HR in the age of disruption
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HR in the age of disruption

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak and participate in an event organised by the Stock Exchange of Thailand on the theme of “Sustainability Human Resources Strategy: Beyond HRM Approaches”.

Indeed, the topic went above and beyond just Human Resources Management approaches. We delved into the issue of HR in the age of disruption: what practitioners need to do not just to survive but to thrive in the long run when everything is constantly being disrupted.

I thought the information we shared during the session was rather insightful; hence, I will briefly summarise a few points in this article.

Truth be told, disruption has penetrated every industry and every aspect of our lives. Disruption is here to stay, so if we cannot run away from it, then I suggest we face it head-on. In the world of business, even more so, if we’re not disrupting ourselves, we will soon be disrupted. In other words, to change before we have to is a much better path to take than to change because we have to. 

Now, what are some of the factors that are causing disruption for those in the HR field? To name but a few, we could point to the rise of contingent labour, the multi-generational workforce, the boom in consumerisation, the upsurge of entrepreneurs and startups, as well as the growth of the C generation, along with digital disruption.

This rapidly changing business landscape forces HR people to demonstrate the agility to lead the change in culture, programmes, processes and policies. The question is, what does a future-fit HR operation look like? What should HR do to survive and win in this disruptive era? There could be a few answers but I would like to highlight a few things they need to understand so that they can adapt and change their ways of working accordingly.

First, HR needs to truly understand the flexible work environment. Employees of the future are no longer bound to stay in the office, sit in a cubicle and work from 9 to 5. Rather, they will become location-independent and will be able to work when and where they want as long as they can get access to WiFi and manage to get the jobs done. This is because internet and mobile devices have transformed the way people work, interact and collaborate.

Next, the use of new methods to communicate and collaborate must be promoted immediately. Email will no longer be considered the most effective or efficient way to communicate or collaborate. Instead, technologies such as internal collaboration platforms are going to replace email in many situations.

In a similar way, new technological tools are being used to increase employee engagement in organisations. Staff will have the unique opportunities to become leaders by sharing their ideas and feedback in a public and transparent way for their colleagues, supervisors and executives to see. Technology has dramatically empowered people to build networks within organisations on a large scale and to obtain immediate recognition for their contributions.

In this new work environment, sharing is power, and that is an attitude that will become even more prevalent than the old practice of hoarding information so that nobody else can take credit for ideas. This is because to be the smartest person in the room today with a lot of information and knowledge, all you need is a smartphone and the internet. What is far more crucial and valuable than knowledge is to ability to learn new things and apply the acquired knowledge into action.

The bottom line is that whether you are the leaders of your organisations or you are the HR practitioners, accept the fact that these disruptions are here to stay and become champions of this change within organisations rather than followers.

In fact, why don’t you try to ideate, create and disrupt the HR organisation to stay ahead of the race? As leaders, assess where HR’s time and resources are going. Scan the market for disruptive technologies, invest a little bit more in upgrading the capabilities of yourself and your team to take the full advantage of technology.

Last but not least, future-fit HR practices shouldn’t be confined only to the HR realm. Top companies now view human resource management through a marketing lens, so before I finish this article I’d like to suggest that you incorporate Design Thinking into HR approaches.

Begin with “empathy” or trying to understand your employees’ needs, as well as the user experience. Once you do this you can get a better understanding of your workforce, and in this way I am certain that you will be able to help your organisation maximise the impact of new digital technologies in the age of disruption.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia's leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at or

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