The future of your HR team may be no future at all

Prachi Goradia
min read
The future of your HR team may be no future at all

Jason Averbook, our Co-Founder and CEO of Leapgen, recently had a great conversation with George Brooks, the America’s leader for People Advisory Services at EY, about shaping the future of work through digital — a digital mindset plus digitalized experiences supported by digital technology. At Leapgen, we spend every day advising HR professionals around the world on this, but in this conversation, George voices a concern that many HR professionals have but are often too scared to voice.

What happens if HR departments don’t change in time?

We often assume that we have a long runway to prepare for the “future of work.” We build a vision for what we want our HR department to be, develop a plan to get there and then spend TWELVE to EIGHTEEN MONTHS implementing a new tool that will fix everything … But what happens if the business we support just can’t wait that long?

Well, as George describes, business leaders are often the ones asking HR to deliver more value. It turns out when they don’t, those same leaders are going out and solving for traditional HR services themselves, especially in technical organizations. That spot that HR fought so hard to earn at the table is slipping away while we spend 3 months in a procurement cycle.

Can’t help us regroup to turn the company around quickly enough? We’ll do it ourselves

I saw it for the first time a few years ago at a large media firm. The organization was going through a massive amount of change and had hired almost completely new leadership. They had innovative strategies to turn the company around and needed quick insight into talent and agile teaming to help achieve them. Two months into a new HCM implementation, HR said “Okay, we can definitely do that for you… in 12 months.”

That wasn’t fast enough. The CTO went out and hired four people from an HR department at a prior employer and embedded them in his IT department. Using homegrown tech, they stood up an amazing bare bones digital HR function overnight that allowed him to attract, retain and leverage the talent he needed do his job well. By the time that HR was ready to even begin to address his needs over a year later, he had already moved on. He had new requests for the HR function. HR had plans to meet them … but in Phase 2.

Can’t turn around the data we need? We’ll do it ourselves

In another case, the HR department at a large Financial Services organization whom I’ve worked with experienced the same thing when months after an HCM implementation they were still struggling to stand up a Workforce Analytics function. When the business was denied request after request for regular insight into their workforce (e.g., compensation, attrition, bench strength), they went out and created the insight themselves. From a simple API, the technology team launched an interactive dashboard that not only included real-time insight into the talent within the organization but also related it back to productivity and sales information that provided a holistic view into the workforce. It was exactly what HR had intended to do, but when they weren’t able to do it in time, technical experts took things into their own hands.

Can’t help develop our people? We’ll do it ourselves

In another media organization I’ve partnered with an even more drastic shift occurred to support a part of the business that felt like they weren’t getting what they needed from HR. When the business wasn’t able to get the support for development and growth they wanted, they restructured and built that HR functionality internally. Each employee reported to two managers; a technical manager and a People Manager. People Managers were responsible for helping set goals, develop skills, plan careers and manage any performance or employee relations issues along the way. They deployed [and now use] custom applications to survey, track and provide insight on the state of their talent internally. Informally, this team is known now as “those HR guys” to employees who don’t even realize they sit within their own teams.

These are just a few examples of what can happen if we don’t take a hard look at how our teams deliver HR services at a time when business needs and workforce expectations are changing at breakneck speed with no signs of a slowdown.

We need to be asking ourselves, “Is this really what my workforce needs and wants? Are we leveraging our talent to achieve the business strategy?” If the answer is no, now is the time to change.

Adopt a digital mindset. Question things that have been done the same way forever. Challenge those who say it isn’t possible, because if we don’t do it, someone else will.

Alex DePolo is a people strategist, technology lover and data advocate. She has focused her career on helping organizations reimagine HR through data and tech, first with Time Inc. and Morgan Stanley and now as a strategic consultant through Leapgen. In her career, Alex has led implementations of Workday, Visier’s workforce analytics solution and Collibra, a data governance technology. She has always had a focus on data and analytics, first building a strategy and analytics team at Time Inc, then later when she was responsible for strategy and administration for HR Business Intelligence solutions at Morgan Stanley.

At Leapgen, she has lead the re-imagination of the workforce experiences at several multi-national enterprises including Target, Avery Dennison, Humana, Land O' Lakes, and Northwestern Medicine. Alex has her bachelor's in Organizational Leadership from Temple University, her master's in Organizational Behavior from New York University and lives in Chicago, IL.

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