Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Bazuka that VUCA...part 2 of 2

In the first part of this blog post, I discussed what types of roles I see emerging in the future of HR where we need, as Margaret Heffernan pointed out, fuse people, technology and innovation.  I also talked about what pressures and factors are causing this.

In this second and final part I'm going to talk about how this impacts on the DNA of HR and how we structure HR teams, aswell as how we can make practical choices about service delivery in the future.

I think the need to engage with multiple stakeholders, as I hinted about in the first part, changes the DNA of HR.

Its no longer enough to know about HR if you work in HR.  You will need to know and understand at least the basics of Finance, Marketing, IT etc and most importantly, you're going to need to know how people work and how they fit into organisational systems and networks both in and outside the company.

In many firms, particularly smaller ones, the most common HR delivery model is: traditional HR support; and everything else.

But its the everything else that I see as the growing and more important area.

Ulrich hints at what I think is the right model for many organisations with this quote: "HR outcomes are owned by the line, with HR professionals being architects of how to deliver these outcomes".  I think if you take this line of thinking to its natural conclusion, then HR is no longer a function but an area of practice - because at least every manager, if not every employee, plays a part in delivering what we currently look at as the traditional HR model.

This line hints at what I think HR needs to be - the ultimate generalist, not in an HR sense but in a business sense, working with all stakeholders in the business.

So how do we adapt what we do?

Mostly through a technological solution I think.

In many smaller organisations, HR system amount to just a Payroll system maybe with a few bolt-ons.  But even these are now evolving - many Payroll software companies are being left behind by the market and the rise of new and easily-accessible apps allow employees direct access to systems and platforms which changes what HR need to do.

We can now truly devolve transactional activities to the line using technology - give the line data, and information, to make decisions.  We can give the workforce the technology to make choices and manage/tailor their employment experience.

The success of companies like Uber and Airbnb show that it works when you give people direct access to service providers.  We are also used to sites like Facebook and Amazon customising our own user experience and using our data and activity to change what we see and do - so we could and should do the same for employees.

Taking this to a logical conclusion, I wonder if HR professionals, as knowledge workers, have a role delivering traditional HR any more - if an employee could simply Google or ask Siri to get them the information instead.

And for this reason I think the role of traditional HR is on the decline.

In HR, we need to grasp technology and use it - there are a lot of good examples of businesses doing good work here - I often cite Halton Housing Trust as one who is moving to a majority digital approach to service delivery with some good results (see HERE) - and if an organisation like HHT can do this for customers, can they / we do it for employees?

Yes we can.

In fact, we have to.

So, summing up...

  • There are blurred lines in our future.  HR in the future isn't going to be defined by how much HR you do, but by how much HR you don't do and how much non-HR work you have knowledge and experience of
  • Bye bye best practice. If we go down the route of individualising the employee experience then we can't say for certain that standardisation and consistency is a good thing.  Everyone will be and should be experiencing things differently.
  • The key HR role will be to help people develop the ability to cope and thrive under pressure - to perform.  By looking at individual needs and using the available technology to customise the employee experience, we can do that
My middle child, when she was aged 3, once asked me what I did at work.  I don't know if you've ever tried explaining HR to an adult, let alone a 3 year old child, but I struggled with this and eventually settled on:

"My job is to make people happy at work"

She thought about this and toddled off, coming back a few minutes later with some paints and brushes.  Her rationale was that painting was what made her happy, so she assumed my job similarly involved painting.

But ultimately, she was right.  HR in the future is about unlocking what individuals want in order to make them feel happy and perform.

Its about painting a picture for an employee of how they can contribute and how we can help.

Do you paint?

Till next time...


PS in other news, its #CIPDACE16 next week and I'm very pleased to be part of the Blogsquad.  Watch out for social media output from me on various platforms on 9 & 10 November.

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