By Fabianne Ruggier, RSM Malta

In 2020, businesses around the world went through tremendous amounts of digital change that affected ways of working. For human resources (HR) the new business models need to reflect the new business realities. It has been proven that what works well today does not guarantee success in the long-term. Businesses have needed to diversify and re-structure operations just to weather the storm of COVID-19. The implications of the past year and a half on customer preferences and on the way that employees work has been huge. 

Companies that have taken the time to re-strategise, identify new markets, and re-position themselves will have identified different workforce and talent needs. Business visions are brought to life through people. 

The HR models of an organisation must be built in line with the overarching business goals. Investments in human capital are critical to find efficiencies and transition into new markets. Whether the task is retraining employees or restructuring an entire organisation, a thorough reassessment of an organisations HR model is important to help align the employees’ skills with the renewed business vision. 

The benefits of reassessing HR models

There are many benefits for organisations that are looking to reassess their HR models. Having an HR model that is current and relevant will ensure that companies attract the right talent and are therefore better positioned to retain that intellectual capital. This creates an intrinsic link to being competitive in your target market. 

It is a tall order to expect organisations to do more and to do it differently, especially during the turbulent times that have engulfed the world. This is where automation of tasks and processes has enabled shifts in behaviours and the ways of working in all aspects of a business, including the HR function.

What to consider when executing a transformation

A transformation is not entertained just for the sake of its snazzy name. It needs to have very clear strategic outcomes. Typically, there can be a tendency to rush through that phase and just get cracking with implementing some automation here and there, pepper that with some training and expect that strategic or deeper organisational changes happen because we have implemented a system.

The process all starts and ends with the ‘why’ and ‘what does success look like’. The journey in between can be fuzzy, and it only gets clearer as one executes, learns, re-calibrates, and continues the cycle of execution. 

Having clarity around the business purpose and the destination and having strategic indicators can provide guideposts through the process. The process requires rigour and discipline. It needs accountability and governance. There is a lot of learning to be done throughout – because it is all about doing what we have not done so far. There are strategic frameworks, design thinking concepts and a lot of proven methodologies that can support the exploratory journey. The right stakeholders with an open and can-do attitude led by the most visionary from the organisation are crucial. 

The technology piece becomes the easiest piece of this puzzle. We introduce and implement technology to get us to our strategic business outcome not for the sake of introducing yet another system. The mindset here should also be strategic and long-term – one needs to employ an architectural view of the different technology applications that a business may need in the medium term. Otherwise, you can end up with a spaghetti infrastructure that is costly and ineffective. 

How can HR leaders support new business models and transformation?

HR was once considered as an administrative support function which had mainly a reactive approach. It rarely found its way into the C-Suite. The pandemic was an opportunity for HR to be seen as a business partner and as a strong influence when deciding the business direction. HR is proactive, and the business agenda is the crux of its operations. 

When an HR function concerns itself with the strategic aspects of the workforce it can design the organisational structures necessary. It identifies the critical roles and resources them, it helps in assigning accountability towards the strategic outcomes, and so on.  

It is the internal trusted advisor to the business leaders. It anticipates the workforce issues and it creatively sources the options to resource the transformation plan.

Helping colleagues adapt to change

The only thing constant is change (Heraclitus). The biggest challenge that organisations see is that facing change is a very personal and individual course. Everyone reacts differently, and we all make, consciously or unconsciously, the decision on whether we are going to adapt to change smoothly or with resistance.

By that metric, the HR Function is critical in ensuring that everyone is given the opportunity to feel part of the change. It will also be up to the individual to maximise that opportunity. 

Communication plays a key role, as well as instigating touchpoints – formal and informal; supporting the leadership team and the workforce to maintain social connections even if digital ones; orchestrating developmental opportunities that can support the individual change journeys; or creating the mechanisms for the feelings and uncertainties to be expressed and discussed.