Last week, I was on the phone with a woman called Ilse. Ilse had been working in HR for one of the well-known global HR service providers for almost her entire career. Now she had decided to move on and wanted to talk to me about which roads to take, because ‘Well, you know quite a bit about what’s happening in HR and where it’s going’.
Her words, not mine.
I guess that’s what you get when you’re one of the founders of HR Tech Valley, a non-profit ecosystem bringing together HR Tech and HR to shape the future of HR.
One of the topics on her need-to-know list was what my vision is on what HR and its roles and responsibilities will evolve into. I shared with her the vision we developed at HR Tech Valley that takes HR into three directions – which is why we call it 3D HR. In this article, I’d like to share that 3D HR vision with you.
There is no doubt that HR needs to evolve and moreover needs to do it fast. It’s no longer a matter of choice, it’s a necessity. There is an undercurrent that is emerging and it is driven by 5 powerful forces:
- As a society, we expect tailormade products, services, and solutions at the speed and cost of mass production. This type of consumerization is also entering HR. It is fueled by the war for talent and the increased importance of self-realization amongst so-called Career Owners – individuals who are taking their careers into their own hands.
- This growing emphasis on self-realization is putting pressure on organizational structures, hence the revamped attention for flat structures, Teal organizations, holacracy and the likes.
- Technology is offering this new breed (Career Owners) an increasing number of tools that constantly empower them. There is no clearer example of this than the impact of Glassdoor on job seekers – which is only the beginning if you look at other sectors like hospitality, travel, and logistics.
- HR Technology has been largely left underdeveloped for 25 years. Things have sped up however in the last 10 years and exponentially over the last three to four years. This new era of HR technology has a high level of maturity and involves all major technology trends from gamification, via data analytics to AI.
- HR Tech is becoming less and less ‘just about HR’. It’s about people and data. In our opinion, this is the primary reason why the likes of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other recent investors are moving into the HR Tech space.
These five forces are changing the game plan when it comes to people in organizations. They are imposing an approach that really obliges everyone to step up their HR game, including HR Service providers and business leaders.
… driving HR in 3 directions
What is currently happening, is that the HR profession is trying to tackle (part of) these forces by focusing on things like employer branding, recruitment marketing, improving the candidate/ employee experiences… All of these are insufficient, too unilateral and fractional approaches.
On their own, these efforts will never suffice. We need to rethink the role of HR into a 3D – a three-directional – role.
HR must support and facilitate Career Owners, understand their needs and provide the expertise that’s needed to motivate them and that allows them to evolve. HR must make sure that the organization lives up to its employer branding. This intertwines with the unilateral approach we see most HR departments take, apart from one difference.
The current approaches almost without exception appear to originate from inside-out thinking: the organization’s ideas and views are pushed onto the Career Owner. There’s a need to think both inside-out and outside-in which requires a deep understanding of the Career Owners. Not only will this kind of thinking advance your organization (see direction 2), it will also install a common ground between the needs of the Career Owner and the organizational needs.
When it comes to the future of the organization, HR needs to become a trusted advisor of the CEO and the board. HR must understand its people data, and be able to link this to the performance and the direction the organization needs to move towards to. Let’s clarify this with a recruitment example.
Based on insights about the age of the organization’s workforce and the turnover of employees, you need to be able to predict the number of people you need to hire in the future. But that’s merely the first step. Next, you’ll need to understand what kind of people and what skills the organization requires to execute the corporate strategy in the future. Once you’ve got this information, you can start looking for people with the potential for these and you still have time to train them.
For HR, this requires a new business mindset. HR professionals must truly understand the financial and performance implications that individuals and groups can have for the organization. The current lack of this knowledge is one of the main reasons why HR rarely holds a key position in the board or management committee.
Change is constant – as it has always been, but never before in history did change happen as fast as it does today. In our opinion, HR is expected to be the facilitator, coach, and driver of that change.
Not an easy task, as it requires leading the change, providing support to the change makers and at the same time provide the safety needed by the rest of the organization in order to embrace the change. It means HR has to promote the change and simultaneously value the way things were done before.
3D HR is more than HR
This 3D HR is quite a different paradigm compared to the current HR framework:
- It redefines the tasks on which HR currently focuses and which eat up most of HR people’s time. These tasks can – and should be – automated.
- It involves the use of technology to free up even more time and to support these tasks.
- It requires new skillsets for HR professionals.
- It disperses HR-related responsibilities throughout the organization and requires people to once again take up those tasks they now often dump on HR.
- It requires bravery, transparency, and objectivity which makes HR more ‘kick-ass’ than ‘kiss ass’ – wise words spoken by an HR manager in the meetup group of HR and HR Tech people I have the honor of hosting.
Except for these aspects of the new paradigm, I’m afraid there is no one-size-fits-all approach. If you expected me to give you the blueprint for implementing 3D HR, I must disappoint you.
Evolving into 3D HR is a change process which HR must conduct in co-operation with all of its stakeholders: Career Owners (in and outside the organization) and organizational leaders.
It’s a change that must start with a strong desire to become futureproof and truly make a difference. From a desire to co-create the future and added value. From the willingness to leave your comfort zone and improve the way things have always been done. It’s about daring to reinvent HR (and yourself as an HR professional) from a uni-directional reactor into a 3D pro-actor.
Are you up to this challenge or do you prefer to sit back and wait for the undercurrent to surface as a tsunami?
HR Tech Valley is an ecosystem bringing together HR Tech companies and HR departments to co-create and shape the future of HR. To become a member of the community, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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