March 21, 2018

How can HR future-proof organisational design?

Organisational design is big news now. Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report demonstrated just how big it has become: it was the number one priority for organisations that year, with 92% of the 7,000 plus survey respondents saying it was very important or important to them.

The importance of organisational design (OD) was reflected in the report’s title: ‘The new organisation: Different by design’. According to Deloitte, these new organisations are designed differently: they are organised around highly empowered teams, they subscribe to a new model of management and they are led by younger, more globally diverse leaders.

And that’s just the start of it. Consider the world of work now compared to ten or even five years ago. Digital transformation, the gig economy, evolving workforces, globalization, AI….all of this has had and continues to have a profound effect on how people work and how organisations are designed. Think about how the rise of the gig economy has changed our perceptions of and the nature of work in recent years. We have a whole new model of how work can be done now as a result. Think about how the gig economy might evolve in the next three to five years and how that could further impact the way we work.

No wonder OD is such a hot topic at the moment. Organisations have to be designed differently and not just so as to reflect the changed nature of work, but in order to survive in a highly competitive, constantly changing landscape. This re-design has to incorporate all aspects of HR: OD, L&D, talent management, reward management…HR has to take a holistic, company-wide view of their organisation. HR needs to be thinking about the future of work – what is changing now and what is going to change in the future, why and how. The future of work is a big issue for HR and for organisations.

This means there is a lot for OD and HR professionals to do. Some people in the industry find this daunting, others have embraced it. Many are in between. A lot of the changes are inevitable, so OD and HR have to get to grips with this new reality.

Work environments need to be organised to enable these highly empowered teams to form and operate, for example. The right individuals need to be identified, brought together quickly, supported and enabled to achieve their aims and then disbanded when the job is done. Agile organisations need agile workers. Of particular importance is the need for agile leaders. Again, this is where HR comes in – HR needs to support leaders, help them become more agile and help them build agile teams and workforces.

All of this is about ensuring the right culture is in place, one that allows the dynamic movement of talent and ideas around an organisation. Digital has to be at the heart of everything, accepted as an enabler, rather than viewed as a difficult challenge.

It’s wholesale change for organisations and wholesale change for HR. Deloitte’s report suggests that HR has to become proficient in a whole range of new skills, such as people analytics, design thinking and behavioural economics.

It’s not just about skills – a lot of it is about attitudes. Everyone in an organisation, those in HR and those outside of HR, need to buy into these new organisational models. And they need to be prepared for disruption and for new models to emerge.