The Future of HR, part 5: 13 roles for HR in 2013

Some roles HR can play in 2013.

1. The Connector

In today’s organisation it is all about connections. HR has to focus on building and strengthening the connections. Between countries. Between functional areas. Between old and young. Between Bay Boomers and Gen Y. Between old and new. Between early-adaptors and followers. Between change lovers and stabilisers. Between inner-circle and outer circle. Between leaders and followers. Between HQ and the people at the front.

2. The Producer

Modern HR can learn a lot from television producers. In the Netherlands there is a daily TV-show called “As the World Turns”. It is every day from 7.30 to 8.30 pm. The format is strong and not very flexible. Within the format they produce a show every day. Some days are fantastic, some days boring. On average high quality. The speed of producing is key. When something important happens in the morning, it should be in the show that night. The productions of HR often take too long. With a lot of effort we are able to produce one or two productions per year! Let’s speed up and increase our capabilities to produce high-impact productions in a week or if necessary in a day.

3. The Go-with-the-flower

Often control is an illusion. Organisations want to much control over things that cannot be controlled. Months are spend on building a Social Media policy, while employees are tweeting and chattering away on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and wherever. HR can play the role of the go-with-the flower. Do nothing and just watch what happens. Some chaos can be very constructive. Redundancy is good, not bad.

4. The Accelerator

Speed is of utmost important. HR can help to accelerate processes and decision making. The pace in most organisations is too slow. The year is still the most important planning building block. HR can do a lot to help to increase the speed. Hire speedy persons. Get rid of or redesign slow and bureaucratic processes. Stop with one-size-fits-all concepts. Adopt ‘Just-in time’ and get rid of ‘Just-in-case’.

5. The Designer

Can organisations be beautiful? Can organisations be a place where it is fun to be? HR can play a more active role in workplace design. Functionality and efficiency: yes, but let’s as HR add the people element. Also here: it is not one-size-fits all. “All our employees are mobile” I read on a brochure this week. This is not true. Some people like the rhythm to work from 8 to 5 in the same office every day. Some people are most creative when they work from home where they can think undisturbed. Let’s make sure what we design can fulfil the needs of different groups.

6. The Thinker

Thinking is under rated. HR can promote thinking and do some thinking themselves. The current practices, with a focus on teamwork and ‘together we can make it’ has made introverts suspicious. What is she doing alone out there? Let’s review how we can promote thinking and good teamwork.

7. The Reconciliator

Dilemma reconciliation is a critical leadership skill, not mastered by many. One dimensional thinking is the norm. How can we become more global? (instead of how can we become more global AND local). How can we improve teamwork? (instead of how can we promote teamwork AND individualism). How can we become faster (and not: how can we become faster AND slower). HR can play the role of the Reconciliator. In  meetings, in training sessions, in sessions with their team.

8. The Maverick

A role that speaks for itself. In my view we need more mavericks, certainly in HR.

9. The Ambiguitist

Coping with ambiguity is also a critical leadership skill, for all levels in the organisation. We do not like ambiguity, and we try to act as if it does not exist. HR should stop to play this game. Ambiguity will only increase, and HR can be the example of how to cope with ambiguity.

10. The Slacker

Some time ago there was a nice blog with the title “What happened to down time; the extinction of deep thinking & sacred space”. Downtime is needed. HR can be exemplary here as well. Do not plan meetings back-to-back. Do not judge people who allow themselves some slack.

11. The Curator

A new role for HR is the role of the curator. Curator of critical capabilities and top talent in the organisation. Curator of the connectors and the people who can make a difference. Curating knowledge on people and organisations.

12. The Data-miner

Traditionally data-mining is not one of the core competencies of HR. It should be, and modern technology will help a lot. HR can have its sensors out wide in the organisation. What is happening with the engagement levels of people in critical projects? What capabilities are slowly eroding?

13. The Experimenter

We can learn a lot of experiments. HR can drive experiments. Do not strive to design the global all-encompassing process, practice or system that will be future-proof. Time goes by and nothing happens. Start experiments with those parts of the organisation that love something new. Implement, learn, adapt and start a new experiment.

These were just 13 roles I recommend you to try out in 2013. I am sure there are more, and I would certainly like to hear yours!

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