TecHR QnA with Robert Bolton, Global Head of People & Change Center of Excellence at KPMG UK on KPMG’s Future of HR Survey

Digital Transformation and modernization are some of the aspects that should be top-of-mind for organizations today. According to KPMG International global’s Future of HR survey, these are just some of the elements that are crucial for the future global workforce to stay relevant.


We spoke to Robert Bolton, Global Head of People & Change Center of Excellence and Partner at KPMG, UK for his thoughts:


Could you summarize some of the Top findings from the Future of HR Survey that KPMG recently conducted?

The survey findings build on the themes identified in the previous 3 years: These themes point to:

  1. The importance of being evidence based as opposed to following HR fashion and trends.
  2. Focusing on understanding and building the workforce of the future, recognizing that the workforce of the future is not necessarily the shape, size and skills of the current workforce.
  3. Shaping an enterprise wide culture and core purpose and
  4. Delivering an employee experience that is in tune with the core purpose and the values that the enterprise espouses for how it treats its customers and clients.

The survey also shows that there are a sub-set of our sample that are doing all four of these things in a highly systemic, integrated and holistic way, and we call these the Pathfinding HR functions as we believe they are pointing the way to a more value driving model for the practice of HR, in a world contending with significant technological, societal and economic disruption.

Read More: How HR Can Create and Sustain a Culture of Performance

We’d love to know your personal thoughts/comments on what the future of work and the future of HR Tech would look like (How would HR teams use HR Tech to achieve goals, etc / What kind of HR Technologies would be more in-demand?)

Although HR was one of the early movers into the cloud with the adoption of Human Capital solutions such as Workday we have consistently seen that for every good implementation there are compromised implementations where the driving force is to implement on a “path of least resistance,” without changing structures, processes, level of self-service etc. This may secure the implementation but equally all this leads to is that the system of record has moved from being on–premise to in the cloud and that there are no appreciable productivity or experience gains. This is a significant missed opportunity. Looking to the future it will be necessary for HR to take a much more transformative approach to technology, driven by the need to create a consumer grade experience to the enterprise experience and to exploit the potential of AI, VR, ML and under-pinning data science. All four of the themes mentioned above (question 2) can be and are enabled by technology.

For example, one of the trends that we are seeing is that for many client the employee experience has not been transformed as much as was hoped by the deployment of new Human Capital Management systems. This may be down to poor implementation but we are also seeing clients explore solutions such as ServiceNow to make a bigger difference in the way that enterprise services and processes are experienced by employees.

The other strong factor that will increase in intensity is the atomizing effect that new technologies such as AI will have on jobs and work structures. This is explained in our Rise of the Humans series of white papers. This not only affects the HR function as an employer in its own right but more importantly it brings the biggest single challenge to what the HR function now needs to focus on: defining and building the workforce and workplace of the future. We have identified workforce shaping as an important new discipline that HR needs to perform for the enterprise and this is covered in Rise of the Humans

Could you talk about some Best Practices for organizations to better understand and plan for the future needs of the tech/B2B workforce?

The atomisation of work will occur just as much, if not more so, in tech/B2B as in any other industry. In short we are moving from a world where we match people to jobs to a world where we match skills to tasks in a more dynamic way. Of course this means we place a priority on the need for STEM skills for data science, programming and machine learning but we also see that design thinking, innovation, forecasting, behavioral economics, personalized service, systems thinking and anthropology are and will become increasingly important in the world of work. Not only that but the multi-faceted nature of the wicked problems we are facing will require multi-disciplinary solutions

What are some of the common adversities/challenges being observed in HR within the Tech/B2B industry according to you?

Globally, we do not see that Tech/B2B are experiencing challenges that are any different to other industries BUT we do see that the need for workforce shaping is now urgent because one would expect these sectors to exploit and use their technology and this is having a disruptive effect on traditional work and organisation structures. For one client in this sector they are accelerating their efforts to establish a new workforce shaping capability at the intersection of their workforce and business planning functions. This isn’t about dusting down traditional workforce planning but building a more dynamic, probabilistic and scenario based workforce shaping capability to address the fast changing nature of their business, competitive landscape and markets

What are your suggestions for Tech/B2B teams/especially startups to implement a more purpose-driven culture?

