The changing face of the world and of organizations, as a result, means that HR too must evolve. That’s not rocket science, we all know that. The challenge is in predicting some direction and opinions. So I thought I might as well throw in my 2 cents worth of opinion.
It is clear that complexity is only going to increase. Economic and organizational life-cycles are going to reduce significantly. Economies and organizations will need to change on a dime. Aside from disruption caused by rapid innovation and disintermediation, socio-cultural forces will cause a level of disruption that will be rapid and wide-ranging in its impact. Disruption will be quicker, and have far greater destructive/transformative impact than ever before. If “Built to Last” was an earlier ethic, we must now begin to think of “Built to Survive” or “Designed to Adapt”. The world will belong to Adapt-adept organizations and economies.
What will this mean for HR? What kinds of demands will organizations place on the HR function?
Definitely HR will need to play a more strategic function than ever before. It will need to own change readiness and adaptability as a core cultural pillar. It will need to ensure that organizations are more conscious of their destiny and competence. And to do this, the function will need to ensure that talent and leadership measurement and development revolve around dynamic characteristics. It will need to own rapid (yes I mean Rapid) succession and development of talent. And to do all this, the function itself will need to develop an agility never seen before.
How can HR do this. Some simple to conceive but difficult to implement steps that are evident today are:
1. Drastically Reduce operational overhead: Separate the doers from the thinkers. Ensure day-to-day routine functions are passed on to people with an administrative mindset. Payroll, mass-hiring, C&B, Exits etc. can be outsourced or handed over to an HR Operations team that reports into an Operations head.
2. Develop and Invest in specialization: OD, Talent Management, Culture, Leadership Development, Strategy, Systems thinking, Organizational Effectiveness, Lean, Six Sigma. All these are critical for HR to either acquire themselves or to ensure acquisition by key functions that impact cost structures. Practices like these need to be owned in-house as far as possible and the organization has to recognize that competitive advantage will be drawn from leveraging this kind of thought leadership.
3. Become advisors and internal consultants to the CEO/Board: From a service function to a strategic enabling function. HR will achieve this by being diagnostic and advisory in nature. As well as by building the capabilities to drive and implement change. Replicating a consulting structure will make this happen. But more importantly, acquiring the capabilities and skills that will enable them to be seen as thought leaders is what will make the leadership team reach out to the function proactively for support and guidance.
4. Change the performance metric: I have long believed that measuring and rewarding a CEO on P&L is a fallacy. That is the reason the CEO has a job. The CEO has to be held accountable for the future. The CEO has to be held accountable for sustainability. Rewriting performance measures and tweaking reward systems will help drive the behaviours that will lead to greater adaptability for the organization. HR has to take more risk in this area and break away from status quo. Similarly, a Sales Head should not have a large percentage of his KRAs devoted to delivering sales results. Instead his KRAs should focus on building sales-force capability, building sales-force processes that are market-beating etc.
5. Education: Last but most important, none of this will happen in the long-term if the education industry doesn't recognize the changing needs and demands from the function. Curricula must change. Methodology and content has to be contemporary. Entry criteria have to be stiffer. If an HR head and his key second line are expected to be advisors to the CEO and the leadership team, then the standards of entry to this role, right at the start have to be far stiffer than they currently are. As soon as norms are tightened, the esteem and perceive brand association of the function will change and we will have more serious aspirants opting for the function, versus the present trend of 20% opting and the rest gravitating towards the HR function.
Essentially, HR must refocus. They must walk away from non-value-adding routine activities and invest greater time on organization building, developing talent, ensuring structure and culture support strategy, measure success and challenge the leadership.
This is the way forward I see. What do you see? Help add and grow this discussion.