Tomorrow’s HR department will look radically different

Tomorrow’s HR department will look radically different. Everybody agrees that the administrative, monolithic, support function that HR sadly in many companies in Europe still is, has no future. All CEO’s expect more from HR even if most of them cannot define what more entails. We all intuitively feel HR has a lot of work to do to become the business function it needs to be if it is to be at all.

You know I do not shy away from blue-sky thinking. Let me take you through my initial, albeit unstructured thoughts: As the way we work undergoes radical change so does our experience of the world of work. Not only where we work or when we work has become fluid, so have the hierarchical lines and the once so established processes. The new way of working is based on networks, skipping formal lines and out-dated structures. Flexibility is no longer a buzzword but part of the genome of any work-related concept. Work today is about thinking and sharing your thinking. It’s about communication in its broadest sense.  Boundless in time, space and format, without any established or preconceived rules. Hierarchy, career ladders, perks with titles,: all this is becoming obsolete and pointless just like corner offices.

There will always be the proverbial dinosaur but the new manager will be a coach and a co-worker, not a boss. The new employee will take initiative and demand accountability, not wait to be told when and how with whom to do what. The employee will grow and be productive by constantly improving his thinking output.  Iterative networking will format competencies and performance . With other words, the employee will have to act at a higher level and will need to continue to be relevant in this dynamic network if he or she is to remain economically valuable. Like companies, employees will have to create their own eco-system. We’ll all be associates in one form or another, all part of a dynamic network, both employers and employees, with varying economic interdependencies.

This is not just happening in Silicon Valley or in some brave new world scenario. The economies in Europe form no exception: they have shifted from manufacturing to knowledge, from do-work to think-work. Delocalisation of do-work has been a topic for the past 40 years. Think-work has proven to be no different. Reality is slowly kicking in. The future of work in Europe is brainy and techy but competitively challenged by the rest of the world. Europe’s massive unemployment sadly illustrates its reluctance to adapt to this reality.

Like Europe needs to transform, so do its organisations: systems, structures, processes, people, practices, etc. The work will be processed in a different way. The old practices, remedies and wisdom are defunct and will no longer apply. This has massive ramifications for the traditional and contemporary HR department.

HR in its totality needs to be reinvented. Old Band-Aids, like outsourcing the HR back-office part and putting some business partners in the field, will not do the trick. This is so nineties.

To turn HR into a value-add in today’s economy, a new paradigm has emerged: HR’s prime goal in life is to enrich and optimise the network in terms of talent and output.

This does not mean HR cannot have other goals but all will be derived from or supporting this sole raison d’être.

I will try and demonstrate what this means for HR processes like recruitment, talent management, labour relations, etc.  in future blogs. It’s not just the world of ‘people analytics’, or  ‘data-driven HR’, or ‘statistics and algorithms’, or ‘sociometrics, etc.: it’ s more than science meets HR. Just following the data in this VUCA world is a beginning but not enough for success.

Stay tuned. This new paradigm has arrived.

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