Four HR building blocks for supporting a modern workforce

26 June 2019 Consultancy.eu

To stay relevant in the digital age, organisations need to become more agile and embrace an innovative work culture. The human resources (HR) department plays a key role in this shift – people are the cornerstone of any organisation, with HR practices needed to ensure that these people contribute to overarching strategic objectives.

In a new white paper titled ‘Reinventing HR practices’, consultants at BlinkLane Consulting have spelled out how they believe HR departments could go about becoming a strategic partner to change. The authors kick-off by highlighting the mighty task at hand for human resources – driving organisation-wide cultural change is by no means an easy feat. 

First, while HR is the driver of HR policies and people management strategies, when it comes to execution, they are typically positioned as just the facilitator. The policies, guidelines, standards, practices, processes and tools ultimately need to be used by managers and people on the work floor to achieve the required objectives. Second, the HR department is often not fully informed about what is happening in the organisation’s tentacles, and risks playing a role on the side-lines. Add to this the fact that HR is not always represented in the boardroom, as well as a rapidly changing backdrop (changing nature of jobs, cross-generational workforce) lifting complexity and demands, and it is clear that HR officers have a mountain to climb. 

According to the report’s authors – Fayette Bosch, Eveline Sintnicolaas, and Bettina Boele – HR departments can orchestrate their path to sustainable success by striking the right balance across four key building blocks of the human resources function. These are Recruit & Staff; Develop & Growth; Monitor & Evaluate; and Reward.

Building Blocks to Reinvent HR

Recruit & Staff 

Multidisciplinary teams
To increase agility, cross functional, stable teams are created to increase learning and knowledge sharing, and enable end-to-end product and service delivery. For HR this means that staffing aims to hire people with the right skillset based on team needs. As people will be working in a multidisciplinary team on a daily basis (instead of a functional department), this requires different competences and attitude. 

Restructure roles & functions
As large organisations need more flexibility, they experience that their current job career systems (job descriptions, classifications, career paths etc.) are too rigid. This means that the organisation probably needs new and less specialised job descriptions, but also that the system should change. Creating a more loosely coupled connection between the job that a person actually does and the system of rewarding, grading and career paths, will result in a more sustainable skill based job model.

Liquid workforce
The organisation becomes an adaptive ecosystem of highly portable people. HR practices should facilitate this, so people can be successful while moving from one role to another. From a recruitment and staffing perspective, key hiring criteria should be a cultural fit and the ability to learn. Therefore, attitude will be more and more valued over specific expertise. 

Develop & Growth 

New ways of working & behaviour skills
Teams are changing the way they work, in order to become more adaptive. There is support required from HR practices to become mature in the new way of working and to strengthen collaboration within and between teams. Manifestos make interactions implicit and diverse learning methods on behaviour skills and soft skills are applied.

Knowledge development
Learning fosters a deeper purpose as well as craftsmanship. Organisations need effective practices to develop, acquire and share knowledge on a range of subjects. HR practices should facilitate continuous learning programs, communities of practice and external collaboration for knowledge development. 

Lifelong learning
Eventually an organisation is moving from I-shaped to T-shaped to M-shaped professionals. Both breadth and depth of expertise on various topics are developed and valued. Teams are a breeding ground for this. Talent is motivated and empowered to bring their skills there where it is valued most. HR practices should continuously stimulate people to enrich their skill-set. 

Monitor & Evaluate 

Continuous feedback
Feedback from peers and others, stimulate double loop learning and enable personal growth. Continuous feedback should thus be integrated in the daily operations and ways of working. The focus of this building block is to teach individuals to give feedback on performance and behaviour of others and at the same time receive feedback.

Value based targets
Individuals and teams define their own specific objectives and targets, based on valuable outcomes. These targets are reflected in the performance reviews, where the evaluators change from managers to peers in the teams and other co-workers. More and more people will be working in small multidisciplinary teams. Therefore, team performance becomes more important as part of the evaluation process, just as personal contribution to team performance. 

Strategically aligned evaluation
Creating alignment is most important due to the self-organising nature of the organisation and for this a new system is needed. The evaluation practices should support the strategic goals of the organisation. This means that the strategy, objectives and key results of the organisations will be reflected in the performance review targets of individuals and teams. 

Reward 

Celebrate learnings & success
Rewarding is more than just salary and a money-based bonus structure. It concerns appreciation for the work someone performs. People should be intrinsically motivated to do their work. Therefore, HR practices should focus on stimulating mastery, autonomy and purpose and, learning from failures and successes by celebrating these.

Ownership of complementary rewards
Receiving appreciation for the job someone performs can happen in a variety of ways, in which money becomes less and less important. Complementary rewards are used to stimulate and motivate teams to grow. As team functioning becomes more important than that of individuals, ownership of the distribution of their team-based benefits is delegated towards the teams. 

Flexible rewarding system
A flexible rewarding system is implemented in which the organisation can select from a variety of rewarding options. Think of more frequent rewarding moments, a different form of rewarding and a different balance in stable versus variable rewards based on team performances. In this way organisations design their own reward system: one which best facilitates the new situation.

“By reinventing themselves in these four key areas, HR can improve the contribution they provide to an organisation’s overall transformation. Start by designing the journey, and then continue with evaluation, execution and continuous learning. Those that succeed will reap the benefits, with HR playing a key role in an organisation’s mission,” stated the three authors.