Discussion Point Where Does HR Go From Here

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


Dan Pontefract is the author of "FLAT ARMY: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization” and is currently at work on the follow-up book. He is Chief Envisioner of TELUS Transformation Office; a future-of-work group at parent company, TELUS that helps organizations enhance their corporate culture, employee engagement, leadership, learning, work styles & collaboration practices. Tweets and visits to his blog are appreciated.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loathed the term "Human Resources."

Who are we to denote humans as actual resources in the organizations they serve? If HR -- as it has been referred to since the 1980s, after decades of iterative naming conventions including "welfare secretaries" and "personnel management" -- wants to establish a new priority, it should be to rid itself of such anachronistic vernacular. This somewhat radical move may lessen comedic material for Dilbert, but I’m willing to take the risk.

Nevertheless, Human Resources can’t simply rename itself. That would be far too easy an accomplishment. In my best corporate-speak, that’s merely low hanging fruit.

HR has a greater priority to accomplish. HR should become more than a functional business unit. Therefore, the current iteration of HR ought to merge with IT (another group in need of an evolution) and together they can become a collaborative esprit de corps. Its singular mission might be to become the unified entity that helps to enhance organizational culture and employee engagement, helping to inspire its employees to innovate and improve bottom line business results.

I don’t care what this business unit mega-merger is called thereafter. What I want to see, however, is a unified vision to deliver on the irrefutable and causal relationship between open leadership practices and improved employee engagement disciplines with increased bottom line benefits. This new entity can outsource any historically transactional tasks -- laptop provisioning, help desks, payroll and recruitment -- and focus on delivering more transformational support to the organization.

When the people practices of an organization (formerly HR) properly co-habitate with current and future internal technology services (formerly IT) it creates a combined and powerful unit that will become fully aligned to upcoming business changes (and challenges) in the 21st century.

Dilbert should be put out of business. More importantly, HR and IT should merge and become a transformational organizational Sherpa for decades to come.

Luis Suarez, Chief Emergineer and Charter Member, Change Agents Worldwide


Luis Suarez is a chief emergineer and charter member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business. He has been living, for the last six years, in a corporate world without email, challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He currently blogs at elsua.netTweet to Luis Suarez or reach him on Google Plus.

A lot has been written of late about the more prominent role HR needs to take when facilitating the transformation of businesses into becoming successful Socially Integrated Enterprises. Yet it seems as if HR is always late to the party. This happens especially when transformation efforts (of whatever kind) kick in and somehow HR keeps being perceived as an obstacle more than a facilitator. What’s HR to do to change this and start not only being invited to the table for that so-called digital transformation, but to lead the conversation? Or an even more important question to ask: is HR ready to take that open leadership role? The clock is ticking and HR is running out of time.

Why are they running out of time? Well, according to latest Gallup research around Employee Engagement worldwide, the current levels of actively engaged employees are a meagre 13 percent, which means 87 percent of knowledge workers are disengaged. And that’s a huge business problem for which HR -- probably -- is most responsible.

Alex Kjerulf claims employee engagement is all about two simple things: results and relationships. This is the main problem HR faces today: that instead of focusing on relationships (and make that transition from Human Resources into Human Relationships), HR is still focusing on results. Essentially, by paying more attention to executives and senior leaders while executing their command(s), they ignore everyone else at their own peril.

So what should the priority of HR departments be today? To me, it’s pretty simple. Stop paying attention to senior leaders and instead focus on the hard working professionals who, at one point, were incredibly motivated, passionate, engaged, human and purposeful about joining a company to change the world. HR needs to bring back that purpose. Even at the cost of its own survival.