Reinventing Work, Reinventing HR

March 17, 2020

Reinventing Work, Reinventing HR

We’re entering a decade of reinvention. Not only is unemployment historically low, the birth rate has declined, creating a world where companies need to focus on trust and brand, building a more meaningful, developmental relationship with employees.

And in this new world, employees don’t work for you, you work for them. Therefore, we as HR leaders have to reinvent the way we work, run HR and manage our teams. 

You can no longer run HR without a serious focus on technology, and the options for HR tech are more numerous and complex than ever. We are now more than 10 years into the cloud revolution, and we’re seeing a massive shift from process-based systems to systems of experience. Consequently, most HR departments are looking at new tools and many are becoming disenchanted with the cloud systems purchased less than a decade ago.

We also have to acknowledge that we now live in a world of continuous change. HR professionals need to become full-stack experts; HR teams need to be reorganized into agile pools of problem solvers, designers and service delivery consultants.

Finally, we have to seriously focus on making work easier, simpler and more human. Workers are under a lot of stress, so we have to declutter our digital work environment and make teams and individuals more productive. And we have to make work kinder, more growth-oriented and more fun.

Following are my 10 prescriptions for dealing with the changes and challenges ahead:

  1. Get serious about employee experience. Start with one segment of your workforce with high turnover, low productivity and high company value. Study the employees in this group, talk with their leaders and bring them into a co-design session to shred waste and start from scratch T-Mobile, for example, built up its entire recruiting and performance and talent management strategy from a clean sheet of paper and ended up throwing out almost two-thirds of its processes. You will have to partner with IT, finance, facilities and operations to do this work effectively.
  2. Create a tiger team to seriously evaluate your HR tech. Take a refreshed look at vendor options, prioritize the problems/needs to be addressed and do some experiments. Take an architectural approach, select tools that users like to use and pilot them. If they fail, discard them. If they take off, invest in them. It’s that simple. And if you’re replacing your core system, don’t use the old job models. Start over and use new tools to design for the future.
  3. Take a look at your leadership model. I’d guess it’s been around for a while. Do you embrace ideas like curiosity, growth mindset, followership, experimentation, forgiveness, reciprocity, cross organizational relationships, market and industry knowledge, tech depth or other new ideas? Consider if your company had no hierarchy and was truly a network. In that case, who would the leaders be?
  4. Simplify your job architecture. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to reduce the number of levels (10 to 15 is plenty in a large company), simplify job descriptions and make more jobs open and less rigid, since many roles change so frequently. 
  5. Build a talent mobility strategy. Think about your company as an internal talent network—and lean toward an open talent marketplace. The old approach is to redo your career models and create transparent career paths. The new way is to open up all jobs internally, promote them and reward internal mobility. Look at buying one of the new vendor tools that uses AI to find, select and recommend internal positions and internal projects.
  6. Do an architectural review of your recruiting systems. Many of the older applicant tracking systems (ATS) are out-of-date and the new breed of solutions is amazing. The average large company has more than 10 different recruiting tools (sourcing, assessment, candidate marketing, chat bots, candidate career marketplace, ATS, video interviewing, scheduling, process management, advertising management, alumni management, college interview management and more). Remember, all this infrastructure helps with internal mobility too—so don’t be afraid to gear up here.
  7. Evolve your learning and development strategy from self-directed learning to capability academies. Identify the top capabilities you need to build and get business leaders to sponsor an entire academy approach. This includes training, micro-learning, assessment, badging, subject-matter expert authors, developmental assignments, reward systems and more. 
  8. Turn your people analytics team into a full-fledged enterprise center of excellence (COE). In today’s world, the wide and broad set of people-related data (demographics, performance, location, email metadata, engagement results, pulse surveys, exit interview and open feedback) is critically important to your company’s success. Every single problem a business leader faces is related to people, and with this type of focus, your people analytics group will become a valued resource for a myriad of problems. Make sure the team has business partners allocated to business units—don’t set it up as a big research and development department. Your goal should be providing real-time dashboards and action platforms to employees and managers, not doing correlation studies.
  9. Start a continuous redesign of the HR function. HR COEs have to be cross-functional, since every domain of HR touches every business function. HR service centers have to be solution oriented so teams can focus solutions on employee journeys and important interactions. HR staff should become part of an agile pool, so HR professionals can move from project to project. You have to invest in self-service and journey development tools to simplify the employee experience. Your business partners are more important than ever. 
  10. Reinvent yourself. Build your own HR capability academy. In the 2020 world of business, HR professionals have to be full-stack HR practitioners. In other words, HR professionals need to understand most of the topics in this report and have in-depth knowledge in many. HR professionals should take a rotation outside of HR and have the opportunity to have development experiences in teams, so they can learn from others. HR organizations shouldn’t be content to copy what others are doing—we should foster experimentation, invention, iteration and consulting. Everyone in the profession should spend 30 to 40 hours next year developing themselves. 
The Authors: 

Josh Bersin is a global industry analyst, author, educator, thought leader, founder of Bersin™ by Deloitte, and principal research partner for SHRM's Executive Network, HR People + Strategy.