Rebuilding HR: Is HR still needed at all?

"The CHRO will take over from the CDO!" We already described this in 2016, and since then we have been observing how the HR function is increasingly assuming a decisive role in companies - provided it is positioned correctly. In this article, we explore the question of what role HR or people management can have in the context of Company ReBuilding. How does HR help large companies in particular to position themselves successfully against the numerous startups and 'digital attackers' and to implement the radical innovations that are often essential for survival?

Is HR still needed at all or will it be replaced by intelligent platforms such as Upwork, Tara or iCombine? Remaining tasks could be shifted to managers - if we still have classic managers at all. Our answer is a resounding YES. So what does it look like, the role of HR in the digitized world? What is meant by ReBuilding HR?

1. talent management takes center stage

We live in a time when one technological breakthrough follows the next. But technology has long since ceased to make the difference. Because it is almost freely available, IT infrastructure is becoming cheaper and cheaper thanks to Moore's Law. The differentiating factor in the digital age is people! And specifically the person who has the right skills and the right mindset - creativity, emotional intelligence, far-reaching understanding of technology - and who not only thinks in castles in the air, but also demonstrates implementation strength. Identifying these talents, recruiting them, and developing and retaining them in the company will be the task of all employees in the future - and definitely also the focus of a people management role. And ultimately, it is also the Prio 1 topic of every CEO. But this only in passing...

2. selection of the High-Performing Team

In our Company ReBuilding approach we describe that the birth of a new unit (cell) in the company is the selection of a High-Performing Team. Crucial here: classic assessment methods of personnel service providers usually fall far short, even leading to the selection of the completely wrong people. Here, topics such as diversity, a selection based on strengths and potentials as well as current skills play a decisive role. The selection of this team is crucial, forms the DNA of the new cell and is responsible for the development of the new business model. As the authors of "Good to Great" so beautifully describe, the critical step for success for companies (and their transformation) is: Get the right people on the bus! This selection process can be triggered, among other things, by formulating challenges (cf. e.g. Thinking Tools for High Performers, G. Wohland), which offer an optimal pre-selection of talents for the High Performing Team. The optimal accompaniment of this process is a very important task of the HR management function in the Company ReBuilding context.

3. people management becomes platform and network management

Who of you knows the platform Upwork or the software solution Tara. Both are examples of solutions for managing and optimally allocating the workforce in the context of Company ReBuilding. Upwork is the largest freelancer database in the world and offers not only the possibility to select the optimal individual for the respective job based on customer ratings, certifications, etc., but also to assemble teams based on social information that are not only available but also optimally fit the respective issue. Tara is able to almost completely automate IT project management - at least for backend solutions. Or think of the incredible potential of LinkedIn, where employees voluntarily update their data and skills are more or less automatically recorded and evaluated by the crowd.

Solutions like these will increasingly find their way into companies in the future (in Germany, due to the regulatory landscape, with a corresponding time lag compared to, for example, the USA and Asia - which will once again ensure a corresponding backlog ... but it would go beyond the scope of this article to explain this). By definition, an ecosystem formed by company rebuilding consists of many small, agile units and the value creation is not only divided among organically grown cell structures, but also among co-creation with customers and partners. In this context, the corresponding capabilities of all value creation participants must be optimally orchestrated via platforms and technologies such as those described above - a capability that becomes relevant for all employees (both in the cell organization and in the original group). Teaching this ability and also setting up the corresponding technological landscape together with IT will be a core task of HR in the future. It should also be clear that these platforms will also completely change the way performance is assessed. Let's hope that an appropriate regulatory framework is created that opens up these opportunities for us in Europe as well.

4. in the cell: people management (for the most part) as a role in addition to existing roles.

Let's zoom in on the cell organization: In our Company ReBuilding approach, we provocatively speak of zero overhead and the mapping of remaining (i.e., not taken over by technology) functional (= non-value-adding) tasks in the form of roles. With a few exceptions (such as overarching compliance, infrastructure or legal issues), this is also the case. If almost all operational HR tasks are taken over by digital tools, then the remaining topics are transferred in the form of roles to employees of the respective cell units whose strength profile (e.g., Gallup Strength Finder can be an indication here) recommends a corresponding takeover. For example, in our Company ReBuilding Practice within Detecon, we have also transferred specific roles on e.g. recruiting, skill development, mindfulness, etc. to employees who take on these roles in addition to their consulting activities. All roles are given the appropriate degree of freedom and can rotate as needed. We have also defined a product owner for the entire employee experience complex in the form of agile logic, who has a clear focus on employee value. However, this colleague is also a project manager in various customer projects and fills the employee experience function in one role. In our view, this can make perfect sense in individual cases if scaling and synergy effects can be leveraged and these tasks have a specific and measurable contribution in the direction of the customer or employee. However, the starting point should always be: no development of functions that do not have a direct (end) customer interface.

5. rotation - in the cell and beyond (to the partner, customer, other cell...)

Especially in Chinese top companies, the principle of job rotation is often anchored up to top management level and offers a high learning curve, the breaking of silos as well as the taking of new perspectives (a basic prerequisite for innovation). In an ecosystem created by Company ReBuilding, the rotation of value creation participants plays an even greater role - ultimately through a large number of small units (we remember: a maximum of 150 people ... the Dunbar Number sends its regards. However, the rotation principle goes even further, namely beyond the company and cell boundaries in the direction of job visiting at value creation partners or the temporary shadowing of the value creation process by customers. The task of a people management role is to provide optimum support for this complex process. Not to mention the orchestration of the alumni network, which will not only be a topic for management consultancies in the future. It is not for nothing that we speak of network economics.

6 The Chief Employee Experience Approach or the New Work Role: The Power of 5-P...

New Work and the establishment of the Employee Experience approach are, in our view, quite crucial when it comes to shaping people management of the future. Since we have already written a lot about the topic of New Work and our implementation experiences are well summarized in the book New Work - on the way to a new world of work, we would only like to briefly touch on the topic here. It should be common knowledge by now that New Work is a key success factor in the digital age and THE No. 1 entry criterion for many talented employees. The approach of the Chief Employee Experience Officer should also be sufficiently well known, at the latest since Airbnb introduced a CEEO in the form of Mark Levy and reported extensively on this. In this approach, all internal tasks that contribute to the employee experience and employee value are bundled in such a way that, similar to the customer journey, optimal employee experiences are created along employee journeys. Ultimately, exactly the same criteria apply as in the design of end customer products: Simplicity, one-click principle, coolness, etc. The role of the CEEO can be structured along the dimensions described in our New Work approach: People & Culture, Places & Communities, Platform & Technology, Principles & Regulations, which ultimately leads to Passion & Success.

Conclusion: HR is dead - long live HR or people management

In no other function are there as many discussions about the self-image as in HR. From massive self-doubt, collective depression about the apparent insignificance to partly over-theorized model discussions. We are therefore all the more pleased that self-confidence has increased in recent years and that we are seeing more and more places where HR is successfully beginning to drive the digital transformation forward.

HR and people management can play a crucial role in the age of company rebuilding and the development of agile network structures. It may sound simplistic, but to put it simply, a 'ReBuilding' is also required here, namely an HR ReBuilding in which talent and employee experience are the focus and in which the people involved do not stare at and cling to hierarchical line roles, but instead allow a role-based approach as well as a radical skills shift within their own ranks. Because then the sentence we formulated back in 2016 will apply - albeit in a slightly modified form: "People Management will rise again".


Many thanks to Verena Vinke for her contribution to this article.