We found a strong correlation exists between dedicated culture roles and confidence in attracting talent – this is particularly important for start-ups as they are rapidly trying to grow the organization. Culture has to be on point/appealing. Need to be able to measure if culture is effectively engaging and attracting talent.

  • Employees treated like customers – need to invest in building the EX and the talent brand (see more on EX).
  • High level tips:
    • Identifying the right team to drive both the initial culture change and long-term sustainment, perhaps establishing dedicated culture change roles (they may not be housed within the HR function)
    • 48% of Tech firms surveys report having dedicated culture roles
    • 73% of Tech firms believe that HR is playing a vital role in establishing the right culture
    • Understanding the current culture state and the areas requiring a shift and gaining clarity on the desired future state
    • 53% of Tech firms survey report having a strategy in place to monitor culture (albeit 25% neither agree/nor disagree).
    • Understanding that culture is specific, it is nuanced, and there is no one “right” culture for every organization.
    • Shaping culture has to be a C-suite challenge
    • Only 30% of Tech firms surveyed agree that their leadership ‘walks the talk’ (what is said vs actions)

Your top 5 tips for enhancing employee experience?

From our survey, some best practices:

  • 72% of tech firms are currently/today rethinking the experience around reward, recognition, and benefits (vs. 55% global population)
  • 48% of tech firms believe HR owns the entire EX for their organization
  • Design thinking among top skills needed by HR function today, also managing EVP and behavioral science


  • Recognizing the role HR can play in clarifying and designing a unified EX/ CX, including learning lessons from the customer organization on how to understand and design for the real-life experiences of all worker types.
  • Understanding that EX is not the same for all. Experience design extends across the total workforce, not just directly employed people. The growing gig economy means that employees are just one type of user, as a company’s talent also includes consultants, contractors, and other contingent workers who range in age from their 20s to their 80s. All these workers need to feel connected to the platform — with a shared experience that meets their expectations and aligns with their motivations.
  • Understanding that EX is composed of more than just the digital experience. It embraces environmental, social, and leadership dimensions.
  • Building a design thinking capability into the HR function. Doing so enables the HR function to explore employee expectations, personalize experiences, and unearth and positively expand upon the drivers that motivate employees to engage — the true return on investment.
  • Taking the lead in defining the requirements for the overall EX design, regardless of which function owns a stage in the process

Your thoughts on how can HR teams make better use of data science to gain relevant insights from? From our survey best practices:

  • 39% of tech firms survey report investing in data science/modeller roles over the next 2-3 years (compared to 26% of global sample)
  • Lack of capability and poor data quality reported in tech firms as the main obstacles to being effectively able to use data and analytics
  • Enhancing analytics among the top 3 reasons for recent investment in HR technology


  • Investing in both technology and capability within the HR function. This extends beyond the basic out-of-the-box technology functionality from cloud HCM vendors to include thinking about data visualization, sophisticated analytics, and integration of HCM data with business metrics such as customer experience, productivity, and collaboration.
  • Building insights from integrating and analyzing data in real time across different data sources to understand the signals that point to emerging issues and opportunities. This includes combining data from the HR function, from the broader organization and from external data sources.
  • Taking a hypothesis-driven approach by working with the leadership team to use data to answer critical business issues and questions such as: which capabilities will drive competitive advantage? Which teams create sustainable performance along with team member wellbeing? What leadership factors drive innovation in our business?
  • Adopting an evidence-based mind-set so that common and best practices are subject to a rigorous evaluation of validity and relevance.

About Robert
Robert has worked for KPMG for the last 25 years, he now leads KPMG’s global P&C practice which is client facing but focuses on thought leadership and the development of new solutions. Prior to KPMG, Robert was Head of Corporate HR at Nationwide Building Society in the UK. Robert is married with 3 grown up children and is a keen amateur photographer and Bath Rugby fan!

Employee ExperienceEmployee PerformanceHCM DataHCM VendorsHR TechnologyKPMGLeadershipPerformance
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