Long have we been talking about the transformation of HR and how its role and significance is shifting within our businesses. Long have we been talking about how HR needs to evolve in order to strategically influence the plan for the future direction of our organizations, to ensure our talent can get “there” and beyond. And now … it’s finally happening! The workplace of the future is arriving and HR is helping to guide the way for a smooth transition.

While it might seem far-fetched for large, established organizations to experiment with new ways of working – they have to – and they are. Take Pepsi, IBM and Cisco Systems to name a few. These organizations have undertaken significant steps to evolve their HR functions – bringing in experts from other disciplines like engineering, marketing and other areas to collaborate. As a result, they’re establishing a more unified organization that appeals to the modern workforce. We all should be looking at the workforce model through this type of highly competitive lens.

If your CEO, CTO and CFO are not already planning for these changes, the CHRO must take charge and lead the discussion. It is time for HR to move from strategy-reactive HR, to strategy-proactive HR that finds and engages the best talent, wherever it sits in the world … starting right now.

Ready to begin the journey?

As I’ve played on both sides of the fence – now as a “Rootster” (as we call ourselves) and previously as a Root client – I’m intimately aware of how HR functioned in the past and how the leading global brands are transforming HR today, both at organizational and functional levels. Based on this experience, I’d like to share four important tips for those ready to dive into elevating HR’s strategic presence:

1. Get the relevant data that illustrates current market changes and forecasted trends.

Being informed is the only way the HR team can work with the rest of the decision-makers to develop a strategy that helps your organization weather the shifts and empowers people to accept change. Start by gathering credible data that is applicable to your industry. Work with your HR, Strategy and Marketing teams and consultants to gather inputs that create a clear picture of the current state and what is yet to come, so you can all be equally informed on the impending changes.

Today there is a consensus of trend data available that tells us current talent pools will not be refilled by our usual sources. We’ve learned that the full-time employee can no longer be assumed to be the norm. It’s time to prepare for shifts in where your best people will be found and to consider technological advances that allow us to tap into worldwide talent and engage specialist talent (when we need them) wherever they are.

Moving forward, we need to explore how the next generations select the companies they want to work with, and as well as how and where they want to work. We must also consider the active retiree who may be an excellent specialist, but doesn’t want to work commute into the city in a suit each day. If we continue the full-time, physically present employee model for every role, we will ultimately lose to more dynamic and sustaining models that our competitors will embrace.


The above map showcases the “Forces of Change” currently creating the workforce of the future. For more insight on the visual, please click here.

2. Use this data to help engage with the CEO, the full leadership team and key influencers, like board members.

As the HR lead, you are probably already looking at all of this data … but, is the rest of the leadership team? They too need to understand why traditional employment practices are evolving. You need to educate them on how world population dynamics, technological advancements, and the new workforce’s preferred social and democratic working ways are evolving the norms of employment practices today. Be sure to reinforce that if there isn’t support in place for this change, it’s going to adversely impact the business.

How you get their attention and buy-in is important. Lead with the data that tells the story and have the top team explore it and talk about it together. Do not go in with ‘the answer.’ A foregone conclusion from HR, or anyone for that matter, prohibits group dialogue and shared ownership of ideas and solutions. You might even consider including a neutral or external facilitator to steer this conversation, allowing you to participate actively in the discussion with your C-suite peers.

We often hear, “I can’t just stroll up and present it to the board.” And we don’t expect you to. That’s why engaging your CEO and C-suite first is so important. You’ll benefit from hearing their perspective and this can help you craft a balanced and thorough presentation for the board. There’s no doubt that the board will appreciate the leadership team’s support. Combined with the facts of your data, there is no missing business perspective.

Once you’ve educated them on the impending changes, grabbed their attention with your data and garnered their support, you have set the stage for how HR can drive strategic action for the business.

3. Collaborate with business leaders to assess the impact of these forces on your organization and competitive landscape.

HR doesn’t own this issue on its own. Your goal is to get everyone involved. Ideally, after hearing the facts, all of your leaders will be asking what they need to do at a company level to take advantage of these insights, and how they need to prep their part of the business for change.

When we take a force of change, like workforce mobility, there are many interpretations as to what that means to an organization. Take all the forces into consideration before you discuss what you want to become, as it is far more effective to start with a vision of the future state, and then work back to where you are today. Freeing yourself of current business constraints by immersing your thoughts in the future world, and describing what type of organization you must be in the future, assures your relevance and competitive strength when you get there.

There are many strategic factors to consider that will surface the real priorities and the size of the task ahead. Tools such as this “Forces of Change Assessment” worksheet can help to identify where you are today and how to best create a strategy for change as you consider the ways your specific organization will be impacted by the future of work and our evolving workforce.


Want a better look at this worksheet and other tools to help you navigate the future of work? Click here.

4. Prepare your HR Leaders and Managers Too.

Don’t forget, you also need to look at how HR needs to change and how it will develop, activate and manage the right the talent model for the future. To smoothly adapt to the changes, you need your people aligned on decisions locally and functionally. HR must sing from the same song sheet when engaging with the rest of the business.

CHROs need to ensure their colleagues really understand the forces of change, the potential impact on the organization, and the importance of addressing a different talent agenda. Prepare them to have intellectual, informed discussions with their teams that lead to ‘sense making’ discussions within the business and within the HR function.

With knowledge of the forces of change, and potential impacts on your industry and functions, your HR colleagues will have a clear understanding of the pace of change required, and will bring their specialist knowledge about talent trends and capabilities to strategy discussions regarding the future of the business.

Putting It into Action

Several of us at Root have been working along side John Boudreau, Professor of Management and Organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and the passionate CHROs in CHREATE (the global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent and the Enterprise) to help determine what will help businesses win in the future. Based on three years of studies, we’ve created a set of tools and resources that help with enabling work reimagined. Ready to join us? You can access these materials at: chreate.net. This insight will be immensely useful in crafting your plans. If you are embarking on an HR transformation, you had better ensure you have considered the forces of change impacting talent of the future, ensuring the investments you make now are the right ones.

August 1, 2016


I want to hear how you can help my organization align on and activate our strategy. Call me, today.

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