Prediction: HR will mobilize around productivity

Posted by Jeff Mike and Denise Moulton on November 28, 2018.

Organizations across the board continue to face demographic, technological, and social disruptions throughout their ecosystems. Unrelenting market demands and the rise of the social enterprise1 require unprecedented levels of collaboration among increasing numbers of internal and external stakeholders. In this context, HR must accelerate its evolution from a service-oriented support function to an essential business contributor that routinely measures its success in terms of business impact and workforce outcomes.

In addition, our High-Impact HR research indicates that the highest-performing organizations continuously adjust their HR strategy to match the business strategy.2 Doing so requires HR leaders and professionals who readily embrace the mind-sets, capabilities, and practices that empower agile HR across the organization. More than a structural exercise, agile HR incorporates a mix of beliefs and practices that can keep up with unrelenting change and continuous disruption. This mix includes commitment to values like flexibility and trust while implementing practices like collaboration, delegation, and experimentation across the enterprise.

As a result of all this, leading HR organizations will focus on empowering work, driving productivity, and responding to shifts in the business with game-changing agility. To offer compelling worker experiences and have greater business impact in such a pressurized environment, HR and its leaders will focus on three key areas.

Empowering networks of teams from the C-suite to the front lines
Businesses have already moved to increase innovation and responsiveness with high-performing teams. Agility and effectiveness in an unpredictable environment demand that everyone from the C-suite to the first-line supervisors let go of territorial behaviors and embrace a worker-centric approach. This will help ensure that teams have the expertise, flexibility, and tools to meet demanding customer expectations. The HR function, embracing its role as strategic partner and advisor, will help workers at all levels of the organization thrive in these team environments by breaking down silos, enabling expertise sharing, and promoting real-time decision-making.

HR leadership also has a new and crucial role to play in the social enterprise as both a collaborator and coach for C-suite teams, helping them incorporate inclusion and teamwork into daily routines. Part of this role will involve designing team-based incentives to encourage increased collaboration and updating leadership profiles to build a pipeline of inclusive leaders who can empower teams. HR leadership will also work with the C-suite to design and shape a lasting culture appropriate for productive, agile teams at a time when managing social, environmental, and governance concerns are becoming as important as financial returns.

Concentrating on governance more than structure
Stick-and-box organizational structures—and the mind-sets behind them—are preventing agile HR. High-performing HR organizations are moving away from rigid structures and now favor productive interactions over preset processes and transactions to deliver value to the organization. Sure, there is need for organization and specialization of expertise, but the traditional HR operating model in use today is structure-heavy, often dividing the function into silos and promoting HR-centric thinking.

In order to overcome this limitation and maintain alignment with the business, HR leaders will focus more on governance than on structure to implement an operating model that aligns with the organization’s specific business, organizational, and market conditions—in other words, fit-for-purpose. Governance may include customizing HR solutions based on business unit-specific conditions, making decisions as close to the issues as possible, and using more data to inform those decisions.

Conducting experiments and collecting data to drive decision-making
Perhaps more than measuring its own impact, HR will continually improve its ability to evaluate worker performance and productivity. It will do so by connecting its people-related data with business outcomes to generate actionable insights at individual, team, business-unit, and enterprise levels. Which data is useful in a specific environment again depends on context: What business are you in? What are the value drivers of your organization and industry? What are the capacity and capabilities of your workforce?

In order to promote and measure productivity, HR will conduct experiments designed to foster innovation while managing associated risks. Many organizations have already begun experimenting with pooling resources internally and aligning external flexible talent with fluid workflows for a more “on-demand” workforce. Others are creating alternate work processes or employee engagement models and shifting tactics as the data leads them in new directions. As these types of experiments continue to proliferate, they will require collection of the right data to evaluate potential outcomes and determine the best path forward.

Looking ahead
Driving agility and empowering productivity will be the HR function’s key priorities in the coming year. To succeed, HR leaders and their teams will need to understand their data and explain what’s happening in the organization to the C-suite and other stakeholders in a way that generates action and impact. Those unable to understand and leverage their data will create fractured solutions that simply don’t work at the local level or scale across the enterprise. Connecting talent data to business data will provide the deep insights that organizations need to develop confidence in their newfound agility. Doing so will also reveal how HR strategies are simultaneously pushing productivity and enabling the social enterprise.

Every day from November 27 through December 6, Bersin,TM Deloitte Consulting LLP will be sharing perspectives on the most timely, relevant, and interesting developments for HR professionals to watch in 2019.

Check back daily, or visit on December 18 for a consolidated report with all of the predictions.

Jeff MikeJeff Mike, EdD, is vice president and HR research leader at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Denise MoultonDenise Moulton, is vice president and HR and talent research leader at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

1 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: The rise of the social enterprise, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Insights, 2018,
2 Seven High-Impact Findings to Redefine HR, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Jeff Mike, EdD, 2017.

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