The Future of People Management – Wild Thoughts – Interview with Barbara Aeschlimann

Dr. Barbara Aeschlimann is a Senior HR Executive and HR Director with over 25 years of leading edge experience in talent acquisition and people management matters. In her role of the Managing Director of the largest professional body for Human Resources Management in Switzerland (ZGP) and as the Chairperson of the International HR Community IHRC she supports and guides HR people and organizations in the current transformation to (re-)define their role and to find best fit approaches to their challenges, with a strong and sustained focus on the human aspects of current digitization and automation.

Q: We as people management professionals are lucky to be living in interesting times for our profession. What drew you to our field originally?

A: The honest.. and blunt answer: dealing with people and people issues! Eventually it brought me to other interesting learnings like dealing with figures, project management and many more. What lasts is my genuine interest in cooperating with people, finding best fit ways of how things in organizations can be improved, to the benefit of the employees and the organization.

Q: People management is undergoing rapid change – driven among other by technology such as digitalization, analytics and AI. What are your thoughts on the challenges and opportunities presented by the new tools?

A: In my view chances and challenges are very much balanced when it comes to new developments. There are three criteria that are to be kept in mind when dealing with those new aspects as people managers:

1. Even not knowing what the future will exactly look like, make yourself a vision of where you see your company and HR in the future

2. Make yourself knowledgeable about what is possible

3. Ask yourself: Is the new trend bringing the company’s people culture (near or) to the next level

4. Motivate your HR colleagues to be courageous when it comes to try and error (yes, errors are allowed!)

Q: Another hot topic is the ‘war for talent’ as hiring the best talents becomes increasingly competitive. Apart from the impact of the technologies we discussed, what important trends are there in this area?

A: Network, network, network – is not only important for candidates, but increasingly also for recruiters. Be active and specific on social media, make your people the ambassadors of your company motivating them to seek for colleagues, translate your company’s employee experience into successful employer branding measures. And: let the candidate experience come true. In other words: make candidates – also those who were not a match – part of your and your company’s actively managed and appreciated network

Q: What other key, potentially disruptive developments do you see in people management currently and in the future?

A: Automation of processes and products will bring a massive shift to the (remaining) HR profiles – AI with even greater impact, but potentially at a slower pace. HR today is predominantly acting as problem solver, trouble shooter, tomorrow we need programming as well as analytical skills on top.

Q: SMEs are an important economic factor in many countries: what would be your main advice for people management professionals in SMEs facing the challenges of the current environment?

A:Focus on the 3-4 areas that are essential for the success of the company you work for – be it workforce or succession planning, be it changing/developing the business model or attracting talent. For the rest: seek for (outside) help! SME should hire HR people to help develop the strategy, many of the admin tasks can be either automated, done by someone else or outsourced.

Q: What is your most important advice for the next generation of HR professionals?

A: Expect the unexpected! Make yourself knowledgeable, be on top of key trends in people management and society. Network, network….!

Q: Thinking out of the box, what are your ‘wildest’ thoughts about the future of people management?

A: Probably not ‘wild’ in the very sense of the word, but more of a wish and certainly not reality yet:

People management is at the heart of EVERY people manager – regardless of the situation you are in (transformation, financial constraints etc.), values such as adequate involvement and development of people (inside or outside), transparent and respectful conversation are upheld!

Q: Many thanks Barbara Aeschlimann for for sharing your thoughts about the future of people management and for being a passionate advocate of our profession.