A new model for the HR function of the future (Part 2 in series)

Office colleagues standing around a table with laptops and binders

In our last post, we discussed why breakthrough approaches are necessary for Human Resources to meet today’s changing workforce needs. Here, we discuss a new model that goes beyond traditional job constructs to integrate a broader array of stakeholders and contributors so that work and talent can be designed for this new reality. The model balances architecting for the new ways in which we work, and how work will get done.

Matching talent to skills

On a more frequent and dynamic basis, HR needs to match talent with the skills needed to do the work. As automation and work change, leading and engaging around the new ways of working will require different communication, new types of performance support and a new level of openness around alternative approaches to the work.

HR will not just be the glue that keeps personalized programs together; it will also need to influence how the work experience and organization’s culture is preserved or needs to change. With this plurality happening in work, risk will shift. In some cases, work may become less dangerous as automation takes over; in other cases, work may become more stressful as routine parts of a job are automated, leaving only the more demanding aspects. The risk for these workers and associated obligations or benefits take on new characteristics that should be managed proactively.

HR can create the capacity and capability it needs by focusing on these three areas and their related responsibilities:

Venn diagram with three circles: Work Architect, (Setting the optimal combinations for talent and work) Integrator (Deliver the work experience) and Coach (Enabling higher levels of engagement and performance)

Table 1: What are the focus areas?

 

Work Architect Coach Integrator
Work Design: Deconstruct and reconstruct jobs based on automation, work and skills Performance Coaching: Targeted to leaders, managers and talent People & Risk: Collaboration and oversight of the changing risk profile for work
Wellbeing: Management of modernized benefits Experience & Culture: Action leads who activate experience and culture Sourcing: Identifying, screening and arranging/contracting with talent and organizations
Talent Science: Applied artificial intelligence to HR’s work Inclusion & Diversity: Action leads who activate alternative approaches Shared services: Delivery of the HR people experience

The Work Architect includes data scientists and Talent and Rewards specialists focused on creating the most successful combinations of human capital and work. These combinations may come in the form of full-time jobs, with the best-identified attributes for performance and productivity, supported by personalized talent and reward solutions. Another combination may be a temporary team comprised of talent on loan from another organization, coupled with contingent talent and the organization’s full-time team leader. The architects in this area proactively solve for the business performance objective and outcome through the powerful alchemy of data science, work analysis and talent and reward optimization.

The Coach activates important activities that foster, reinforce, develop and sustain leader/manager and pivotal talent performance, as well as Inclusion and Diversity, experience and culture. Features of performance coaching may include administering psychometric testing and 1:1 coaching and then using the results to recommend changes to work behavior that support a worker’s development.

Resources dedicated to Experience & Culture collaborate with Talent Science and Shared Services to shape, define and deploy strategies that will improve the work experience for talent and reinforce cultural values. For example, let’s say being a learning organization is key to the talent experience and culture. This role may identify market alliances to bring in more learning resources and accessible experiences.

The Inclusion and Diversity focus area, in particular, activates strategies that will advance this objective. This may include collaborating with the Work Architects to ensure a temporary assignment team is comprised of a diverse mix of talent to support diversity of thought and creativity, and to challenge the norm.

The Integrator has some familiar ingredients to today’s HR function but has some additional areas of focus, most notably the sourcing of talent and risk. Shared Services is an important leverage model that will provide the modern HR unit with the opportunity to leverage and apply leading point solution technologies, such as chatbots for talent care and online concierge, with seamless processing of work changes (e.g., transitions to work areas, line of sight into next assignments).

As the work of HR also takes advantage of more automation, having a centralized role oversee both the “technology” and “experience” architecture will be beneficial. Sourcing talent will be both an art and a science as technology and solutions can be applied to expedite and improve the identification and matching of talent to work, but, as work requires different emerging skills, creativity will be required to source these unique skillsets. This role will require ingenuity, trial and error, and strong oversight.

As the “Internet of Things” becomes more common to business models, or digitalization permeates the divisions in your organization, data and information security is increasingly a people problem. HR has a role to play in collaborating and working with IT and cybersecurity to measure and address workplace behaviors (e.g., lack of awareness around phishing schemes) that can increase the organization’s cyber risk. The degree to which automation will impact risk levels in work will also be an emerging focus; if work is becoming safer, then levels of insurance and liability may change. Proactively addressing the nature of work will fall squarely on HR’s shoulders.

Final thoughts

HR now stands at the long-predicted crossroads. Will it move forward as a strategic business partner or retrench as a support function? The opportunity to lead the business into the future will fail if it’s tied to old roles and a model designed to solve for an out-of-date and legacy workplace. It’s time for HR to redirect its skills and capabilities toward truly transforming the organization.

John Jones, director of Talent & Rewards at Willis Towers Watson

Co-author John Jones is the Talent Business Leader, North America, at Willis Towers Watson.

About Tracey Malcolm

Tracey Malcolm is the Global Future of Work Leader in the Human Capital & Benefits practice. She works with l…
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