Polishing the HR lens

One of the four shifts for the Future of HR

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Posted by Arthur Mazor, Kraig Eaton, and Joanne Stephane on February 15, 2019.

Three futures are happening now simultaneously: Future of Enterprise, Future of Workforce, and Future of How Work Gets Done, causing a new Future of HR to emerge. We’re exploring each of the four shifts HR needs to make to step into the future: mind-set, focus, lens, and enablers. Today, we’re looking at HR through a different lens, one that sees HR moving from a history of compliance and control to strategic partner, and now toward trust, empowerment, and business leadership enabled by a High-Impact HR Operating Model that helps HR flex to meet dynamic business needs.

Why the need for a new lens in the Future of HR? As all facets of life and work are rapidly shifting in a global society where expectations from citizens, customers, and workers are growing and more dynamic than ever before, HR is in prime position to lead enterprises in harnessing new opportunities. Opportunities in the form of new roles enterprises can play in the communities where they live and work, creating memorable and valued customer experiences, and growing workforce capabilities to excel in the future are all exciting. Yet, to rise to these opportunities, HR must exponentially evolve the way it operates.

For most enterprises, HR operating models have been more static than dynamic. Or, may have evolved incrementally over time. Historically, this worked because the world didn’t move in the same way and at the rapid pace it’s moving now. Disruptions were addressed by often lengthy and costly transformations. Yes, these delivered results and value, but that traditional model just doesn’t work anymore. By the time one transformation is finished, it’s likely already outdated and there’s a new disruption to address.

Instead, HR should view the way it operates through a new lens that looks at today’s and tomorrow’s realities and continuously reimagine how it can best serve its customers: the business and the people who work in it. For example, a large automotive manufacturer we work with now dedicates 30 percent or more of its annual HR budget to changing the organization. This allows for ongoing evolution versus the traditional way, where allocations were mostly dedicated to running the function as is, with spikes in investment for transformations every 3 to 5 years.


Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

What should HR look at through this new lens? Let’s highlight some of the critical Lens components that are ripe for reimagining in the Future of HR.

1 – Capability building and the role of the external ecosystem
HR is uniquely challenged in that it’s expected to help facilitate the enterprise’s move toward the future, and that means it first has to position itself to deliver the new types of skills and services that are expected. Reimagining your HR operating model to meet expectations and keeping pace with rapid change requires growing the skills and capabilities of your people. We know this is true across roles within the enterprise and it’s just as true for HR professionals, and more important than ever to shift into the Future of HR.Historically, organizations have built or bought needed skills, yet this traditional approach is also shifting. Organizations now need to think about how to access talent in shorter bursts so, as the focus or nature of the work or business pivots, they can operate with greater agility. The Future of HR accesses the external ecosystem to tap into the full breadth of the workforce (full-time, part-time, contract, gig) and the future of how work gets done, including AI, robotic, and cognitive assistants that help the humans in HR to elevate their roles and become Exponential HR Professionals.

2 – Activating networks of agile teams and a new role for CoEs
A few years ago, we coined a new name and model for traditional “Centers of Excellence,” renaming this key component of HR as “Communities of Expertise.” This component has rapidly become table stakes on the route to the Future of HR. The future does not allow HR to appoint a subset of the professionals within the function as “excellent” and place them in a central group. Rather, the full force of HR must operate with excellence and the function must activate teams—or communities—that work together across organizational lines to deliver expertise.

We also believe the Future of HR requires an evolution of CoEs in the direction of agile teams. For example, you might not have one static group of professionals designated as the sole members of a Compensation CoE; rather you’ll have an agile team pulled together and facilitated by a core group of professionals to solve a specific business or workforce performance issue with compensation factors or implications. These teams can form and re-form, bringing diverse subject matter expertise and experience working with their customers in the business to address problems, establish metrics and measures, and continually improve. Using agile teams helps HR organizations move from a supply-driven model where HR pushes programs or services out to the organization, to a demand-driven model that lets HR quickly allocate people and resources at the point of need. It also helps HR become more outcome focused and better able to facilitate and drive change and progress in the broader enterprise.

For example, a health and beauty company we work with has established a formal process for addressing workforce-related business issues through direct interventions or initiatives that relies on both a dedicated, standing team and agile resources pulled from the organization. When initiative requests come in, they are vetted and priced so people understand the initiative’s value, confirm resources from the standing team to solve the challenge, and deliver specific outcomes agreed upon as a means of measuring the initiative’s effectiveness. This approach improves the quality and speed of solution development and enables moving to an outcomes and productivity focus for the enterprise.

3 – Evolving Business HR
While Business HR has traditionally been thought of as a collection of individuals embedded in the business, in many ways this critical component must be considered as a substantive and critical function within HR in its own right. Moving away from focusing on individuals and specific roles and thinking more broadly in terms of what services are delivered, how those services are delivered, and the business outcomes of those services is a way to think about Business HR that’s different from what’s been done in the past. In the future, Business HR is not only embedded in the business to “partner,” but the function is also leading the business on the most critical workforce issues. In parallel, the Business HR function plays an active role as members of HR Communities of Expertise, bringing business imperatives into the design and execution of people programs and solutions.

Shifting the Business HR component from an individualized “HR Business Partner” to a major function with varied capabilities that operates across business units and with the other components of HR is a must to enable the Future of HR.

4 – Reimagining workforce experience and empowered leaders and managers
Workforce experience has already been evolving from “old school” approaches, where HR determined what services it delivered and how, to a model based on workforce experience and relying on the needs of HR customers to influence HR offerings. This enables HR to deliver services in a more on-demand, self-service way. Now that model is evolving even further to address the future of work and the Future of HR. The proliferation of worker types and working arrangements in the open talent economy means more nontraditional workers in HR’s customer base.

Empowerment must go beyond employee/manager self-service, since many HR customers won’t be traditional employees. Instead, HR can help the enterprise reimagine ways to empower leaders and managers to lead and manage their teams. The HR team at a large, global technology company we work with is leading the charge by redefining the expectations of managers to include a variety of people management activities once reserved for HR or the most senior leaders in traditional enterprises. The HR leadership team at this company recognized the importance of managers and their roles as part of a broader reimagining of how HR will work in the future.

Consider performance management as a further and specific example. If the entire enterprise is shifting toward networks of agile teams, with team leaders offering just-in-time feedback and point-in-time rewards and recognition, HR can empower managers to completely own that process and provide the tools and capabilities to enable leaders and managers.

In the future, empowerment is more than transactional independence; it’s about leaders taking ownership of their people portfolio responsibilities in the same way they own their product or business portfolio. And once they do, HR has the opportunity to reallocate the time, investments, and resources formerly spent on administrative tasks to more strategic pursuits.

Polishing the lens for HR’s future
A very different picture of HR starts to take shape when you look at HR through this future-focused lens. It’s an HR function that’s more agile, operates more strategically, and is better able to provide valuable expertise and insights to the business—for true high-impact

Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, Deloitte’s Human Capital practice digital leader and the global practice leader for HR Strategy & Employee Experience. Art collaborates with complex, global clients to drive business value through transforming Human Capital strategies, programs, and services.

Kraig Eaton is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Human Capital service area in the HR Transformation practice, where he leads our HR Operational Excellence offering.

Joanne Stephane is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Human Capital service area in the HR Transformation practice, helping clients drive organizational performance through talent.

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