The human resources department is at risk of being trivialized in a world of disruptive change. Here's how you can help HR remain relevant—and get the help you need as an adaptive manager.
- If you're going to be a manager in a world of unbundled work, you need to a Human Resources department for a world of unbundled work. As an adaptive manager, you need to tell your HR department, what it is you really need. Now that could sound like a lot of added work for you, but if HR hears from you and from a lot of other managers in your organization, they're far more likely to adapt to the needs of a rapidly changing world. Well a traditional HR department has two major functions, helping to find and develop the best possible workers for the organization, and a whole bunch of administrative activities.
But those two functions require two totally different mindsets, and often they need completely different kinds of people to perform them. As a manager who's hiring, you know the drill. You're going to typically process the paperwork to establish an open job requisition, or a req. You write a job description, your HR department takes that description, sifts through its database of existing candidates, and posts it so it can be found on job search sites. Candidates then submits their resumes, HR finds what seem to be the closest matches, and they hand you a handful of candidates to interview.
So what's wrong with this picture? Well in a rapidly changing world, pretty much everything. The overall context is one of supply and demand. It assumes there's a limited demand, job openings, and a large supply of job seekers. Even our traditional labels in the employment process are in the employer's hands. Human resources describes people as if they're an asset, not individuals. Even the word talent has its own implicit biases. Most people don't think of themselves as a talent, and in fact, the word implies someone of higher skill levels, which can disenfranchise those who don't think of themselves as talent.
But if you've made your team's deliverables a pool of problems to be solved, you're in a much better position to leverage what your HR department can do for you. Help HR to understand the problems that you need to solve. Provide them with information about the team's insights into the kinds of skills that are needed to perform those tasks. Take the time that's necessary to brainstorm with HR, the kinds of knowledges and experiences that could be transferable, and expand the pool of available workers.
I call this the soft walls of the organization. In the 20th Century, organizations usually had hard walls. You were either an employee or you weren't. Now it's obviously an oversimplification. There have been temporary workers, literally going back to Elizabethan England. But the role of the personnel department, which is what HR used to be called, was as a gatekeeper, to keep people out of the organization. But in an unbundled world of work, your HR department has to change its processes completely.
Rather than serving as a gatekeeper keeping people out of the organization, it needs to function more like a router in a computer network, guiding a flow of people to the right places within the organization, where they can find or create the greatest fit. Now that doesn't just apply to candidates for full time and long-term work, it applies to consultants, gig workers, partner organizations, any resource that's going to help you get the work of your group done. And it doesn't just apply to new candidates for work to be done.
It applies to the people who are already doing work for the organization, as well. If you're going to be an adaptive manager in a constantly changing world of unbundled work, you have a responsibility to help your HR department to understand the ways that they can continually partner with you, to deliver the results that you need.
- Dealing with disruptive change and the new rules of work
- Establishing a new contract with workers
- Rethinking job qualifications
- Hiring for diversity and inclusion
- Identifying key skills for adaptive workers
- Helping your team become lifelong learners
- Leveraging automation for your team
- Becoming an adaptive manager
- Making human resources a partner
- Recognizing when your adaptive strategy is working