Creating community to drive high impact: The new role of communities of expertise (CoEs)

Posted by Arthur Mazor and Damion Tomlinson on July 25, 2017.

Disruptions in business and the workforce have made HR’s contribution to the success of the business not only more critical than ever but also more challenging. It has become necessary to rethink the way HR operating models are structured and how HR interacts with the rest of the enterprise. Communities of expertise (CoEs), a core component of the High-Impact HR Operating Model, have been affected by those disruptions, and must adapt and change to support HR’s ability to contribute to the business during the trying times ahead.

Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report delineates several disruptions with implications for CoEs:

  • Rapid changes within the enterprise: The organization of the future has arrived and is redesigning and developing new models. If CoEs are going to move at the speed of business, they need networks of people who can quickly mobilize, share information, and respond to changing business needs.
  • Globalization of work: Companies have global products and services; this requires CoEs to think, design, and build globally relevant programs and policies.
  • Gaps in leadership: Leadership boundaries are being pushed; high-performing leaders today need different skills and expertise than in generations past. CoEs needs to develop new leadership programs for multigenerational, digital workforces.
  • Transformation in digital HR: Physical boundaries no longer restrict teams; technology makes working on virtual teams possible. CoEs need to capitalize on this capability, driving the organization to “be digital” not just “do digital.”
  • Demand for real-time, on-demand learning: Continuous learning is critical for business success. CoEs need to lead organizations in the delivery of learning that is always on and always available over a range of mobile platforms.
  • New mandates in culture and engagement: Employee and customer experience are front and center on the agendas of leaders. CoE programs and policies need to address this requirement.
  • Freely moving talent: The open talent economy pulls talent from within the enterprise and externally. COE programs and policies should be designed to accommodate talent mobility.
  • Fundamental shifts in performance management: CoEs designing performance management programs must enable goal setting to be more social, transparent, mobile, and digital, allowing for more collaborative goal setting and more continuous feedback.

HR has been evolving to meet the business’s demands for the last 20 years, and the pace of that evolution is only increasing. The “new” HR needs to reevaluate the value it brings to the business in order to lead the business and workforce in the current business world.

CoEs in the High-Impact HR Operating Model
Over the past decades, centers of excellence have become a gatekeeper of HR policy and processes. They have provided specialized program services and have served as a point of escalation for HR shared services. At times, this has resulted in these centers being perceived as being disconnected from the rest of the organization, and removed from the business functions and the employee experience.

Deloitte’s High-Impact HR Operating Model redefines the traditional “centers of excellence.” In the new model, “communities” replaces “centers” and “expertise” replaces “excellence.” This change to “communities of expertise” is far more than just semantic. Instead of deploying cloistered groups that push policies and programs down to the business, the focus has moved to developing specialized knowledge teams who work together virtually, globally, and enterprise-wide in partnership with the business. The characteristics of the new communities of expertise move HR out of ivory tower mode and into the field, creating interventions with measurable impact on the enterprise.

As in the past with the old CoE model, communities of expertise do not need to be centrally located, nor do they need to be in the same place. They comprise globally connected, multiskilled teams of HR experts empowered with leading practices and industry knowledge.

Game-changing results
The business impact of implementing the High-Impact HR Operating Model and CoE role changes can be significant. The “4 C’s” Framework shows how transforming the CoE function can achieve business results in four key areas:

  • CoEs create capacity through consolidation, which drives increased integration across HR solutions and a more integrated employee experience. Lean teams are deployed with a focus on developing policies and programs informed by trends in the market and cutting-edge research.
  • CoEs grow capability by leveraging fluid boundaries — dynamic, agile, and connected to the business and all of HR, the collective voices of employees across geographies and levels, and external professional organizations as part of the community. Some emerging CoE capabilities that will help move the capability needle even further include program and project management, business case development/management, and consulting/advisory services.
  • CoEs empower community through a diverse network of connected teams across countries of operations, business units, functions, AND external communities to quickly respond to business needs.
  • CoEs boost credibility through strong governance practices that support seamless communication within the CoEs and from the CoEs outward to Business HR, HR operations, and the business itself. Outcome-based measurement and reporting, focused on the end-to-end employee experience and aligned to and supportive of strategic business imperatives, further drive gains in operational and relational credibility.

From siloed “centers” to design thinking-led “communities”
Agility. Flexibility. Impact. These are the hallmarks of the rearchitected framework for the CoE function. The new framework gives CoEs a prime opportunity to execute a complete paradigm shift in how they design and develop solutions, and in some cases, how they deliver those solutions.

In our next post, we will discuss the impact of communities of expertise in driving the modern HR function.

Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for HR Strategy & Employee Experience and Global HR Service Delivery. He collaborates with complex, global clients to achieve high business impact with a focus on transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.
Damion Tomlinson is a senior consultant with Deloitte Consulting LLP, where he focuses on HR Operational Excellence.

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