HR Must Focus on Building Organizations for the Future

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By Genevieve Douglas

Companies need to adapt workplace policies and technology to attract, retain and get the most out of the 21st century workforce, practitioners say.

Employers are sitting in the middle of a fundamental shift in terms of competition, business strategy and sustainability, while their employees are demanding a completely different kind of environment to work in, Erica Volini, U.S. human capital leader for Deloitte Consulting, told Bloomberg BNA March 15.

“Organizations don’t have much of a choice” in restructuring for the future workforce, she said.

Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends report found that only 11 percent of companies are prepared for future workforce needs, yet 88 percent marked “designing the organization of the future as important/ very important.” Moreover, companies in 2017 feel 31 percent “less ready” to redesign their organization around digital business models than they did in 2016, Deloitte found. The Deloitte report is based on more than 10,400 HR leaders from 140 countries.

The most structurally disrupting shift coming is that the workforce will consist of almost half flexible workers in the next 10 years, Morag Barrett, chief executive officer of executive coaching firm SkyeTeam, told Bloomberg BNA March 16. Employers need to change their attitude about where to find talent and how to manage a more tangential workforce, Barrett said.

‘No Standard Model.’

In today’s tight labor market, top-talent workers can pick and choose where they want to go and organizations with the environments that attract such employees are succeeding, Volini said. Evolving the organization into one that meets the needs of the future workforce “is business critical,” she said.

HR should start by using data analytic tools to customize organization design in a way that gets work done. This is different for every business, as “there’s no standard model,” Volini said. Data that tell HR how work gets done, how decisions are made and how employees connect with each other are essential, she said. Practically speaking, this process starts with looking at how employees are organized and moving away from a traditional hierarchy and toward teams or groups of employees to accomplish projects, Volini said.

In turn, this change in structure will affect how performance management is done, how employee recognition and rewards are doled out and even how an employer maintains a consistent corporate culture, she said.

Giving Employees the Customer Experience.

The biggest shift in strategy employers can make is applying the same principles of customer relationship management to employee management, Volini said. Traditional customer relations technologies engage customers without a lengthy process and HR needs the same types of tools to manage the employee end-to-end experience, she said.

For example, typical performance management systems require employees to fill out goals at the beginning of the year, feature one mid-year check-in and then result in a final evaluation at the end of the year. But now companies are changing performance management to include more constant feedback and conversation, Volini said. HR technology needs to be able to support this kind of communication, she added.

Employers also need to think beyond core HR systems and should invest in platforms of solutions that allow for continuous innovation. By using a platform, HR can make the system easier to use and easier to change so it fits the needs of a unique workforce. “That shift in mindset is game-changing,” she said.

According to Barrett, the technology investment needs to be less about using one platform or another and rather about access to data and information that will inform “people strategy.” That data gives HR insight into what will make people join the company or leave the company and where teams are thriving and excelling, she said.

“Technology is a great enabler, but simply buying a fancy schmancy platform isn’t going to be of use” without a team that actually can use it effectively, Barrett said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at

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