Posted: 03 Jun. 2021 5 min. read

2021 Global Human Capital Trends

A memo to HR: Accelerating the shift to re-architecting work

The “so what” in 30 seconds

The function of human resources (HR) as a driver of organizational outcomes has been evolving for decades. This potential is only getting stronger as organizations become more socially conscious, embrace new ways of working, and humanize work. As the COVID-19 crisis deepened, it became clear that HRs ability to help an organization move forward was critical to business success.

Now is the time to seize on that  momentum, HR teams need to help their organizations recognize the issues facing us all in the next normal—challenges like re-imagining ways of working, the high demand for future skills, the opportunity to reimagine work itself. These are fundamentally human design challenges, and they are enterprise workforce challenges. These tasks are intricately embedded within the business and therefore can’t be off-loaded to HR to solve. HR should, however, be required to lead them.

A deeper dive

Work from home—a phrase that’s now firmly entrenched in our everyday life and lexicon. During the pandemic, leaders turned to HR to help their workplace transition. In addition to the physical shift to remote work formats, this also involved encouraging everyone to adopt new mindsets and ways of working. The work of HR leaders throughout this uncertain time has instilled new confidence around the scope and capabilities of the HR function. HR now has the opportunity to drive differentiated value for the business and the workforce. We’ve started to see a shift away from the traditional role of HR—where the focus on was standardizing and enforcing workforce policies—and toward a team that’s responsible for orchestrating work in an agile fashion across the enterprise.

In many organizations, HRs critical work in navigating the crisis over the past year has not gone unnoticed. Business executives and HR leaders have grown more confident in the divisions ability to guide future changes. Our 2021 Global Human Capital Trends Report, which is based on a survey of more than 3,600 executives, showed that this positive sentiment has doubled.

So how can HR use these unusual circumstances to move from a functional mindset to an impactful enterprise? HR leaders can start by moving the focus away from outputs and into outcomes. They can double down on supporting employee wellbeing and thinking about the leadership that is needed for these unique times. To do this, HR will need to:

  • View the redesign of work as an ongoing capability that needs to be embedded into the organizational structure.
  • Put teams and superteams at the center of how work gets done.
  • Approach workforce development by identifying, cultivating, and capitalizing on the individual worker’s potential.
  • Expand the definition and scope of HR to include integrating human and technological capabilities.
  • Recognize and manage the leadership and cultural implications that come from embracing new ways of working.

HR should harness the momentum of change as organizations are challenged to reimagine work. It could push HR beyond what it has traditionally been and into the new exciting realms of possibility.

What does this mean for organizations?

As HR evolves and workers feel more empowered, organizations are better positioned to achieve higher productivity, to have increased agility, and to be more innovative.

For more information, read the 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report

Key contacts

Aaron Groulx

Aaron Groulx

Partner, Human Capital

Aaron is a partner and national Human Resources (HR) transformation advisory leader at Deloitte. He has worked across both Canadian and global industries, helping organizations implement better HR transformation strategy, operations, and technology. Aaron’s focus is helping HR functions expand their services to significantly enhance the role HR plays in business success. He has helped clients adopt a uniquely human approach to extend the influence of their HR teams to alleviate the increasing pressures imposed on modern businesses.

Stephen Harrington

Stephen Harrington

Director, Human Capital

Stephen is Deloitte’s National Lead – Workforce Strategy, and has been a writer and speaker on the future of work since 2011. With 20 years’ experience in Consulting, Stephen leads transformations in workforce strategy that enable our client’s people to feel personal purpose and impact, as the business drives improved results. Stephen is co-author of the Intelligence Revolution, a recent paper covering implication of the future of work in Canada. He has lead multiple projects in the last few years helping clients build new frameworks and capabilities to stand up future-ready workforces.