Posted: 28 Oct. 2020 5 min. read

Planning ahead for HR sustainability

How to expand focus, extend influence, and increase value

The emergence of Human Capital Management (HCM) cloud technology, when properly managed, offers sustainable technology platforms for HR service delivery. With a similar expanded focus on sustainability, HR can better help the enterprise adapt to workforce and business disruptions, as we have recently experienced with COVID-19.

Sustainability will require the HR function to plan and “sense” future disruptions and “extend” capabilities to meet the challenge while maintaining “business-as-usual” service excellence. By doing so, HR can deliver impact, extend influence, and increase its value across the organization and workforce.

The ability to maintain a sustained level of operational excellence amid constant disruption requires a cross-functional view in collaboration with other enterprise functions, such as Finance, IT, or Legal. It also requires more fluid resource capacity and a broad range of insights, fueled by a new set of critical capabilities. These capabilities include:

  • Research: Access to leading research on market, business, and workforce trends that identifies “what’s next” and informs a go-forward strategy for adaptation
  • Risk Management: A focus on risk prevention and timely problem resolution based on holistic business and operations planning, metrics analysis and response, and structured, persistent governance
  • Structured Governance: A framework for making collaborative, informed decisions that includes key stakeholders, clear decision rights, effective management routines, and access to needed data and metrics
  • Holistic Planning: An ability to work across functions to holistically prioritize, integrate, plan, organize, and deploy change in a manner that considers technology, operations, and stakeholder impacts
  • Subject Matter Expertise: Securing “on-demand” expertise across people, processes, and technology to analyze change or issue impacts, define requirements, implement new capabilities, and remediate issues for operational success.
  • A Global View: A line of sight into global differences in compliance, competition, costs, capabilities, and culture to support the implementation and maintenance of global solutions
  • Agility: Using data and trends to understand critical business needs and where resources need to “pivot” to achieve the most value for the organization while sustaining “business as usual”
  • Continuous Improvement: Driving metrics and initiatives that support root-cause analysis, define needed opportunities, and inform efforts to drive ongoing performance and cost improvements.

In attempting to build sustainable “sense” and “extend” HR capabilities, how can you measure your current state and progress toward maturity? You can begin by evaluating how your current or planned future-state HR organization would address some questions specific to each capability.

For example, for the “Structured Governance” capability, questions may include the following: How far down are you pushing decision-making in your organization to create empowerment at the right levels? Does all decision-making really need to move up in a sequential manner? As innovation occurs anywhere within your model, can you convert the innovative idea to a pilot solution? How quickly can you get the pilot launched and evaluated?

Other questions help evaluate your capability for “Continuous Improvement”: Is continuous improvement a function or a culture in your organization? What mechanisms do you have to allow every component of your organization to drive continuous improvement? How are opportunities identified? What methods, tools, and guiding principles do you use to identify, approve, and drive continuous improvement initiatives?

“Holistic Planning” can be assessed with yet another set of questions: Are you prepared to respond to the pace at which change is occurring? Do you feel balanced in your ability to deliver proactive versus reactive response? How frequently are you assessing the health of your capability and reprioritizing your most critical initiatives? For example, were you caught on your heels in refreshing your HR strategy in light of the global pandemic?”

The answers, or the absence of answers, to questions about each capability provide insights into the opportunities to enhance the impact that your HR organization can make and define a roadmap to improved sustainability—sustainability that will optimize your organization’s ability to “sense” disruption and “extend” resources to meet future challenges which, we have learned, can change our business and the workforce indefinitely.

A Memo to HR, an article from Deloitte Consulting’s 2020 Human Capital Trends report, highlights additional thoughts on how HR can expand focus and extend influence.

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Dave Smith

Dave Smith

Principal | Service Delivery Transformation

Dave is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and a leader in the HR Operating Excellence practice. He helps clients develop operating models with bottom-line impact, in sync with the business at every turn. With more than 25 years of experience, he has teamed with organizations on sourcing strategy, vendor selection and contracting, shared service and outsourced implementations, operations assessments and optimization, technology, and communications. Given his HR background, it's not surprising that Dave's favorite thing about working at Deloitte is the people. Working with colleagues he both likes and respects, helps create an unbeatable work environment. When he's not developing solutions for clients, Dave contributes his time to non-profits focused on land conservation, children, animal rights, and hunger reduction.

Kraig Eaton

Kraig Eaton

Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Kraig is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP's US Human Capital service area and serves as the co-lead of the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends team. Kraig has more than 28 years of experience working with senior business and HR executives to transform their Human Capital strategies and capabilities to better support the business goals of the organization. Specifically supporting some of the world's leading organizations on efforts spanning the full spectrum of HR and workforce transformations; from upfront strategy development through large-scale operating model, organization, and technology implementations.