Blog: HR's changing role

Pia-Maria Thorén

Inspirational Director and founder of Agile People also an author of Agile People - A Radical Approach for HR and Managers (That Leads to Motivated Employees)

HR's role goes from being primarily an administrative function to delivering a high strategic value to the entire organisation. If traditional HR mainly has focused on implementing processes, standards, policies, and control systems, the focus is now on speed, learning organisations, and involving internal customers. HR must lay the foundation for flexibility, adaptability, and innovation to support managers and employees to perform and truly feel committed. The goal is to help employees become increasingly competent in different roles, to be able to work better together, and to make decisions closer to external customers.

The principle for decision-making is that the one who is most competent in an area, should also be the one who makes decisions regarding that area. They have the best insights and should therefore also be responsible for the decisions made in accordance with their ability. It also requires that they have the information needed to make these decisions, which requires an increased degree of transparency regarding the information about how the company is doing, what financial constraints there are, and which goals and priorities are currently the most important.

Below you will find an overview of the changes that HR needs to make to increase the agility in the business. All companies are somewhere between these extremes, either more to the left or more to the right. Feel free to think about where you are on a scale from 1-10 where 1 is at the far left and 10 is at the far right. Then think about where you want to be and what you can do to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. You will probably conclude that in certain areas (processes) you are further to the right and also that it can differ between different departments or geographical offices, and also between different teams.

Instead of having a big focus on developing policies, rules and standards, the focus should be on delivering flexibility, speed, and cooperation with the business.

Instead of delivering ready-made programs, processes, and IT systems to customers, HR needs to involve customers (managers and employees) in the delivery process and listen to what would best support them, while also contributing to the overall goals and focus of the company.

Instead of calling yourself an HR specialist OR HR generalist OR HR administrator, you work towards creating T-shaped HR people who can take on many different roles within and outside the HR organisation. T-shaped people are described more in the blog post about Learning, but overall, it means that you have one or more top competencies and a broad general basic competency.

Instead of working individually or in functional teams, you need to work increasingly in cross-functional teams that mix different skills and knowledge.

Instead of working with specialist areas, you work with optimising for value flows such as "potential candidates for onboarded employees" or the delivery of competent and further developed people to the business.

Instead of locking people into strict and restrictive job roles and positions, you work increasingly with letting employees work in many different roles to get a gradually broader competence.

Instead of running temporary HR projects, you work more with stable teams that get to know each other deeply for a longer period of time, so that you can perform better together.

Instead of managers / HR promoting and paying bonuses according to a normal distribution curve, employees are rewarded in a fairer way with the help of, for example, salary formulas and variable rewards based on collective intelligence where employees provide input on which criteria are important to reward and who exhibited a high degree of these.

Instead of delivering programs and processes, the goal for HR should be to deliver what creates value for the business and which can support increased motivation/performance.

Instead of standardising processes and tools according to "one size fits all", one realises that everything needs to be adapted and tailored to local needs with a large measure of autonomy ("no size fits all").

Instead of believing that you have the recipe for successful HR performance, you realise that you need experiments to find the best solutions and that it no longer is good enough using "best practice", because in that case you are never better than the competition.

Instead of seeing people as lazy and uncommitted who must be motivated by carrots and sticks, as well as controlled with policies and rules (human view X), you move towards seeing that people want to work and create customer value and are motivated by an inner drive to be the best they can be at work (human view Y).

In the next section, we will take a closer look at how you can start working with Agile HR - stay tuned!

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