Create a winning organisation by re-imagining human resources

16 August 2018 6 min. read
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Aaron Alburey, co-founder of consulting firm LACE Partners, reflects on the opportunity for organisations to rethink the role of HR in our changing world.

The shape of work is changing in front of our eyes. And while plenty has been written about digitisation and the future of work, little has been said about how organisations can take this opportunity to re-imagine and super charge their HR function. This takes a holistic, planned and sustained approach. In this article, I share some views, based on our LACE model, so organisations can make the most of this opportunity.

The challenges

Brexit and the emergence of new roles, in our increasingly digital world, are fuelling talent shortages and mean we need to recruit great people in different ways. People Matters estimates that, “65% of children starting school today will end up in completely new roles that do not exist today”. Added to this, in the UK organisations are facing a period of incredibly low unemployment (4.2%) and a real shortage of critical talent, amplified by a political environment of increasing immigration intolerance. Meaning the talent needed to deliver growth can’t be found.

And another big trend, highlighted in our recent UNLEASH survey, is the growth in the use of artificial intelligence. Of course, AI will significantly change how we work. A survey of HR executives by IBM, found, “46% believe AI will transform their talent acquisition capability while 49% believe it will transform their payroll and benefits administration”.

These factors alone indicate there is a clear argument to fundamentally review and change how we recruit and support people through the entire employee lifecycle so we stay current and relevant in the changing environment.

Create a winning organisation by re-imagining human resources

Actively supporting HR in its evolution

Many HR functions could become impotent in their ability to influence the outcomes of their businesses if they don’t rethink traditional ways of working and thinking. But focused and supported in the right way, a HR function could super charge people, helping organisations to differentiate themselves to win in the market.

For the first time, in its long and distinguished history, HR and other functions that support people have an opportunity to make a real difference, beyond that of rhetoric. A great general once said “the only difference between winning and losing is timing.” And that time is now for HR. Leaders of organisations need to rethink how they view and support their HR functions, particularly in the following areas:

Give HR a fresh start

Leaders should take a step back and forget their previous perception of HR, and think of what HR could become in an organisation. Consider the opportunity of supporting your HR team to power up the people in your organisation. It could be a game changer – we know that people are the differentiator for many organisations and that won’t change in the digital age.

To support a digital business, HR must first break with the paradigms that have defined it since the emergence of the Ulrich model. This includes moving away from the term HR – commoditising an organisation’s most important differentiator as simply human resource. We are moving rapidly into an era of people-centric working, where people want to be treated as humans, where resilience and the chance to bring your best self to work are looked for by talent. Those organisations that have people-centric functions, centring around the employee experience, and a Chief People Officer have started shaking the 90’s human resources mentality.

Fundamental to the LACE model, is understanding that the role of HR is no-longer policy and resource management. In a digital and agile organisation, we need to not only capture information but identify insights and use this knowledge, enable behavioural change and, in turn, enhance productivity. Recognising the importance of enabling people to be at their best is the first step towards a new very differently aligned model for the function, and outcome for your organisation.

The standard Ulrich model is no longer relevant. We must do things fundamentally differently.

“HR and other functions that support people now have an opportunity to make a real difference. Leaders should take this opportunity to re-imagine and super charge their HR function.”
– Aaron Alburey, LACE Partners

Bring people together with technology to ride the digital revolution

Enable the people function to invest in the right technology and skills to ride this digital wave or you will be left behind. In terms of the future of work, it’s not a single aspect event we’re witnessing. It’s digital platforms breaking down barriers and using algorithms to influence decision making. It’s about mass availability of data, it’s the growing fear and regulation around data. It’s the rapidity of roles, the changing focus on diversity and bias. It’s about mental health, resilience and wellbeing in an “always on” civilisation.

We are even witnessing the rise of applications that democratise traditionally senior processes, like coaching. Digital products like Emoquo are delivering this consistently to all employees. Voice activated devices like Alexa and Google Home have inspired a wave of people support tools, supporting the people function with Machine learning and AI help.

Value the employee experience

We can no longer look at functional areas that support people in isolation. Many organisations are recruiting a head of the employee experience who takes a broader view across functions and ensures all interactions with the employee reinforce their brand and values. They recognise that luring people into the organisation with a great promise is not enough. This promise needs to be lived through all aspects of what an employee experiences, every day. The people function clearly has an important role in bringing the desired employee experience to life.

Grasp the people productivity opportunity

All these elements fundamentally change the role of the people function and give credence to age old desire to be strategic. There is now a clear impetus for that – to drive productivity and secure leading talent. In a digital and agile organisation, the agenda of the people function needs to focus around experience, knowledge, behavioural change and productivity.

If we look at driving productivity, areas like manufacturing had HR functions that acted as a custodian of performance. But even in those sectors, HR became the slave of lean process analysis and restructuring. Productivity became synonymous with head count reduction and process streamlining. Instead, let’s put a spotlight on getting the best out of our people, cognitively and physically, and in turn give them an employee experience they never want to leave.

Now the productivity piece can be more positively framed – more holistic and more human.

Related: Just 15% of employees are engaged. The rest lose $7 trillion in productivity.