Global HR leaders split on urgent need to drive HR function into the future

The Future of HR 2019: In the Know or In the No.


Two-thirds of HR leaders have no digital plan; only 37 percent are “very confident” on ability to transform: 21st annual KPMG International survey

Today’s HR leaders are divided on the urgent need to redefine the Human Resources function for success in the 21st century, according to KPMG International’s global survey of over 1200 HR leaders, entitled The Future of HR 2019: In the Know or In the No.

While some HR leaders are confidently harnessing the resources and insights that will transform HR and its value to the enterprise, a much larger segment of less-confident HR leaders are demonstrating either a ‘wait-and-see’ approach or simply sitting idle on the sidelines.

“Forward-looking HR leaders are acting boldly and consistently, viewing HR as a new value driver and turning to data, predictive insights and AI,” said Robert Bolton, Head of People & Change Global Center of Excellence and Partner, KPMG in the UK.

Among key findings in KPMG’s new Future of HR study:

  • Just 40 percent of HR leaders said they have a digital transformation work plan in place
  • 70 percent recognize the need for workforce transformation but only 37 percent are “very confident” about HR’s ability to transform
  • 42 percent agree that preparing the workforce for a future with Artificial Intelligence is one of the biggest challenges HR will face over the next five years
  • HR functions which are currently undergoing a digital transformation (or completed recently) consider skill deficiencies (51 percent) and lack of resources (43 percent) to be the key barriers to moving from initial phases of the transformation to scale
  • Workplace culture is also considered a top barrier to digital transformation for 41 percent of respondents. About one in three (35 percent) said their current culture is more task oriented rather than innovative or experimental

This survey of 1200 executives also reveals a difference of opinion between HR teams and their senior leaders. More than half of the HR executives surveyed – 60 percent – believe AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates. Conversely, KPMG’s 2018 Global CEO Outlook study revealed about the same number of CEOs, 62 percent, believe AI will create more jobs than it eliminates.

“Organizations making limited strides could soon see today’s technology disrupt them out of existence. And the largely inactive organizations face a much shorter timeline to extinction as the digital economy quickly renders them irrelevant.” Bolton concluded.

Download the complete report at

About this survey

During July to August of 2018, 1,201 senior HR executives from 64 countries participated in the Future of HR Survey, with representation from 31 industries across Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Middle East/Africa and Latin America. Approximately half of the sample are companies with headcount of 5,000 or more employees and 42 percent of participants were from organizations with annual revenue of more than US$1B.

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