Disruptive forces are sharply changing how we live and work, creating an imperative for enterprises to rapidly adapt. But there are several areas where the pace of change has yet to catch up with the new realities of business. Chief HR officers and their teams must take the lead with agility and sustain exponential value for the future of human resources.
Enterprises are fundamentally shifting with new business models, technologies, and changing expectations of—and by—the workforce. Often, HR teams are left straddling the needs of the legacy organization while planning for the needs of the future.
This creates unprecedented opportunity for HR to play a new and vital role in shaping the way enterprises compete, access talent, and show up in the communities where they operate. Enterprises can compete—and succeed—by changing entire business models in the field, product and services development, sales, production, leadership teams, and back office. And, of course, in the HR suite.
Disruption is creating three key futures that HR must address:
• The future of enterprise
• The future of the workforce
• The future of how work gets done
Enterprise: Disruption in enterprise is being accelerated by a tsunami of data that has increased by more than nine times over the past two years, the shortening life span of S&P 500 companies to an average of a mere 15 years, and the expectations of businesses that are trusted more than governments by people around the world. HR has the opportunity to help the enterprise become a social one, drive innovation and agility through workforce development, and help extend the enterprise with a partnership ecosystem.
Workforce: Disruption is accelerating in the workforce, where the length of careers is increasing to as much as 50 years at the same time that the half-life of skills has diminished to between 2 and 5.5 years. Major shifts are coming with the rapid rise of the open talent economy, in which it is estimated that more than 40 percent of the workforce will be contingent by 2020. HR leaders have an opportunity to build an inclusive workforce with many different skills in talents. They can create new workforce experiences to invigorate teamwork and productivity. HR must also forecast future capabilities and enable continuous learning.
How Work Gets Done: Organizations have yet to understand just how digitization will fundamentally change how humans and their emerging machine coworkers will work together. This will create massive new value for customers and the enterprise, but will also create new roles for workers that we have yet to imagine. HR leaders must re-imagine the work across the enterprise and HR with digitization and automation. HR must leap to a fit-for-purpose HR operating model to suit the enterprise and advance the workplace to enable workforce collaboration.
Many HR leaders have renamed their functions, using terms such as “employee experience,” “people,” and others to signal a shift in brand. Words matter, and this isn’t the first time that the rebranding of “HR” has happened at major inflection points in the history of the function.
Of course, a fresh brand can easily backfire without fundamental changes to the business outcomes driven by HR. The challenges that come with the three futures described above are plentiful. Yet with challenge comes opportunity, and HR has the chance to drive tangible impact as organizations face the futures of enterprise, workforce, and how work gets done.
HR must step into a new future by shifting in four areas:
• Mind-set: The future is calling for new capabilities. HR teams across organizations of all sizes and industries have been steadily growing their capabilities, as Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report has shown over the past few years. As so many leaders across businesses have discovered, HR leaders also recognize the importance of operating with agility and fluidity across organizations, breaking down silos, and fostering intentional collaboration with a spirit of disrupting old solutions. The digital age demands even further capability of growth for sustained success in the future. The ability and cultural readiness to fail fast but learn faster and continuously innovate new solutions are among the most critical to mastering a new mind-set for the future of HR in order to drive the value that enterprises require. As artificial intelligence, robotics, and cognitive solutions grow in sophistication, the nature and typology of work will continue to change. Organizations must reconsider how they design jobs, organize work, and plan for future growth.
• Focus: Workforce engagement and satisfaction are table stakes. Continued, proactive efforts in employee engagement and satisfaction remain important. Yet success in the future demands broadening the scope to consider engagement and satisfaction of an enterprise’s full workforce in a world where nontraditional employment constructs are exploding. A customer-centric focus in the future of HR requires workforce-centered solutions that apply personalization wisely in a scalable way as part of creating a Simply Irresistible Organization™. The future of HR moves beyond quantitative value and instead focuses on driving tangible, measurable value that is both qualitative and quantitative across the enterprise.
• Lens: High-Impact HR Operating Model at the core. Many leading organizations implemented a High-Impact HR Operating Model by moving toward communities of expertise, business HR, HR operational services, and governance with joint HR and business leaders. These moves are foundational to the future of HR. Yet the future demands re-imagining work, advancing beyond organizational structure shifts, and moving toward continuous improvements in how work gets done in order to meet the constant disruptions to the enterprise. In this new world, the pace of change demands a strong ecosystem of partners to build upon and enable internal capabilities with speed while creating new channels for talent and innovation. Networks of agile teams within HR can advance Communities of Expertise by driving collaboration across all parts of the HR function. The HR operating model of the future increases empowerment of managers and leaders to engage with the workforce and to participate in the curating of a workforce experience that grows skills that leaders anticipate as important to the future of the enterprise. The external ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and the society where enterprises operate is one of important stakeholders and collaborators in the future of HR.
• Enablers: Cloud/SaaS platforms by themselves are not enough. While HR has blazed new trails through its early adoption of cloud platform solutions, automating and enhancing with advanced digital solutions that reshape how work gets done is imperative. Many have begun to apply robotic process automation and even artificial intelligence technologies to traditional HR activities. The introduction of virtual reality, machine learning, and social collaboration can make it possible to truly reinvent rather than only automate. Achieving this is only valuable if it is easy and intuitive for the customers of HR, and is brought together through a unified engagement platform, avoiding a patchwork quilt of solutions―an all-too-easy trap given the temptation to implement individually innovative solutions without a thoughtful, yet iterative, road map.
Change is messy, and there is rarely a straight line to follow from the present to the future. Each HR organization will have a different starting point for the future of HR, and definitions of a successful future will vary. Roadblocks will appear that will force you to take unexpected turns, and it may feel as though your progress is slower than desired at certain points along the way.