Embracing the Boundaryless is the Future of Human Resources

February 19, 2024 hr-hrobserver-human-leadership

In order to meet the demands of a boundaryless world, human resources must also become boundaryless discipline, co-created and integrated with the people, business, and community it serves, said Deloitte in its 2024 Global Human Capital Report.

The 2024 research shows that a new emphasis is being placed on the human factor as the “middle ground” between understanding what changes are driving the future of work, and taking action to translate those insights into positive results. 

The results of this year’s global surveys (with more than 14,000 respondents across 95 countries) show that the more open work becomes, the greater the importance of uniquely human skills, such as empathy and curiosity.

According to the researchers, prioritising human sustainability – the extent to which an organisation creates value for its people as human beings – can lead to improved health and wellbeing, enhanced skills and employability, better jobs, more opportunities for advancement, greater equity, and increased sense of belonging and purpose.

This can not only lead to better human outcomes but also better business outcomes, in a virtuous cycle. This is through the combination of human and business outcomes “human performance” because it is humans – more than physical assets – that drive business performance today, and this is more important for organisations to shape and adjust to the ever-changing future of work.

“The good news is that most leaders already understand that focusing on human performance is key to building an organization that can thrive today and tomorrow. But to close the gap between knowing and doing, they will need to let go of the mindsets, operating constructs, and proxies of the past,” the researchers wrote in their summary. 

According to the research, most workers say their well-being either worsened or stayed the same last year. This is not a new trend: In 2018, over 40% of workers reported feeling high stress in their job, with negative impacts on productivity, health, and family stability.

“Burnout is a common experience, with 48% of workers and 53% of managers saying they are burned out at work and nearly half of millennial and Gen Z workers report feeling stressed all or most of the time,” they explained. 

“The shift to human performance begins here, at the intersection of business outcomes and human outcomes,” they wrote. 

The research shows that most leaders are already aware of the need for these changes. Only 33% of respondents reported a lack of understanding as the primary reason for their organisation’s lack of progress to date.

Internal barriers, such as change capacity, resource constraints, and leadership silos were consistently cited as the reasons for organizational silos. 

With this in mind, the researchers said, driving human performance and leadership in the frontier world is likely to come from not only removing the mental barriers, but also the operational ones.

The trends are:

Embracing human sustainability. For many organisations, people are the most important assest. Yet organisations’ current efforts to prioritise these all-important connections appear to be falling short, the research shows. That is because many organisations may be stuck in a legacy mindset that centers on extracting value from people rather than working to create value for them. The researchers see that leaders should reorient their organisations’ perspective around the idea of human sustainability.

Moving beyond productivity to measure human performance: Traditional productivity metrics do not reflect the story of a worker’s productivity, that is why organisations must measure and create tools that can fully assess human performance.  

Balancing privacy with transparency to build trust: Advances in technology can make nearly everything in an organisation visible to almost anyone. For leaders, this level of transparency is attractive: it provides microscopic insight into the operations of their organisation and their people. However, this newfound transparency can also be a minefield. If managed correctly, it can open up new ways to measure and leverage human performance. On the other hand, it can also be a breeding ground for abuse—from privacy breaches to AI-driven surveillance and attempts to micromanage workers’ every action. So what are the solutions .

Overcoming the imagination deficit. Technological disruption is outpacing the capacity of many people to imagine new ways of working that get the best out of both humans and technology. To prevent a deficit within organisations caused by disruptions, firms need to   both scale and operationalise the cultivation of distinctly human capabilities like curiosity, empathy, and creativity. 

Creating digital playgrounds to explore, experiment, and play.  A digital playground is neither a “one-stop shop” nor a “virtual playground,” it is a mindset and approach in which technology is curated with intent and the ability to use it is democratised, providing workers with the psychological safety and opportunity to experiment, work together and explore multiple futures. The pace of disruption is accelerating, and the need for such spaces is growing.

Cultivating workplace microcultures. When organisations adopt microcultures they are able to attract and retain the best talent, adjust to change quickly and effectively, and better meet the needs of their employees. One of the most important ways to use microcultures is to support the autonomy of different work groups, give them the tools they need to create their own ways of doing things (while still adhering to regulatory standards), and focus these localised mixes of culture and business strategies on the same broad, straightforward organisational guiding principles.

Making the shift to boundaryless HR.. A new HR operating model is not the only solution to respond to new shifts, but it is a new mindset, along with a new set of practices, metrics, technologies, and more can transform HR from a specialized function that owns all workforce responsibility to a boundaryless discipline, co created and integrated with the people, business, and community it serves. 

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