Posted: 05 Jun. 2019 05 min. read

The future of HR teams

Lean, flexible and humbotic

Professionals talking about Ulrich and ‘having a seat at the table’ need to look forward. HR of the future needs to be focussed on helping organisations become digital. In order to do this, the HR team could start to look quite different. The future of HR is likely to see a move away from a strict interpretation of the three-legged stool of the Ulrich model. The HR operating model of the future will need to adapt to endure the rise of the gig economy, developments in automation and AI, as well as the changing nature or work and fast paced, almost continuous transformation of businesses. 

The future HR operating model may see increasing similarities with the squads, tribes, and guilds models observed in the management process of the business, which embraces lean teams of practitioners. Changes to the HR function can be significant; however, these are likely to be by the way of evolution, rather than revolution and could bring some challenges.

One of the leading organisation in this space announced in 2018, that it would move away from the traditional Ulrich HR model in favour of an agile, project based HR consulting group to focus on strategic people projects. In addition to introducing an HR consulting group, this organisation’s HR administrative function has plans to move to a global business services (GBS) model alongside other back offices functions such as IT, Finance, Procurement and Security. With 61% of organisations using a GBS model to gain efficiencies through multidisciplinary service offerings, this could mark the end of traditional tier one HR meaning that HR functions will become lean teams of strategic practitioners. 


It is predicted that Robotic Process and Cognitive Automation will be ubiquitous in business by 2020. Ai Assistants offer opportunities to augment the workforce to rapidly unlock significant efficiency, improve decision-making, reduce cost and enable the deployment of resources to critical functions and tasks. Ai Assistants’ capability ranges from ‘simple automation’ such as repeatable payroll processing to ‘complex cognitive’ such as Deloitte Australia’s on-boarding bot Amelia who helps new starters choose their laptop before they start. As appetite for automation grows, we could see the end of traditional Tier 1 Operational HR with first level query response and triage being handled by machines. Those at Tier 2 would play an important role as a ‘coach’ for the machines. There is increased opportunity for uptake of Robotic Process and Cognitive Automation across particular areas that lend themselves to automation, including Payroll & Time or HRIS, Reporting & Analytics. These areas, along with aspects of the entire HR operating model could see new automation technologies implemented, from Robotics used for rules-based processing, through to A.I. aimed to completely replicate human interactions. 42% of organisations believe automation will have a major impact on job roles over the next two years but only 17% of organisations say they are ready to handle a workforce consisting of people, robots, and AI working side by side. HR of the future will play an important role in enabling machine-human collaboration paving the way for ‘humboticTM organisations’ that are purposefully designed to enable humans and software-driven robotics to partner to deliver a shared workload efficiently and effectively.


40% of organisations have moved to cloud for their HCM, so with the prevalence of employee and manager self-service coupled with rise of process automation the traditional HR function is likely to change in shape, with less warm bodied capacity required in HR Operations. This will offer CoEs of the future the opportunity to add value through new expertise such as an ability to help organisations translate new and interesting - but arguably theoretical - concepts such as wellbeing and employee experience into tangible business value that affects the bottom line. Ultimately COEs may be smaller with greater focus on skills such as organisational psychology than deep HR expertise.

Future HR Teams
Organisational psychology


HR of the future is seeing a move towards flexible pools of resources that can be engaged on a needs basis; this could be the area of further growth for HR, the fourth leg of the stool. This new model is shown in the diagram below with an agile pool of resources from within HR supported by a peripheral team of business resources.

Resources in this agile pool are assigned to support business initiatives and key talent programs. This new approach to HR and the move away from the traditional model has four potential  benefits:

  • Create flexibility – the traditional HR model can be  inflexible to changing business models and needs
  • Scale rapidly – the ability to scale up and down HR, including using business and contingent workforce to meet business demand
  • Develop HR – creates an opportunity for HR professionals – and business colleagues – to develop new skills and take on new responsibilities
  • Technology enabled – utilises leading technologies to drive greater value from HR resources and enable more flexible working

HR is evolving as businesses and the world of work is changing. We are seeing a need for the operating model to change to reflect those changing business needs and the importance of understanding and engaging the whole of workforce. One area where this is immediately evident is in how HR utilises the data and technology that is available to it, we will explore this theme in our next blog on how HR of the future can become data and technology fluent. 


  2. Industry 4.0: Challenges and Solutions for the Digital Transformation of Exponential Technologies, Deloitte AG, 2015 and Deloitte proprietary research
  4. Deloitte Human Capital Trends, 2018  

Meet our authors

Mark Bowden

Mark Bowden

Director, HR Technology and Transformation

 Mark leads the Australian HR Advisory team within HR Transformation and Technology. Mark has been in Australia since the beginning of 2017 having joined from Deloitte UK where he worked in HR Transformation for nine years. He regularly researches and speaks at conferences about the future world of work. Mark is a co-author for Deloitte’s High Impact HR Model which sets out the key principles and framework for the HR organisation. Mark’s experience is across the full remit of HR transformation, he has led programmes that have: defined the HR strategy; developed business cases for transformation; designed future HR functions; built and implemented Shared Services, CoEs and Business Partners. In HR technology, Mark has selected HR core and enabling technologies and implemented cloud based HCM and enabling technology solutions. As part of the Australian team Mark has led the HR Operating Model and HCM System Selection work at Australia Post, Rio Tinto, Western Power, Cabrini, NAB, Imdex and HBF where Mark has been the Lead Client Service Director. Mark was MCA HR Consultant of the Year for his work at RWE n power and HSBC.

Fiona McClure

Fiona McClure

Manager, HR Technology and Transformation

Fiona is a Manager in Deloitte Australia's HR Technology and Transformation practice where she works with senior HR teams to provide strategic advice during a wide range of HR transformations.  Fiona has worked on large-scale SuccessFactors, Workday and Oracle implementations focusing on System Integration Testing, Operating Model and Process Re-design, and Change Management.  Fiona has broad sector experience and has worked internationally in Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America. She has industry experience from her time as a junior HR Business Partner at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  Fiona is Associate CIPD qualified (equivalent to Professional Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute) with diverse experience across all HR disciplines. With Deloitte, clients included are ANZ, Qantas, Medibank, British American Tobacco and UK Public Sector.