At a recent event in London for CHROs, HR professionals highlighted the speed of their own function’s transformation as a key challenge. Not keeping pace with the wider organisation’s change agenda means lots of change fronts opening up simultaneously, hampering the rapid transformation all companies are striving to achieve.

HR has worked hard to move away from its history as the department of smiles and files, hiring and firing, to take a strategic seat at the top table. It cannot afford to hesitate at this crucial moment. But its legacy lingers, leaving a blend of administrative activities (e.g. maintaining personnel records), responsibility for pervasive organisation-wide behaviours (e.g. shaping the employee experience) and intricate cross-silo offerings that require collaboration and cooperation (e.g. leadership development).

Complicating matters further, the technology landscape is being radically changed by AI. Recruiting, onboarding, performance management, learning, career planning – no service currently provided by HR is unaffected. How can HR professionals accelerate their departments’ transformation to ensure exponential – not just linear – growth?

The next evolution of HR requires CHROs who can run a pace-layered transformation strategy, i.e. taking care of some change slowly and robustly, whilst embracing other change in a fast, flexible, agile way, inspired by Gartner’s approach to Application Transformation Strategy. Where to begin?


Unbundling HR

HR stands at a pivotal crossroads in its evolution. While automation is a common starting point for transformation, it’s not merely about streamlining administrative tasks—it’s about liberating talent to spearhead strategic initiatives. However, the real catalyst lies in unbundling—stripping away conventional structures to reveal the core essence of each activity. This process isn’t just about simplification; it’s a springboard for unprecedented efficiency. It empowers CHROs to chart a transformative course, discerning where automation propels efficiency, where agility drives progress, and where waste demands elimination. This isn’t just HR evolution; it’s a seismic shift in organisational capability, essential for unlocking exponential growth in an era defined by rapid change and innovation.

Unbundling is a high-yield approach poised to transform organisations. Our friends at Boundaryless have conducted an in-depth exploration, detailing the pivotal role of org-level unbundling in steering a market-driven transformation agenda. Their comprehensive analysis offers invaluable insights into leveraging unbundling as a catalyst for redefining organisational strategies and propelling exponential growth

Automate as much as possible, Optimise the rest

Unbundling results in a comprehensive map and assessment of all activities within the function.. This evaluation involves gauging the maturity and complexity of each activity, essential for positioning them effectively on the delivery spectrum:

  • Is an activity sufficiently intricate or strategic to warrant an agile approach?
  • Is it sufficiently understood to undergo refinement, trimming waste, and adopting a leaner delivery method?
  • Or has it reached a stage of clarity and documentation that allows for automation?These critical assessments are pivotal in determining the optimal transformation path for each activity, ensuring a strategic and efficient transformational journey.

There are no shortage of low-hanging fruit when it comes to HR use cases for automation – and unbundling allows us to tackle individual steps in a complex process, not just the whole process, making the barrier to entry much lower. This list complied by Cem Dilegani at AIMultiple is a great starting place if you are feeling stuck for inspiration!

Activities currently too complex for automation due either to intricate requirements or contextual complexities can be optimised through basic consulting skills and exceptional digital acumen. For instance, a viable strategy in these cases involves redesigning a complex service, adopting a concierge mindset to ensure a seamless experience for all team interactions.

Service design is a good on-ramp for substantial innovation, especially when an existing solution needs to be stabilised or evolved. By focusing on experiences and moments that matter it introduces a fresh perspective crucial for HR’s complete integration into its transformed future.

Furthermore, adopting an agile-to-lean-to-automation cycle continually generates new prospects for enhancement. Embracing this constant cycle of change cultivates an environment conducive to transformation, surpassing the limitations of change confined to specific programs or projects. It’s an evolution where change becomes a shared responsibility, ingrained in the weekly agenda, fostering a culture where adaptability is the cornerstone of progress.

Innovate new products & services

As the transformation landscape within HR takes shape, unveiling a comprehensive map of its evolving offerings, it presents an opportune moment to explore novel products and services that bridge existing capability gaps. A well-defined inventory of HR’s products and services, coupled with an assessment of their suitability for automation or standardisation, lays the groundwork for establishing a shared service platform driven by automation. This initiative paves the way for a seamless, concierge-style entry point, streamlining user experiences and fostering a more efficient service delivery model.

Even in parts of the HR remit that seem new and cutting edge, there are untapped potential to explore. Take People Analytics, for instance, it must transcend mere dashboards to address more profound inquiries. Using the time affordances of automation and optimisation, these teams can reinforce the consulting skills to offer elevated, high-value services. For example, using Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) to diagnose breakdowns in collaboration & communication within teamsrepresents an exciting opportunity. And of course, that isn’t nearly far enough to ensure the future of the HR function – use cases for GPT in People Analytics are also beginning to surface.

Only by tackling all three layers can HR move fast enough to support the org as it transforms, otherwise it will find itself supporting part-understood initiatives with tech selection they outsourced to IT Services.

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash