Long have we been talking about the transformation of HR and how its role and significance is shifting within our businesses. There is opportunity now for HR to evolve further and be a strategic contributor and influencer in the future success of our organizations. The workplace of the future is arriving—one where an all-inclusive talent market overtakes traditional full-time employees as the norm—and HR is helping to guide the way for a smooth transition.

Global Brands Already View HR as a Strategic Contributor

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.

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

The Five Forces of Change

 Exactly how is the workplace changing? Just take a look at this visual to see a depiction of the Five Forces of Change affecting the nature of work, our nature of workers and the nature of our organizations:

  1. Exceptional pattern of technology change
  2. Social and organizational reconfiguration
  3. A truly connected world
  4. All-inclusive global talent market
  5. Human and machine collaboration

When these forces are impacted by shifts in the world population—from changes in fertility to an aging population—combined with technology empowerment via innovations like the cloud and the Internet of things (IoT), we see major changes for the future of work. The macro and micro trends make one thing clear—the workplace and our workers are evolving, and organizations need to prepare. Are you ready to embrace the Five Forces of Change?

Ready to Begin the Journey?

I am 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 to the role of a strategic contributor:

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

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

To be viewed as strategic contributors, HR leaders need to share these trends with the rest of the decision-makers to help develop a strategy that enables your organization to best weather these 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.

Moving forward, we need to explore how the next generations select the companies they want to work with, and how and where they want to work. We must also consider the active retiree, who may be an excellent specialist and someone an organization will want to remain connected to. 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.

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

As the HR lead, you are probably already looking at this sort of data … but, is the rest of the senior leadership team? They too need to understand why traditional employment practices are evolving. As a strategic contributor 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 strategy.

How you get their attention and buy-in is important. Lead with the data that tells the story and have the top team, including you, 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.

Engaging your CEO and C-suite is an important first step. Don’t wait for the strategy to be handed down and then present new information that may have been vital in defining the strategy.

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.

4. Prepare your HR Leaders and Managers too.

You should also look at how HR needs to change and how it will develop its capabilities to activate and manage the right organization talent model for the future. To smoothly adapt to the changes, you need your people aligned on this vision. HR must sing from the same song sheet when engaging with the rest of the business.

CHROs need to ensure their colleagues really do 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.

The Time is Now for HR to be Viewed as a Strategic Contributor

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.

If you’re headed to the 2017 HR People + Strategy Annual Conference in Aventura, Florida (April 23-26), I’m facilitating a breakout session on this topic, so if you’d like to continue the discussion in person, I’d love to meet you there!

April 19, 2017


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

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