Rapid changes in technology, combined with the new techniques of structuring teams at work, are creating an opportunity for Human Resources leaders to focus on the workforce of the future. Changes to operating models, while mostly driven by advancement in digital technology, are also coming from a sense of urgency to respond to customer needs. This implies a shift is taking place in both “what” we do and “how” we structure teams’ work. Since Human Resources considers employees internal customers, the principles of customer experience and centricity are being mirrored through employee experience practices.
This new approach puts a tremendous ask on HR leaders of tomorrow to not only help their organizations morph, but also continue to build capability within the HR teams to support companywide transformation. Some organizations are by putting together a cross-functional team of problem solvers from HR who imbibe the Agile operating model to solve real time issues and co-create the product or solution along with the end employee. This is a huge departure from how HR has traditionally operated.
"HR leaders of tomorrow are expected to possess broad business acumen and understand how to transform traditional HR practices into powerful competitive advantages that resonate with employees"
Collaboration as a differentiator
This new approach to HR exposes the employee to many aspects of HR work and expands their experience in multiple ways. The much-needed transition from an “I” shaped to a “T” shaped employee is achievable at a faster rate and builds better collaboration within teams. The employees of tomorrow in such agile teams need to have familiarity across multiple areas within HR and have one primary skill with deep expertise. Key skills such as collaboration and the ability to work in cross-disciplinary teams will be the differentiator in the future.
An Agile HR team approach also supports change management, as the internal customers (i.e. employees who are part of the co-creation process) become advocates and champions. I recall the time when I was consulting a couple of years back with a global agri-food business leader. While they were content with the way HR teams had traditionally operated and designed processes, they were open to experimenting with newer ways of defining systems and processes. I worked with this organization to introduce them to Design Thinking for co-creating global talent management process with the end users (i.e. managers and employees). It was amazing how much insight came from these joint sessions to improve HR processes within and outside the scope of talent management. As an example, in the discussion with respect to mobility of talent within the company, the participants felt that while they got periodic calls from recruiters outside the organization, it was rare to hear from an internal recruiter suggesting roles that may be a great fit for an employee. This led to the initiative of quarterly job fair where each department with open positions vied with others to showcase the work being done and attract employees. This also provided employees information of what was really happening in each function, allowing them to take a more informed and deliberate approach to career changes within the company. Over a period of six months, nearly 40% of all open positions were starting to fill up at a much faster rate and with the right candidates at a fraction of cost. It took very little effort for HR teams to manage the change or sell this concept as employees became the adopters very quickly as they could see value of what the co-creation process delivered.
One other important element of such an approach is a no-surprise outcome at the point of go-live of any initiative. In a standard waterfall method, many large HR projects fumble and falter toward the end, owing to push back or not having considered all the elements from an employee’s perspective. In the traditional HR world, much of the policies and practices were considered confidential with employees having little or no visibility. This veil of secrecy no longer serves us well.
The foundational guiding principle of simplicity and scalability continue to be the bedrock of solution design. It is easy to get carried away in the co-creation process to lose sight of this basic concept. Having a daily meeting for tactical issues and clarity of strategic purpose keeps the Agile team from such derailment. The Ulrich model for organizing HR teams is adopted today by nearly 80% of organizations and many are looking to experiment with new-age approaches. The mantra of fail fast and move forward is being embraced as first-time failures are welcomed. This is because acting fast and mediocre implementation are valued over planning and non-decision making. The HR leaders of tomorrow need to have the courage to admit that they do not know everything and will need the help of wider teams to find the best solutions. Finally, Human Resources can champion transformation by leading the way for the business. CEOs and leadership have increasingly recognized the direct connection between talent and business outcomes. HR leaders of tomorrow are expected to possess broad business acumen and understand how to transform traditional HR practices into powerful competitive advantages that resonate with employees.