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Is your culture ready for the Future of HR?

July 10, 2019

The Future of HR is not just about HR—it’s really about the future of the enterprise, the workforce, and how work gets done, and the pivotal role HR plays in leading the journey. For HR to take that lead, it should shift in four ways: cultivating a digital mind-set, becoming customer-centric in focus, operating through a High-Impact lens, and applying technology enablers to elevate the workforce experience and improve productivity. So, the culture must be ready and able to accept and make those shifts.

Culture can be a nebulous topic, so let’s start by defining it: Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”1 Deloitte further defines culture as “the way things get done inside an organization.”2 With these definitions to ground you, you can start to gain the advantage of having shared alignment and goals around how work gets done in the future. More specifically, you should take concrete steps to (re)imagine, design, and implement the way HR does things and the way the business does things in the future you envision.

Culture shifts often follow the trajectory of transformation. The amount of change you look to drive dictates the amount of culture shift required to enable your new future. As such, let’s consider the spectrum of transformation that enterprises are most commonly evaluating: replacing systems and infrastructure on one end to a complete transformation to the Future of HR on the other end that looks and feels compatible with the expectations of today’s workforce and your business.

Four Transformation Types

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

Start by understanding where you are
Before you can develop the culture you want, you first have to understand the culture you have. Numerous cultural assessments exist in the market—more than 100 by our last count—and it’s important to choose one that yields actionable results. Revealing the need to build a culture of humility through thoughtful assessment, for example, is one thing, but translating humility into actual day-to-day, business interactions is when the magic happens.

Mapping out required behaviors
Along with actionable results, it’s important to identify how behaviors should change in that new culture, including digital behaviors embodied in Digital DNA.

Activating culture by identifying specific interventions
The right approach to change is a combination of motivating people’s willingness to change and providing stakeholders with the ability to execute their activities during and after the change. Willingness is about building an understanding across the workforce as to “why” something should be done in a new way.

The first step to effectively driving willingness in the organization is to identify pivotal “moments that matter” in the workforce’s work life and apply behavioral design to shape behaviors at those particular moments. By informing and empowering the workforce and leaders, enterprises can help drive willingness and ultimately buy-in to the change.

Communicating to drive cultural change: 3 drivers
Leadership communications can make or break the enterprise’s willingness to shift culture and shouldn’t be underestimated. Leaders should consider three drivers to help improve willingness to change:

1. Affinity through close affiliation
We tend to have a greater affinity for messages delivered by people with whom we feel closely affiliated. Affiliations can be connected to the team or workgroup, the department, function, or geographical location. Understanding these affiliations and identifying the trusted communication leaders for each affiliation will help drive more effective messaging.

2. Operational leadership style
Communications should consider the operational leadership style that exists within various affiliations. Is the environment team-centric, where decisions are made collectively, or is the organization more hierarchical, with change driven from the top down? To drive change across the organization, leaders should consider who can best drive the commitment of workforce to the change. For example, as a leader, do I need to get a specific department manager on board with the change to drive our people’s support? Is our CEO a charismatic leader who can inspire change? Uncovering and tapping into organizational networks can be extremely effective in garnering willingness to change.

3. Spectrum of support
Without at least 10–14 percent of employees committed to the change, organizations will likely struggle to achieve success in a true transformation. Successful change programs need to identify who may be inhibiting the change, promoting it, or holding out with uncertainty about it. Understanding the spectrum of support across the enterprise enable change interventions to be designed to target the areas where there is a lack of commitment and ultimately drive a focused and impactful campaign.

Culture changes over time
Transformational culture change, like that required for the Future of HR, does not happen quickly. This is not a project that will take 6 months or a year; it’s a 3- to 5-year journey to move the needle incrementally through interactions in the moments that matter and various interventions. Each HR organization will have a different starting point on its route to the future of HR—and there will be varied definitions of a successful “future.” But it’s a journey HR must take to drive tangible impact across the future of the enterprise, the workforce, and how work gets done.

Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, and the Global HR Transformation Leader. Art collaborates with complex, global clients to drive business value through transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.

Michael Stephan is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the US Human Capital Leader. He develops and integrates HR service delivery models across the operations and technology spectrum, with a targeted focus on optimizing the delivery of HR services around the world.

Mike Bentley is a managing director and the US leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Change Strategy and Analytics practice.

Melissa Yim is a senior manager in the Strategic Communications practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, currently leading the Strategic Communications Market Offering within Human Capital.


1https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture
2 Introduction, Deloitte 2016 Global Human Capital Trends: The new organization: Different by Design. https://trendsapp.deloitte.com/reports/2016/global-human-capital-trends/the-new-organization-different-by-design.html.

Originally published at Capital H blog