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Toby Peyton-Jones: HR must be aware of 'megatrends'


Technological change, the dominance of human capital, and culture's role in business are key issues going forwards

HR must be aware of the ‘megatrends’ shaping the future of business, according to Toby Peyton-Jones, HR director at Siemens UK & North West Europe.

“If you look at some of the tectonic plates that are moving in the external environment, it’s clear worldwide that some major shifts are happening,” Peyton-Jones told HR magazine ahead of his talk at the CIPD conference. “We are facing ‘megatrends’ around technology and social change in society.”

Peyton-Jones said human behaviour is being shaped by developments in technology. “People can now have conversations in real time, very fast,” he said. “So do your employees need to be present in the office? How much and what proportion of their work will be online or via remote interaction?”

HR must be careful not to get lost in a “sea of data” as the reach of technology increases, however. “It can be quite dangerous to get lost in a whole load of numbers,” Peyton-Jones warned. “You can look at the clouds and convince yourself that you’ve seen a face, and similarly data can also be misleading and create diversions. The key thing is to immerse ourselves in the business strategy, and then to look at data that is really relevant.”

“I think in HR, we’re going to see two main themes,” he added. “One is that traditional HR will be happening online. Off-boarding, on-boarding, being able to pay people or provide benefits – these will all happen in an online role.

“Secondly, the question about human capital will become far more dominant as a piece in the strategic agenda for HR, and the strategic agenda for businesses.”

Peyton-Jones predicted that company culture will become a focal point for HR leaders. “You can see that from Enron, to the banking crisis, to Volkswagen – something went fundamentally wrong in the culture of those organisations,” he said. “How we look at culture in the workplace will become, and is already becoming, a huge topic, and one that will dictate the success or failure of the business.

“The Stock Exchange doesn’t like surprises so if HR can bring to the table early warning systems, and a commentary on the reporting and balance sheet about the development of the culture, I think that could be really useful.”

He added: “The world is changing very fast. That throws up both huge opportunities and huge challenges. HR needs to be adapting and changing, and asking how these trends are going to play out.”