Written by: Hanadi El Sayyed
July 13, 2020
If there is one organizational function that is under enormous pressure today to catapult itself into tomorrow, it will be HR. Confronting the seismic impact of the pandemic on the profession starts with realizing and accepting that there is simply no more room for HR to kick the can on reinventing itself, nor it is an option anymore but rather a demand by both business and people—that or risk being one of the first organization functions to become irrelevant and disappear.
The change HR needs to undergo and immediately is radical and in all of its facets: mindset, purpose, way of thinking, concepts, foundational models, and operations. The new world of work that dawned on us has new rules, and HR must learn them very fast.
The ‘Great Reset’ of HR
The pandemic is offering HR an opportunity to reflect on, reimagine, and reset the function. Here are five areas where to start:
- HR need to start thinking macro. The pandemic is leaving us with a long list of macro-economic challenges, which are almost overwhelming in their diversity- demographic changes, economic volatility, skills shortages, and shifting work environments, to name a few. HR have an exciting future if they elevate their thinking to macro-level and start to add value to their business by helping them think through the people implications of the changing shape of the workforce, economic volatility, and uncertainty, and accelerated technology advancements.
- HR must get to grips with the new definition of the workforce, reimagine new workforce models, and what works for their businesses, learn how to apply these models, and finally do just that – apply them. Additionally, the new age of the blended workforce (office-based, remote employees, and gig employees) poses a considerable challenge to the linear thinking HR is used to in organizing and managing the workforce. HR should embrace the power of non-linear thinking to optimize the new workforce by reimagining and exploring new organization designs beyond the rigid hierarchical structure, reimagining workforce planning beyond the current inflexible employment models, and enabling managers and people to succeed by rethinking job demand and job design.
- One size fits all type of HR management, and practices are no longer viable (in hindsight, they never were). HR is demanded now to think innovatively how to develop strategies tailored to all types of employees in the blended workforce, deliver a positive employee experience both virtually and in-person, and enable employee productivity for both a connected and dispersed workforce. To achieve that, it is pertinent that HR rethink how they attract, retain, engage, and develop talents that want to work with their organization.
- And while we are on the topic of positive employee experience, HR must understand that the changing shape of the workforce has different expectations. Now, more than any time before, the workforce will expect their experience at work to look and feel like what they experience as consumers. HR is mandated now with thinking employee experience as the linchpin to their digital transformation strategies and making sure that the employee experience matches the customer experience, the organization is promising its external customers. Magic happens when the internal and external experiences converge.
- HR must solve the technology and data puzzle – and by that, I mean, bridge the gap between the HR tech solutions they are currently deploying and the tech tools employees need and want to work better. By consumerizing HR technology, i.e., creating a social, mobile, and consumer-type experience for employees inside the company that resemble the experience employees have as consumers outside the workplace, HR can start prioritizing employees, their motivation, empowerment, and progression. This will come back in improved productivity, enhanced employee performance, happier employees, and by inference happier customers, and ultimately improved business outcomes. Additionally, HR requires team members who can quickly learn and leverage new systems and big data, and who understand how to put data to use in strategic as well as everyday decision making. Data is HR’s biggest asset, and people analytics is a powerful HR management tool to enable change in the organization and improve business performance.
Peter Drucker famously declared the phrase “innovate or die”, though others may have claimed it as well. But whatever its origin, the message is clear: change, or you’re toast.