How can HR translate trends that organisations are facing, such as the ageless and collaborative workforce, into practical actions in a way that is meaningful to leaders and employees alike? What exactly is an "HR Anticipator"?  How can the HR manager anticipate and prepare for change? In this article, WDI Consulting Limited share their insight.

Future trends

A Future Workplace report by UNUM outlined the four key trends that organisations are facing: the ageless workforce, the mindful workforce, the intuitive workforce and the collaborative workforce.  The report encourages organisations to anticipate and plan for these trends in order to meet tomorrow’s business challenges, because these trends are future drivers of innovation, value and performance. 

Businesses will likely assign responsibility for anticipating their response to these trends firmly at the door of HR so what does it means for HR professionals?  In the recent Global Leadership Forecast research, HR as “anticipators” were found to be more likely to be an integral part of their organisations’ strategic planning process, and that this kind of involvement pays dividends for business.  HR Anticipators involvement means their business is six times more likely to have exhibited strong financial performance compared to organisations where HR’s involvement in the strategic planning process is late or non-existent. 

So how do HR Anticipators translate these trends into practical actions in a way that is meaningful to leaders and employees alike? 

Take the creative advertising agency TBWA\.  When new Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Peter Souter joined, he had benefited from personal coaching and saw a competitive advantage to developing people to be their best selves.   He recognised the trend toward more collaboration and mindfulness and wanted to bring his insights of coaching into the company.  The result was an internal TBWA\ ‘Train and Grow’ programme.  The first module was called ‘Be the Best You’, which involved profiling for the whole company, not only client-facing people.  The key aim was to evolve each individual into bettering their understanding of themselves and their colleagues, which in turn would improve the quality of the creative output.   

Employee engagement

This personal approach recognises that engagement comes when employees are treated as individuals.  Thus it was not ‘Be the best employer of the year’ but ‘Be the Best YOU’.  TBWA\ recognised that employee engagement, and loyalty is based on a social contract that includes honouring their personal values, stories and their purpose too.  TBWA\ believes strongly in allowing employees to be their true authentic self at work, just as they are outside.  

When an organisation takes a ‘journey of transformation’, of critical importance is the recognition that individuals also experience their own personal journey in the midst of that change.  Transformation needs to be about far more than self-sacrificing heroes giving their all to the business and more about exploring ways to ensure that individuals are heroes of their own lives. 

HRDs like Tressandra Henderson from TBWA\ are pioneering a more personal and anticipatory approach to how HR partners with the business that builds on some of these ideas. 

“A great deal of what HR is all about is the trust that people have in you as a person, which is gained by genuinely caring, being empathetic and intuitive with people related matters,” says Tressandra.  “I have to be human and I have to be accessible and, most of all, I have to recognise that it isn’t just about work – people have their own lives and my job is to support them.” 

TBWA\ Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Peter Souter agreed that telling stories that speak to and ignite every hero in his business results in both sides benefiting. 

“‘Be the Best You’ was about our understanding that, if we want to keep the best people, our vision needs to be more reciprocal with their own understanding of what is important to them,” he says.  “They need to have a distinctive role in the organisation’s vision.  They need to be part of it, but they need to benefit from it too.”

Alison Chadwick of Grow People was a key partner for TBWA\ in the development of the ‘Train and Grow’ programme.  She states that “HR is a critical conduit for change in a creative business where talent really is the key asset.  With TBWA\, HR and their close contact with every element of the business, the programme translated high level organisational strategy into tangible, accessible initiatives that were relevant to employees and made a real difference to loyalty, retention and sustainable growth”. 

A new role for HR

There are important lessons from this.    

The first is that, as the recent Global Leadership Forecast points out, HR has been slow to reflect the creativity and innovation that businesses need now.  Adopting more of an anticipator role is one way the HR function is beginning to address this. 

Second, HR is so much more than a centre of expertise or a provider of advice and data.  Honing its ability to listen deeply to employees and then telling stories that speak to the hopes and dream of their people will help shape and evolve cultures allowing more people to flourish. 

HR’s anticipatory role has more recently extended to utilising the latest neuroscience research, which reveals that people see work as a social experience rather than just a financial one.   

“The ability to intentionally address the social brain in the service of optimal performance will be a distinguishing leadership capability in the years ahead,” wrote Neuro-leadership Institute director David Rock.


WDI Consulting is a niche consultancy with one main goal – to partner with organisations who want to bring about change. 


What are your thoughts on the evolving role of HR in the future world of work? Do you have an opinion or any insights to share on this topic? Leave a comment in the box below!

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