinkers, offering ‘non HR’ opinion and thinking about how to unleash human capital to solve problems.

Next-gen HR leaders are not focussed on processes and problems for HR sake, but for HR to be aligned to the business needs. The only way to get the credibility and to be involved in the strategic conversations is for you to know your stuff, and to know your stuff you have to get out of your comfort zone and be prepared to learn and be challenged.

These 3 traits are only going to become more commonly required but EXPECTED in the coming years and the best HR talent will become highly sought after and highly rewarded financially but also in terms of impact to business and society.

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