The HR world is being continually reinvented, now more than ever. Why?
People, leadership, and organization issues are:
- Receiving more attention from all stakeholders (executives, boards, investors, regulators, customers, communities, employees).
- Becoming the primary differentiators for delivering results.
- Generating oodles of innovative ideas, particularly in the use of technology where digital information will shape people and organization efforts.
I use our semiannual HR Learning Partnership (HRLP)—a nine-day, immersive learning experience where we envision what’s next for HR value creation so that we can take action today—as a forum for my learning. We just completed the 39th offering where we had amazing discussions on HR reinvention thanks to Dick Beatty as co-director, incredible faculty (Erin Wilson Burns, Joseph Hanson, Yetunde Hofmann MBA ChCCIPD FRSA, Jessica Johnson, Norm Smallwood, Charles Tharp, and Wendy Ulrich), and amazing participants. Most thanks to Ginger Bitter who manages and makes the program happen.
Based on this experience (and others), let me suggest four lessons learned that will help reinvent HR.
1. HR Overall Reinvention Logic
HR is less about HR and more about creating value for others, which has four major dimensions:
- Environment that sets the context and defines stakeholders from the outside in.
- Strategy that defines where and how to compete with agility.
- Human capability that delivers talent (human capital, leadership, organization, and HR).
- Analytics that offer guidance for improvement.
These four dimensions are categories of how to view HR with a broader perspective. Reinventing HR requires connecting these four dimensions with either a “so that” or “because of” logic (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Overall Logic of Reinvention HR
2. HR Initiative Innovation
Within these four dimensions, we have numerous and timely HR innovations. Seeing a full (not complete) menu of innovative HR initiatives is helpful so that HR reinvention is not any single or isolated initiative but a range of actions where HR can create more value. In HRLP, we identified, and at least briefly discussed, 68 current initiative innovations (figure 2). For each of these initiatives, we are able to answer why it matters, what it means, and how to improve and make progress. Managing this large menu shows the breadth and depth of a reinvented HR.
HR for HR
Know general business trends
Adapt to Stakeholder/Shareholder Expectations
Adopt future of work assumptions
Be aware of internal context and strategy
Establish organization capabilities that enable stakeholder value
Upgrade the quality of people/workforce
Create the right leaders at all levels
Deliver HR functional excellence
Track and measure human capability
3. Evolve HR by Navigating Paradox
HR reinvention is less a “from . . . to” and more an “and also” evolution where the past is prologue to a future. This requires paradoxical thought and action to build on the past to reinvent the future. Some of these paradoxes in each dimension are laid out below.
Overall HR reinvention logic:
- Focusing on human capital (people) and also human capability (talent, leadership, and organization).
- Building on the past or acting in the present and also envisioning a future.
- Focusing on HR inside (employees) and also HR outside-in (external stakeholders).
- Responding to environmental or contextual threats and also delivering value to all stakeholders.
- Harnessing uncertainty by adapting and also by acting on what is certain.
- Investing in innovative human capability and also disclosing human capability for stakeholder impact.
- Creating a focused strategic agenda (where and how to compete) and also ensuring strategic agility.
- Crafting a strategic direction and also generating strategic unity.
- Treating all employees with respect and also personalizing the work experience one by one.
- Having an employee value proposition and also a positive employee experience.
- Having piecemeal HR initiatives and also integrating solutions around delivering organization capabilities.
- Establishing organization structure (roles, responsibilities) and also prioritizing organization capabilities (agility, innovation, customer service).
- Seeing culture as a set of internal values and behaviors or norms and also seeing culture as a firm’s identity in the marketplace.
- Building leadership at the top and also leaders at all levels of the organization.
Human capability—HR function:
- Doing HR work by HR people and also business leaders.
- Using technology that enables us to look back and consolidate the past (e.g., openAI) and also inspires us to imagine a better future.
- Focusing an HR function on role clarity and also delivering a clear reputation and ensuring positive relationships.
- Having an HR scorecard and also having HR on the business scorecard.
- Using benchmarking and best practices and also utilizing guidance for what each individual organization should do.
- Making decisions on instinct and experience and also based on evidence and data.
These evolutions show the paradoxes that will help reinvent HR. Which strike you? What would you add for HR reinvention?
4. What are others learning?
Since learning is less about what is taught and more about what is received, we asked participants in HRLP to identify nuggets or insights that they believe will be part of both personal and HR reinvention. They responded:
- “So that” turns activity into value created for others.
- Create value from the outside in.
- Learn to navigate paradox.
- HR is about value creation more than action.
- Accountability is a capability.
- Human capability is too important to leave to just HR people.
- Email is not a tool for communication but also documentation.
- Solve for what we do know.
- Avoid: “I love and am committed to analytics; let me tell you what I think."
- Focus on certainty in a world of uncertainty.
- A leader’s job is to do nothing if the people are competent and committed to doing the job.
- The mean is a mean thing ... a warning for statistics
- Prioritize opportunity by examining the equation of: “impact x weakness x differentiation” of possible initiatives.
- Compensation is a powerful tool for communication.
- Organizations don’t change unless people change and vice versa.
- Exclusion dehumanizes people; be inclusive through unconditional love.
- Ask: “Who should be involved in this discussion?” And “who is not here?
- If you are on the road to hell (wrong strategy), slow down; do not go faster.
- From every problem will come an opportunity.
- We don’t talk about Bruno! (when talking about mental health)
Reinventing HR is not new and will continue. In our work, the “best year” of your life is always the “next twelve months.” Likewise, reinventing HR is about what’s next, not what has been. We ended this HRLP with a message of “hope” that HR is not limited by its past but can be reinvented by seizing uncertain futures with vision and increasing impact.
Our team of seasoned consultants is proud to announce the launch of our newest, results-based guided learning journey, Leading for HR Excellence. This masterclass is designed specifically for experienced HR leaders who want to create a more effective HR function and build human capability. As always, please contact us with questions or to learn more.