The new possible: How HR can help build the organization of the future

The pandemic underscores the urgency for a more dynamic talent and work model. Human-resources leaders can help by focusing on identity, agility, and scalability.

Business leaders watching their organizations experience profound upheaval because of the COVID-19 crisis may find it difficult to understand what it all means until the dust settles.

But the pandemic hasn’t afforded them, or any of us, that luxury. It has created profound and immediate changes to how societies operate and how individuals interact and work. We have all witnessed an at-scale shift to remote work, the dynamic reallocation of resources, and the acceleration of digitization and automation to meet changing individual and organizational needs.

Organizations have by and large met the challenges of this crisis moment. But as we move toward imagining a postpandemic era, a management system based on old rules—a hierarchy that solves for uniformity, bureaucracy, and control—will no longer be effective. Taking its place should be a model that is more flexible and responsive, built around four interrelated trends: more connection, unprecedented automation, lower transaction costs, and demographic shifts.

To usher in the organization of the future, chief human-resources officers (CHROs) and other leaders should do nothing less than reimagine the basic tenets of organization. Emerging models are creative, adaptable, and antifragile. Corporate purpose fuels bold business moves. “Labor” becomes “talent.” Hierarchies become networks of teams. Competitors become ecosystem collaborators. And companies become more human: inspiring, collaborative, and bent on creating an employee experience that is meaningful and enjoyable.

After the pandemic erupted last year, we spoke with 350 HR leaders about the role of uncertainty in their function. They told us that over the next two years they wanted to prioritize initiatives that strengthen their organization’s ability to drive change in leadership, culture, and employee experience.

How are they doing? In this article, we discuss ways that CHROs can continue to meet the moment by rethinking processes in three fundamental areas: identity, agility, and scalability.

How HR fits in the big picture

McKinsey has recently conducted research on how businesses can best organize for the future. The experimentation underway suggests that future-ready companies share three characteristics: they know what they are and what they stand for; they operate with a fixation on speed and simplicity; and they grow by scaling up their ability to learn and innovate.

HR can help propel this transformation by facilitating positive change in these three key areas.

Source: McKinsey