It takes a lot of energy and resources to boil the ocean. This metaphor illustrates the effort HR must invest to drive the necessary transformations within organizations.
However, HR does not only drive change, it has to change itself.
And while many organizations have just recently succeeded in implementing updated HR structures similar to the often-praised Ulrich model, indicators both in- and outside of organizations increasingly show that the time for a new revolution in the organizational design of HR is soon to begin – or may have already begun.
HR has to change – but how?
To shed light on the HR organization of the future, we conducted a survey on “The Future Role of HR”. Building on the expertise of 30 HR professionals from start-ups, corporate departments, and academics as well as consultants in DACH/NL. Current requirements and needs for a future-proof HR function were identified.
93% agreed that HR needs to change in the next years to remain relevant. Furthermore, a strong reluctance to change is widespread. Many of the experts agree that some current HR responsibilities will remain relevant.
But HR should not simply maintain the status-quo. Instead, it should carefully question the processes underlying the current tasks.
For example, a consistent focus on the employee (employee-centricity), an effective talent management, as well as the operational HR administration (“services provider”) will remain key HR tasks also in the future.
However, the processes behind these tasks should increasingly be critically scrutinized and, in many cases, digitalized and automated. According to the interviewed experts, the digital workplace and maintenance of the employee experience by HR will continue to be important.
Building sustainable HR roles
The continuous development of the automation of HR work, for example through an increase in employee self-services, goes hand in hand with new roles for HR. According to a study participant, “HR must do the right things, and not just do things right”. Therefore, the following roles have to be considered for a sustainable HR in the future:
(1) HR must finally act as a strategic partner and actively develop organizations. These include, for example, the promotion of digitalization, agility, and innovation, as well as cross-functional collaboration among employees and across organizational borders.
(2) As a data analyst, HR should collect and analyze relevant data and derive action needed to contribute to organizational effectiveness. Through data-driven decisions, HR moves from a reactive to a pro-active role within the organization.
(3) The HR department of the future should also make cultural change more active and enable a seamless and valuable employee experience by the adoption of customer experience principles. As a result, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and company affiliation can be significantly increased.
On a final note
In summary, the study clearly shows that the time for the next evolutionary steps in the roles fulfilled by HR has come. Personnel divisions are as unique as the organizations they belong to and the employees they serve.
Naturally, the optimal HR division must be developed with respect to these characteristics. Otherwise, they risk preventing their HR department from taking the next evolutionary step towards an innovative and individual function that is targeting towards the special requirements and strategic demands of their own organization.
Only as and when such a specific role is aligned with the company’s strategic orientation will it put the firm in a position to shape the future of HR. Future HR can then be leveraged as a competitive advantage for the organization.
Thus, HR divisions should not hesitate to embark on the journey from being old-fashioned to becoming highly relevant. We encourage all HR leaders to be bold, take a step forward and seize their chance to prototype and experiment with new roles and build the future of HR!
Capgemini Consulting is the global strategy and transformation consulting organization of the Capgemini Group, specializing in advising and supporting enterprises in significant transformation, from innovative strategy to execution and with an unstinting focus on results.