‘Many HR functions are making a shift from an administrative focus to one which adds value to the organisation’ – CIPD’s Sarah Davis

Sarah Davis, CIPD’s leader for Learning and Development initiatives in the Middle East, has collaborated with the CIPD ‘on and off’ for nearly 10 years. She has been delivering HR qualifications and short training courses to CIPD clients in the Gulf and Europe. She has spent over 5 years working as an HR and Training Consultant based in the UAE where her work has also taken her to Oman, Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

HR Summit & Expo visitors will have a chance to meet Sarah during her free learning session on ‘The Future of Learning in a changing World of Work’ on Wednesday 16 November in Dubai. We discussed HR trends and Sarah’s participation in this year’s HR Summit & Expo…


On HR Trends

HRSE: What one key trend is transforming the HR landscape?

SARAH: We don’t have to look far to hear about the many trends such as growth of HR analytics, shifting demographics, flexible working environments and advancements in automation/AI and technology that is transforming the world of work.  I think here in the region many HR functions are making a shift from an administrative focus to one which adds value to the organisation in the specific context in which it operates.

HRSE: How is the future of HR going to be different from what it is today?

SARAH: Oh no I’m not a very good futurist! Some thoughts from what I’ve read are that in the short-term HR functions will continue the trajectory to become leaner with smaller numbers of ‘people’ specialists customising targeted individual ‘employment’ experiences for all different types of employees particularly as the number of contingent workers increases. Like buying something online or using an Uber taxi all the basics will be done online as social and mobile technology gets cheaper and easier to use and good leaders managers continue to take more responsibility for their people requirements.

Possibly in the long term there could be two scenarios. One radical one where there is no longer a requirement for HR and it could completely disappear because we don’t demonstrate any value to organisations and technology has replaced us.  However, like many people I believe that the ‘future of work IS human’ HR will be recognized as ‘people experts and connectors’ leveraging their unique knowledge of the business, neuroscience, analytics, culture, technology and the organisation and how it uniquely applies to create great networks for people to work with (rather than places) wherever they may be located virtually or even on the moon.


And HR Leadership…

HRSE: How does CIPD ensure positioning itself as an HR leader?

SARAH: The CIPD needs no introduction to the HR community as the professional body for HR and people development that has been setting the benchmark for excellence in people and organisation development for more than 100 years.

One of our key initiative is The Future of Work is Human https://www.futureworkishuman.org/

This is a diverse group of voices who are sparking fresh, exciting and radical ideas to make the future of work a better, and a more human place. A place where discussion, debate and dissent are encouraged! I encourage everyone to share their views.

HRSE: Give us your best one-sentence advice for aspiring HR leaders.

SARAH: HR is about the business first and people second so focus on the business and talk to as many people as possible to find out where the HR opportunities lie and understand where you can take action to make an impact.


On Sarah’s participation in HR Summit & Expo

HRSE: Tell us about your sessions at HR Summit & Expo in Dubai this November  

SARAH: This year I will be delivering two sessions.

  1. As part of the business, leadership and strategy learning track a pre-event master class focusing on people management for line managers. This will be a practical interactive session understanding the critical role ‘people managers’ play and the impact on employee performance and engagement and well-being.
  2. A free practical seminar talking about the future of learning and the shifts we are seeing in organisations and how the role of L&D is evolving as a result.

HRSE: How do you benefit from being a part of HR Summit & Expo?

SARAH: I enjoy learning about what’s going on in the world of HR in the region whether it’s from the ‘guru’s talking on the main stage or talking to visitors on our CIPD stand. I always enjoy hearing Dave Ulrich speak about HR as he presents complex HR ideas very simply about the opportunities HR has as part of any organisation. Also I’ve enjoyed reading some of Malcolm Gladwell’s books too so I’d like to try and see him speak this year.

My favourite part of the summit is always being on the CIPD exhibition stand and talking to both members and non-members about the work the CIPD is doing in the region and chatting generally about what’s happening in their organisations and developing HR practitioners’ capability and confidence.