By Melissa J. Anderson

A new study by KPMG suggests that Human Resources is lacking in respect throughout the rest of the organization. One of the reasons, the report explains, is that it hasn’t always had a keen focus on business needs. A second cause is that HR’s work is primarily behind the scenes – few actually witness what gets done in the organization. Thirdly, much of the labor within HR is transactional – record keeping, filing, etc. As a result, many people in companies – and in HR itself – see the field as ineffective, or at least non-strategic.

But, KPMG says, it’s time for those viewpoints to change.

Mark Spears, KPMG Global Head of People and Change, commented in the report, “Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World has provided us with a fresh view of the path ahead for leaders of the HR function. We believe that a number of areas such as workforce analytics, talent management and technology will reinforce the need for HR to make the people agenda as important to business leaders as the balance sheet and P&L statement.”

The shift to a more global, mobile workforce has created an opportunity for HR to become more of a strategic player. New developments in technology can assist in this transformation. Here’s how.

Global Challenges

According to the study of over 400 executives, one of the greatest challenges facing companies today is making sure the right people are in the right jobs. Four out of five respondents (81 percent) said an effective talent management strategy is crucial for gaining the competitive edge in their industries. Similarly, almost three in five (59 percent) say they think HR will grow in strategic importance.

On the other hand, only 17 percent say they feel HR is good at demonstrating it’s business value.

One of the biggest hurdles, KPMG says, is the new global workforce. Almost three quarters (71 percent) say the believe working with people in other geographies has increased over the last 3 years. And at over half of the companies polled in the study, “international reporting lines and talent flows have also become more common.”

Furthermore, KPMG continues, “Yet only about one in four respondents say that HR at their company excels at core issues such as sourcing and retaining key talent globally; supporting a virtual and flexible workforce; and supporting the greater globalization of the business.”

Not only are HR responsibilities moving across boarders, people everywhere are becoming more interested in shifting roles – the desire for job mobility is high, creating a retention challenge that falls on HR’s shoulders.


KPMG believes that HR executives can gain more respect and provide more value within their organizations by placing more emphasis on the business advantages they can provide. It also recommends communicating in business terms that people in other lines can understand and relate to their needs.

Additionally, the report continues, the move to more digitized information systems will help free up HR staffing to focus on roles in leadership and career development.

“Sixty-nine percent of companies surveyed say it is more common for the HR function to provide web-based and/or mobile HR platforms (e.g. benefits, payroll) than it was 3 years ago; only 3 percent of respondents have cut back on these technology enhancements. These have already enabled HR to do its basic, administrative work faster and more efficiently. They have also provided employees with more flexible and tailored training opportunities while creating a positive culture for communication.”

By automating or digitizing more transactional responsibilities, and relying on analytics programs more effectively, HR can reinvent itself, the study says. It could also create a stronger relationship with leaders at all levels of the corporate hierarchy by engaging line managers in more of the technology-driven HR services.

This will enable HR to play a more active role in people management, build up respect and an understanding of what the department actually does, and develop a better understanding within HR professionals on how they can help meet business needs and provide strategic business advantages.