HR future leader of the month: Sunil Purba

HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the industry to discover what makes them tick

I reached out to anyone I could in order to start my career in HR. Eventually a friend of a friend gave me the number of his HR director and said “give him a call”. That led to six months volunteering at their company, and when an HR admin position opened I got offered the job.

Moving into my first management role was a milestone, it was a natural step and I was confident of doing a great job. It provided me with a a sense of achievement because I was eager to get stuck in and prove my ability as a manager.

With many HR departments starting their digital transformation journey in 2020, there are just as many failing to keep up with the change coming our way. We hear terms like chatbots and automation being bandied around, but my biggest fear for HR is not realising the benefits these can bring – and understandably because we are used to dealing with people not robots.

Over the next five years I believe we’ll see the end of five-day working weeks, and a shift away from the nine-to-five culture. Having the ability to work in a flexible way will become a popular choice for many, and HR is going to play a key role in supporting both employees and organisations to find this ‘balance’ between running a business successfully and keeping employees happily engaged.

When I retire HR will still be working to train and upskill people. The landscape is constantly changing and we need to be ready to reskill our people, especially those whose tasks may become automated in the future.

In HR I think we’ll see the emergence of new roles too such as HR data scientists and employee experience specialists. This brings lots of fresh challenges as we will have to train employees for roles that never existed previously.

I would like to remain focused on the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in HR, which I believe will be more important than ever as technology moves us forward.

Sunil Purba is employee relations manager at Severn Trent

This piece appears in the March 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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