HR Innovation Outlook 2019 (and beyond)


HR Innovation Outlook 2019 (and beyond)

Martina Weiner, partner and MD at i-potentials, gives you her take on what the upcoming months have in store for business leaders facing digitalization, skill shortage and building an organization which can last in a VUCA world.

As the talent squeeze in developed economies is becoming more severe, 2018 has been a rough awakening for CEOs across the globe. If they want to drive digitalization and sustain growth in a VUCA setup, they need to overhaul their definitions on leadership and talent - in some cases, drastically. People managers everywhere are scrambling for innovative ways to hire and retain the best employees in their organizations - and the show has only just begun: Fully 60 percent of global executives in a recent McKinsey survey expect that up to half of their organization’s workforce will need retraining or replacing within five years.  

2019 Leadership: Who owns digital?

When it comes to matters of the digital realm, many CEOs still turn to tech first. The role of Chief Digital or Chief Information Officer is definitely important. But digital is so much more. In order to successfully drive your organization through phases of fast-paced change, digital mindset and digital literacy at some point need to leave their breeding ground. So, no matter which C-level function is yours, you need to have at least a baseline understanding of the interdependencies necessary to digitize your business (digital literacy) and to hire and develop the right people in your company to use their diverse skill sets to make the right decisions for the future (digital mindset).

The Rise of Automation: Will 2019 (finally) be the death of HR as we know it?

If you read just a small selection of the many reports on the potential uses of Artificial Intelligence and automation within human resources, the overwhelming sense is that business leaders can’t get their HR people out the door fast enough.

And it’s true, thanks to the advances in machine learning, many repetitive administrative tasks are already or will soon be outsourced to automated systems - from payroll management to talent sourcing and all the way to finding candidates by voice search and advanced personality & IQ matching algorithms. However, deducting that the people division in your company will soon function without - well - people...that actually says more about the lack of development in HR roles than it does about the advance of technology.

Being free of all their time-consuming administrative tasks, people and organizational strategists should sooner rather than later focus on value creation in terms of:

  • Defining, identifying and acquiring top candidates who create business value
  • Training business leaders and hiring manager so they can actually retain the talent
  • Building organizational systems that carry the value proposition towards the customer

This is brilliantly explained by Dr. Dave Ulrich from the University of Michigan in this video:

We need to talk: Recruiters and HR tech providers need to consolidate their agendas

Amidst the talk about data-driven recruitment and people analytics, new HR tech providers pop up on the market nearly every day (last year, at i-potentials we counted more than 300 providers just for the D-A-CH region alone). And as HR departments, and particularly talent acquisition managers, are becoming more KPI-savvy and data minded, the largely fragmented market for HR solutions can feel like an overwhelmingly large candy store. So large, that the person getting lost is the one that matters most: the candidate. At a recent HR tech conference in London, we learned that in some companies 1 candidate/employee has up to 13 different records in different systems.

So, by all means, keep building and investing in data analysis tools in 2019, but be very aware that first things should come first: In a candidate market, creating a seamless candidate experience across all systems, for example, is the key to winning the “War for Talent”. In the same vein, the only HR systems providers who will stand the test of time will be those who understand the importance of systems integration - even if that means partnering with other providers and opening development processes to best serve the user.   

Digital education: How do we fill the pipe?

It’s one thing to talk about building a digital mindset and literacy within the company set-up you currently have at hand. Still, the skill shortage in many developed countries is already real. Even in a scenario of an economic setback in 2019, that trend is unlikely to completely reverse itself as knowledge cycles become shorter and shorter. Therefore, now is the time to completely rethink education and talent definition in the digital age -  that includes all stages of schooling from early childhood education to universities, and it also includes acknowledging that learning doesn’t stop once a degree is completed.

On-the-job training and development are key, but we need a different understanding of talent to justify that kind of investment. We do not have to get savvier in recruiting for hard skills. We need to get better at identifying, sourcing and diagnosing the (soft) skills which are transferable to different roles in our specific business context - only then can we start to build sustainable and reliable talent pipes for highly flexible organizations.  


Martina Weiner is one of the pioneers of digital recruitment in the DACH region. In 2011 she started building the teams and C-suites of hyper-growth companies with fast-scaling business models: today, she is a managing director at i-potentials and, as a partner, also develops people strategies of digital transformation projects. Before she joined i-potentials, she was Chief of Staff at the Berlin-based incubator and investor Team Europe.

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