Thumbnail image for discussion-pointAnother day, another disruption. 

Or at least that's how it must feel for most every department in organizations today. The repercussions of the combined digital, social, mobile trifecta radiate throughout the organization. But if you mix in economic factors, shifting skill requirements, distributed workforces and new expectations of those entering the workplace, then I think you know which department specifically we're talking about: Human Resources.

Deloitte's Global Human Capital Trends 2014 (pdf) report identified the most urgent trends that HR professionals face today. Number one? Leadership development. Number two? Seventy-nine percent answered retention and engagement. Yet only 16 percent felt ready to tackle these and the challenges they face. 

A fundamental rethinking of the HR department is required to meet these demands.

The Question

The challenges are huge, so we kept the question simple: ""What should be the priority for HR departments today?"

The Answers

Dion Hinchcliffe, Chief Strategy Officer, Adjuvi


Hinchcliffe is Chief Strategy Officer at Adjuvi and co-author of the management strategy book Social Business By Design. He is a well known business strategist, ZDNet blogger, enterprise architect, book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst and transformation consultant. He works with the leadership teams of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 firms to drive successful change with new digital methods involving enterprise social media, digital business models, Internet ecosystems, workforce collaboration and the future of work in general. Tweet to Dion Hinchcliffe.

The priority for human resources today is to more fully adapt to the digital world. I don't mean this in some generic management theory sense, but in specific practical terms: In the future, who exactly will do the work that needs to be done, how will it get done, and what will the incentives and motivations for doing it be?

The network-centric organizations of tomorrow will innately understand that the best available resources to accomplish work are largely elsewhere, in other ecosystems, even frequently well outside the traditionally accepted boundaries of the company. An updated, more network-centric view of HR would provide a look at how human resources can be refactored to cultivate -- in scale -- communities of interest/partnership, more effectively tap into them and elicit their participation (work) using joint goals, all realized in very short time periods.

We are already in the era where HR must evolve to help their organizations tap into millions of distributed and loosely-coupled stakeholders around the world in time windows ranging from seconds to years. This means HR must provide a means of structure and process to enable this, often on-demand, to drive critical work outcomes. This is a very different view of human capital than exists in most organizations.

The biggest pain points to achieving this in the short term are the porous, ever-changing nature of digital life, the blurring of work/life boundaries, managing both public/private conduct and recruiting in an age of social media, dealing with the loss of control inherent in the shift to consumer control, and dealing with the scale and timeframes of the digital era, which is too frequently beyond the command-and-control model of traditional human resources to deal with. I'd add that HR departments often don't have a high degree of technology competence, making it hard for them to appreciate the significance of today's changes or how to adapt to them. This is one of the biggest pain points.

To get there, HR should work on cultivating new network-based tools and processes -- along with the requisite social capital and relevant communities -- long term to drive improvement in objectives like recruiting, on-boarding, learning, expertise location and human capital management/reporting. Understanding and engaging with stakeholders in the ever-shifting winds of digital channels is important too. One year might require a mobile app to reach new recruits, while the next might see that tablet-based education and training is the most important.

Looking up into the HR stack is also vital. Hiring and on-boarding might be so easy in the near future that it's outsourced or in some other way entirely eliminated. Looking at the more strategic aspects of HR and how digital can enable high-order orchestration and value creation will be a vital path to future-proofing the function.

Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner, TELUS Transformation Office