Keeping Pace with a Changing Workforce
There has been a great deal of research about the growing trend towards more flexible, project-based workers – the gig economy. Yet I still witness fixed, static, organisational models being recommended by ‘experts’ in the HR profession.
Over the last few months, I’ve attended a number of HR award ceremonies where the ‘best of the best’ are celebrated (that’s probably a blog in itself). But, each time, I’ve been disappointed that HR team constructs reflect the traditional permanent, employed status –with a separate category for ‘working with suppliers/consultants’ – all of which seems a world away from the future prediction of work.
I ask: shouldn’t HR be role modelling the new workforce composition? Or is my own profession one of the biggest blockers? How do we move forward on the HR model debate –something that is key for all business leaders regardless of function?
I propose that we should be partnering business leaders to build organisations that provide flexibility – organisations that are able to swiftly respond to changes in the market and exploit opportunities as they arise. Let’s have a HR model that is fit-for-purpose within the business now and for the future.
Some of the mistakes I see being made within HR departments:
- Trying to convert interim workers, contractors and freelancers into permanent employees – individuals who are good at what they do because they enjoy the flexibility and freedom, and are working to their strengths.
- Terminating the contracts of flexible workers as soon as cost pressures are applied by senior executives – short-sighted, knee-jerk decisions that very often rid the company of the people needed to drive the change.
- A belief that a consultant is the ‘devil’, who comes in, tells you what you already know and charges you a lot of money for it. In reality, the smaller boutique-type consultancies encourage a partnership approach and often do more work than they charge for.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the above and, in years gone by as an employed HR director, I have myself been guilty of these same mistakes. However, with all the research now available to us, we need to think differently.
What We Can Do Now
Let’s start role modelling these truly flexible and value-adding organisational structures in HR, and instead of being on the back foot, let’s get proactive with demonstrating our business savvy. It is our role as HR professionals to help educate business leaders who may have prejudices and start building truly flexible organisations for the future.
At the HR celebrations next year, I hope we can celebrate true innovation and brilliant examples of flexible structures within both the HR function and across the business. And in the top ten ‘Best of the Best’, I want to see – as representation of the flexibility in my own function – freelancers, interims, contractors, permanent employees and consultants all being celebrated as part of the inclusive workforce of the future.
Melanie Steel is founder of People Change Expertise Ltd and is an experienced HR Director currently considering interim and permanent HR Director Opportunities.