The future of HR in times of Digitization

Digitization and related disruptive technologies will rapidly change nearly everything – markets, societies, technologies, companies, work, life. In global competition we probably will find both winners and much more losers.

HR is affected by digitization on multiple layers: (1) organization and leadership, (2) nature of work, and (3) the way HR services are delivered.

As a consequence of digitization companies, teams and employees are faced with dramatically growing uncertainty, dynamics and complexity. Repetitive manual work and even simple cognitive tasks will be taken over by smart technologies such as IT-systems and robots.

Hierarchical thinking rarely works in a complex, dynamic and uncertain context. Future settings in times of digitization will require more agility and resilience both in terms of leadership and organization.

While traditional HR is based on static and hierarchical thinking (right people, at the right time at the right place), the future role of HR is to enable and support organizational agility based on a more people-centric approach.

Agility follows three guiding principles: diversity, giving power to employees/teams and bearing immediate consequences on all levels and functions.

Dealing with complexity means taking into account multiple perspectives. This is why diverse teams often are more creative and more successful.

Diversity is about appreciating individuality. It relates to a commonly shared attitude, where individual strengths and preferences count more than predefined standard requirements (e.g. precise competence models, job description).

In knowledge intense settings employees usually demonstrate a higher level of expertise than their immediate supervisors. That’s why involvement of employees often leads to smarter decisions and outcomes.

As a consequence more and more company provide their top-experts with more power, higher rewards and more visibility. Bosses increasingly turn into coaches, leaving responsibilities with their employees and teams. Traditional management tools such as classic performance appraisal give place to short-term-cycled, team-driven approaches.

Hierarchies tend to separate employees and departments from clients and from each other. In agile organizations people are rather dedicated to their internal/external client than to their immediate supervisor.

While in the past HR information systems mainly served HR professionals, future systems will empower employees and teams through mobile apps. This applies for nearly everything we will do in HR.

Hierarchical feedback loops reduce agility and resilience. The best way to increase fast learning, long-term talent development, mediate purpose and ensure engagement is to let people bear the consequences of their decisions and actions.

Therefore, agile organizations foster and encourage their employees to learn from each other, share their knowledge, give instant feedback, build and use internal networks, collaborate across departmental boarders based on common goals. All this will be supported by digital, mobile platforms. Moreover, incentive systems focusing on individual performance will be replaced by team-based approaches.