HR Transformation In The Experience Age

HR TransformationHR Transformation is a big topic.

The human resources function starts small, and as the organization grows, the HR team becomes complex. We need recruiters, business partners, specialists, designers, technologists, and a variety of other specialists in diversity, culture, learning, and more.

It’s a perfect market for consultants. Most HR departments grow organically (and through acquisitions) and every few years they sit down and try to figure out how to organize better. And in the process they look at shared services teams, design teams, delivery centers, and the best way to distribute HR professionals into every business unit. 

One of the biggest drivers of this work is technology. Whenever a company buys a new HR platform, the team has to adapt to the new systems, tools, portals, and self-service capabilities. Over time, of course, we want more and more of HR administration to go away, and we want to give employees more direct access to all the information they need. This means roles like “HR Generalist” and “HR administrator” are going away, and HR departments are becoming more agile, cross-trained, and more like consulting organizations.

Today I believe the biggest change is not just the role of technology, it’s the need to focus on “Experience Design” in our work. We can no longer think of HR as a function that creates “programs” that people adopt and use. We have to design and deliver “experiences,” just like we do for customers. And this new idea changes the way HR must be organized, the way HR teams design solutions, and the need for HR to be more of an ongoing, iterative, design and delivery operation.

In many ways, I believe HR transformation is going the way of software engineering. Rather than doing traditional waterfall design (the old way software was designed), we need HR teams to organize into small problem-focused teams, design solutions in an iterative way, develop small “minimal viable products” in partnership with the business, and then instrument and improve these solutions every day. Behind this we need the concept of “Dev Ops,” a function developed in IT that manages the ongoing support, analytics, and iterative improvement of these programs.

This new idea, HR designed as an agile design and delivery function, is a big shift. It means throwing away the old model of HR as a “service delivery” function, and really understanding that HR must focus on product management (understanding customer needs), product design (designing solutions that must “sell” in the market), and agile development, delivery, and data-driven improvement.

One of the reasons I decided to build the Josh Bersin Academy was to address this change. I could see that all HR roles were changing and that HR professionals today need Full Stack capabilities. But when you take a step back and look at the whole HR function, there are some bigger issues to think through.

In my journey to understand this well (I spent fifteen years studying this at Bersin & Associates and then more than six years at Deloitte learning from many expert consultants), I have reached the conclusion that a whole new model of HR has emerged. I haven’t had time to write it down in a complete way, but in my research, I spent some time with Mercer, who is well along on this journey. Several years ago Mercer acquired a brilliant small consulting firm called Promerit, and the Promerit and Mercer teams have been rolling out a new approach to HR transformation.

In the interest of helping HR teams around the world understand the idea of “Experience-Focused HR Transformation,” I wrote this up in a research report. It’s available here, with in-depth examples from PVH and TripAdvisor.  I encourage you to read it, and please contact me if you’d like to learn more.

PVH’s story is one of a global multi-brand company with many distributed HR teams, now coming together to build a globally integrated function that leverages a new platform (Workday) in a strongly federated model. As you will read in the story, Analia Mac Laughlin did a masterful job of respecting the expertise of many local HR leaders to build an integrated model.

The TripAdvisor story is one of a company that has rapidly grown through acquisition and needed to harmonize its efforts and operate in a more strategic way.  Jeffrey Seitz, the head of technology and analytics at that company, explains how a mid-sized organization can transform HR to become strategic in a world of hyper-growth and many contingent workers.

We are going to cover this topic in a big way at JBA Live!, our just-announced live conference in Los Angeles on June 8-10. I invite you to join us at JBA Live!, because it is probably the only HR conference in the world focused entirely on the professional development of HR. We are keeping sponsors to a bare minimum, and focusing entirely on hot topics, new ideas, and learning sessions to help you advance your career as a professional, leader, or organization. (And every attendee will receive a JBA membership!)

JBA Live!

Redesigning HR in the Experience Age is a big deal, and this year we will be launching quite a few new programs focused on employee experience and how you design and deliver experiences at work. I want to applaud Mercer for their leadership in this area and thank PVH and TripAdvisor for sharing their stories with us.