There are three key trends in the next generation of HR design, according to an expert in HR disruption, who says HR needs to be more focused on building competitive advantage through a more agile approach to talent management.

“The first trend is the move away from HR business partner to account manager,” said Lucy Adams, CEO of Disruptive HR and ex-HR director of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

“Given HRBPs are both scarce and expensive, account managers can undertake the strategic and commercial parts of the role, with a pool of HR generalists and technical experts who deliver.”

A second key trend is focus away from centres of expertise towards the employee experience, said Adams, who recommended the EACH model (Employees as Adults, Consumers and Human beings) as a good approach.

The third trend is about building capability, not just compliance, Adams said.

“This is a fresh response to a disrupted world where the abundance of employment policies and rules often stifle innovation and increase frustration,” she said.

Each of these trends relates to important aspects of talent management, and Adams observed that there are many factors that have shaped HR’s approach to talent management over the years.

These range from flatter organisations, to Lynda Gratton’s The 100 Year Life and looking into the future where artificial intelligence does take away knowledge-based jobs.

Regardless, there will be a number of core differences in terms of what talent management will look like in a disrupted world, according to Adams, who has also authored HR Disrupted recently.

“We’ll move from competency bingo to strength building”

“HR needs to extend its talent scope from one that it coterminous with its organisational boundaries, to one that encompasses a wider community of talent,” said Adams.

“Big cumbersome processes that take months to complete will disappear and be replaced by regular discussions about talent movement and roles that need refreshing.

“Individuals will have career conversations rather than an annual performance review.

“We’ll move from competency bingo to strength building.

“Instead of a rigid set of competencies to be ticked off, we’ll focus on understanding our people’s strengths and the unique contribution they can make,” said Adams, who explained that she grew frustrated with the lack of innovation and fresh thinking in the profession and wanted to find new ways of tackling old problems after holding senior level HR roles across a variety of sectors.

She also cast doubt on the effectiveness of high potential programmes, which she said are there to “cream off the top of the talent”.

“While CEOs are usually very attached to these programmes, there is now evidence that HiPo programmes really don’t perform,” said Adams, who cited CEB research which found that 73 per cent of such programmes show neither business outcome nor ROI.

Instead, more focus needs to be placed on finding ways to help the majority of employees increase their performance and potential.

“HR cannot hope to do this on its own and will therefore have to refocus its efforts on creating the conditions where this can happen (readily available information and insights, ease of movement, etc) and equipping line managers with the ability – and also the incentives – to do it well,” she said.

“We’ll focus on understanding our people’s strengths and the unique contribution they can make”

Adams also pointed to a number of more innovative and effective ways to reward people, and said there is a shift away from financial incentives.

“If you have to think of your best reward at work, it will unlikely be a monetary reward,” she said.

“When I was hosting a panel for business leaders recently, I asked them that question and these were leaders of all ages, not just millennials.

“Some mentioned handwritten notes, peer-nominated awards or a personalised gift.

“What struck me is that there were common themes.”

Adams said the best rewards are those that are unexpected, creating a sense of surprise and delight; thoughtful and personalised, based on what they needed, wanted or valued; and from someone whose good opinion mattered to them.

This is very different to how most organisations reward their people, she said.

“But it’s time to get the issue of money off the table, reward the team not the individual, get people to reward each other, go big on spot rewards, and get creative – get personal,” she said.

“Find the time to just say ‘thank you’.”

“I can honestly say that I have never introduced a bonus scheme that made people feel good about working there”

If bonuses are awarded, Adams said a basis for measurement is also needed.

“These are often linked to dubious performance ratings,” she said.

“Bonus schemes have none of the innovative features; they’re expected, often leading to a sense of entitlement.

“They are de-personalised and lack any recognition of what an individual wants, needs or values.”

While a letter might accompany bonuses, she said they lack the sense of intimacy that great gifts have.

“Like many HR professionals, I have spent countless hours trying to perfect the bonus scheme – trying to strike the right balance between base pay and discretionary reward, trying to find ways of rewarding the right behaviours through a combination of group, department and personal elements, trying to make it achievable and stretching at the same time etcetera,” she said.

“Despite all this effort, I can honestly say that I have never introduced a bonus scheme that made people feel good about working there.

“[Often it has been] quite the opposite,” she said.

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