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Have you grabbed the 2020 opportunity to guide your business to New Ways Of Working ?

Moving forward in perfect harmony with the CEO and the board is the goal of every senior HR practitioner up and down the land. Everything after that is the difference between making change impactful or spending our lives in splendid isolation on the periphery of the organisation. This issue of advocacy and authentic board leadership is the perennial holy grail of HR leaders and the better ones use every opportunity to challenge how their organisation stays relevant and survives within the ecosystem dominated by these 5 forces disrupting it – New behaviours, Technology, Changing demographics, mobility and globalisation.

A new CEO (usually with a brief to change) through to a perilous event (compliance, cultural or commercial) can provide an impetus but the sudden rush to anchor 2020 as a neat North Star is a typical management tool I see some organisations making use of and would encourage others to replicate.

I remember doing the same for the year 2000 when Y2K consultants ruled the earth. We jettisoned 2010 as we were too pre-occupied with surviving the post-banking crisis but in an economy where short-termism and risk aversion has become a corporate cancer, I applaud any legitimate technique that helps provide a basis for discussing what an organisation needs to adapt for its future relevance.

But once we’ve legitimised our approach through this technique then what does a comprehensive assessment look like ? Too often, experience tells me that our traditional people planning stack is too limited to be truly impactful. Low hanging fruit drives us to a bottom up wish list of new roles (shaped in the current and past parameters) and if of a particular scale, then location strategy, all costed in units to anticipate a paybill that drives an associated growth in sales to pay for it.

I’d argue instead that, depending on your context (which is clearly key to all of this) an agenda and approach should cover the following :

1. Use an established framework to objectively position the ‘to-be’ picture. Over the length of my career I have consistently used Gilbraith’s Star Model of Organisation Design. It stands out as it provides focus for the much needed collaborative element required in today’s organisational construct as well as the people strategies that drive effective alignment.

2. What of Alignment ? – There will be tensions and biases to both problems and solutions. The framework aligns around an objective-looking, people-centric and differentiated forward-looking business strategy (helping to mitigate against the disconnect between people, the board and HR) and helps build alliances / collaboration along the way – watching out for the common failings of change.

3. Profile your entire organisational view from a risk perspective and a future-proofed perspective (ensuring your data sources are clean and you have given some attention to the ability to query and model accordingly). This allows for location strategy, outsource / offshore, emerging demographics, talent segments, employment mix (the atypical growth of contracts being key) and for added value the impact of automation by 2020 based around our investment appetite, our productivity challenges and our reshaped relationship with technology.

4. Bring the outside in. The ability to keep up with emerging New Ways of Working is becoming tougher given the rate of change around us. Our employment framework is being modernised, giving us a new regulatory benchmark. Over the hill will be local decisions to make on the EU-origin legislation we may wish to abandon as part of our post-Brexit world. Our employment brand may be unattractive to the very people we want to court. Our belonging agenda. Looking at the prevailing customs, rituals, policies and practices are in need of change to help us to stay relevant to a multi-generational workforce but do we have an objective funnel for understanding what practices help or hinder our strategic cause and where to focus most need / investment ? Our location strategy may be obsolete if the talent economics of that part of the world are running low on the scarce resource of the right kind of people.

Everything I have spoken about to date is about discovery, turning the mirror on our organisation and having the first conversations aimed at being proactive in a world of major change. Rushing to conclusions, chasing the shiny new technology thing, the cult of digital or failing to build a ripple affect for collective ownership and accountability for change will hinder plans and place HR once again on the periphery if time and effort isn’t put in place.


I’m hoping that a focus on 2020 visioning can spark an interest in New Ways of Working that fits the context of your industry and business. Whether you’re a retailer trying to stem the decline of the high street shop, the bank that is no longer a talent magnet for the bright young things or an Oil and Gas company that has seen its core values erode as the fight for margin impacts behaviours at the coalface.

Struggling to find the time to get this kicked off ? Then with a track record of success in this area please contact me here and let’s start a conversation about co-creating a solution that fits your context.

Until next time. 2020 is only 32 months away. Are you ready ?

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