The Impact of the Digital Human Resources Organization on People - Part 1

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Less than 10 percent of companies believe they are organized to succeed.

Only 14 percent know what a successful new organization looks like.

Those startling statistics come from Deloitte’s Josh Bersin, an expert on corporate human resources, talent management, recruiting and leadership. He surveyed some 7,000 companies.

Late in 2016, Bersin issued a set of predictions for human resources and leadership.

Those predictions were tied together by one key theme: digital.

Digital might seem obvious – even over-used – given that digital technologies have entered nearly every aspect of our lives.

However, as a human resources expert, Bersin is referring to the fact that digital is changing jobs and work and delivering new ways to “manage, lead, and operate companies.”

Over the next few posts, I’d like to offer my perspective on some of Bersin’s predictions, how they might benefit a high performance people strategy, and intersect with diversity and inclusion efforts. When appropriate, I’ll include examples from my company, PAREXEL. My hope is to inspire and start a dialogue on these topics.

Prediction 1: Organizational Design Will Be Challenged Everywhere. In his research, Bersin speaks with thousands of companies. He’s noticed that every company is focused on rethinking the way they are designed.

This makes sense. Top-down, bureaucratic organizations are not designed to respond the accelerating needs of the marketplace. They’re not designed for disruptive competition that can happen in any industry at any time.

Digital technologies change the competitive landscape, pitting companies in vastly different industries against each other. For example, Google’s parent company Alphabet’s entry into healthcare makes it a competitor to well-established biopharmaceutical and health care companies.

Today, business success requires greater customer focus, creativity, collaboration and experimentation. It requires more transparency and more agility. It also requires systematizing and scaling learnings.

Digital not only makes that possible. It makes it easier. 

Bersin recommends companies look at the way they are organized in terms of “how work gets done, studying organizational networks... then designing work to support cross-functional success.”

Cross-functional teams can be more agile, work faster and more effectively, and usually drop formal structures in favor of getting things done. While senior leaders can set high-level guidelines for local business units and functions, digital collaboration tools can be used to set and track goals.

At PAREXEL we created a working group called Organizational Design. The team’s mandate has been to promote innovation, flexibility, and mobility between roles. Working across our global organization, Organizational Design is focused on creating smaller, flatter, more agile, empowered teams that make us more attractive to potential partners and more competitive than others in our industry.

Prediction 2: Culture and Engagement Will Remain Top Priorities. Bersin predicted that culture and engagement related topics will continue to be top priorities.

Study after study have shown that companies with a strong sense of purpose and clearly defined set of cultural values outperform their peers.” He notes that the entire workforce – from Boomers to Millenials – is more demanding than ever around the topic of culture.

In the past, I’ve written about diversity and inclusion (What Happens When You Define a Culture of Diversity, How the Best Companies Plan and Measure Diversity & Inclusion Success, Beyond Diversity). Readers know that diversity and inclusion are among my greatest passions. I believe they are top priorities to keep employees engaged and focused on creating success.

It makes sense – culture brings people together. Culture, when everyone feels included, involved, and respected, drives innovation.

Managing culture is a challenge. Culture is transparent and employees share details on your company very publicly on sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Culture is part of your brand, according to Bersin, and impacts who you attract as employees, your ability to hire, and even what is conveyed to your customers.

Your employee’s opinions matter and not only should be measured on a regular basis, but should be listened to constantly. Their opinions can be calibrated with other companies in your industry (and outside). Digital tools make it possible to listen to culture-related news internally and externally, and to conduct and measure employee engagement regularly.

At PAREXEL, for example, we recently participated in Catalyst’s Inclusion-at-Work Survey. Along with 10 companies from other industries, we used that survey to create a baseline measure of inclusion at our company. While the results aren’t appropriate for this article (I will say, we are doing very well), the idea of the survey goes back to management guru Peter Drucker’s quote, “What gets measured improves.” I see the survey and the index as a very important starting point for us.

What do you think? How has the design of your organization been impacted by digital technologies? Is culture a top priority for you and your team? How do you measure the success of your efforts?

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