Emerging HR Practices for Futureproofing the Digital Organization.

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Tim Williams
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Wowledge Expert Team
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This guide is part of a progression set of Core, Advanced, and Emerging Digital Transformation practices for the HR function.

What it is

Futureproofing an organization requires anticipating future changes and devising strategies to minimize the impact of future shocks and strains. It involves creating sustainable models and strategic plans that guarantee the organization's longevity. In the aftermath of the pandemic, companies can rebuild a workforce better equipped for an economy in which routine and repeatable tasks are increasingly machine-enabled. Drawing on research involving more than 300 large firms worldwide, the authors identify six practices for companies to follow: 

  • Think ahead when defining business-critical roles.
  • Redefine what great looks like.
  • Don’t cut back on management development.
  • Tech up the HR function.
  • Get people to engage with technology.
  • Provide continuous learning opportunities.

These practices help companies create sustainable models and strategic plans that guarantee the organization's longevity. Future-proofing an organization is a design challenge that requires imagination, aspiration, and coherence. It is essential to keep these themes in mind through Digital Transformation. The practices at this level of progression help establish the strategy and provide guidance for the HR function. 

HR can be a strategic architect tasked with future-proofing organizations against the uncertainties of tomorrow. As organizations navigate the complexities of digital change, HR plays a critical role in establishing leading practices, leveraging predictive capabilities, and nurturing a top-tier culture to ensure long-term resilience and success.

At the forefront of this mandate is the establishment of leading HR enabling services that align with the organization's strategic objectives and enable it to thrive in the midst of digital transformation. This involves reimagining traditional HR functions and processes to embrace digital technologies, agile methodologies, and data-driven decision-making. HR must lead by example, championing innovation and continuous improvement within the HR function itself while serving as a catalyst for change across the organization. By incorporating leading practices for talent acquisition, performance management, learning and development, and employee engagement, HR sets the stage for organizational agility, adaptability, and competitiveness in the face of digital disruption.

HR can leverage predictive capabilities to analyze organizational needs, market shifts, talent and workforce trends, as well as the evolving landscape of HR tools and technologies. By harnessing advanced analytics, machine learning algorithms, and predictive modeling techniques, HR gains insights into future talent requirements, identifies emerging skill gaps, and anticipates changes in the labor market. This enables HR to develop proactive talent strategies, build robust succession plans, and deploy resources strategically to meet evolving business needs. HR can also stay abreast of emerging HR technologies and trends, evaluating their potential impact on the organization and identifying opportunities for innovation and efficiency gains. 

In addition to strategic foresight, HR plays a critical role in establishing and preserving a top-tier culture that fosters innovation, collaboration, and high performance day in and day out. Culture is the lifeblood of any organization, shaping its identity, values, and behaviors. HR works hand in hand with leadership to define and articulate the organization's culture, aligning it with strategic objectives and fostering behaviors conducive to innovation, agility, and continuous learning that would enable the organization to adapt and thrive amidst digital disruption.

Why use it

By thinking ahead, leaning into the principles of an agile and adaptable organization, and using technology- and data-enabled processes, HR can position itself as a leading example of what future-proofing the organization means. Digital Transformation is disruptive and provides an ideal canvas to reimagine how the HR function leads the enterprise. The need for organizations to future-proof themselves has never been more critical. The relentless pace of technological innovation, shifting market dynamics, and unpredictable disruptions necessitate proactive strategies to ensure long-term sustainability and success. As organizations navigate the complexities of an uncertain future, HR becomes a strategic partner in driving digital transformation initiatives aimed at future-proofing the organization. 

Operating an agile and nimble organization is essential for futureproofing against uncertainties and seizing opportunities in a rapidly evolving environment. Agile organizations are characterized by their ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions, adapt to new technologies, and pivot strategies as needed. HR plays a fundamental role in fostering agility by championing a culture of innovation, collaboration, and continuous learning. This involves empowering employees to experiment, take calculated risks, and embrace change while providing the necessary support, resources, and training to thrive in a dynamic environment. By promoting agility and nimbleness, HR enables the organization to stay ahead of the curve, capitalize on emerging trends, and confidently navigate disruptions.

HR is also instrumental in helping organizations generate competitive advantages that set them apart in the marketplace. In an era of digital disruption, competitive advantages are no longer solely derived from products or services but also from talent, innovation, and organizational agility. HR leads the critical functions of attracting, developing, and retaining top talent, fostering a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship, and empowering employees to drive innovation and customer-centricity. By aligning talent strategies with business objectives, HR enables the organization to build sustainable competitive advantages that fuel growth, drive market differentiation, and enhance customer value propositions. HR's efforts in creating an attractive organization that people want to be part of are crucial for future-proofing the organization's talent pipeline and fostering a thriving workplace culture.

Outcomes

Through the adoption of these practices and establishing leading HR-enabling services, the function defines and clarifies the pathways HR must follow to provide leading practice learning and development, people development and employee experience, and overall employee satisfaction with the organization. Through the improved prediction of talent requirements and trends, HR generates a framework to establish predictive capabilities, perform market scanning and market sensing to identify innovation opportunities, and continually plan for top-tier future of work needs across the organization. And by developing a digital culture, HR is able to provide the guidance to perpetuate a top-tier culture that promotes the digital identify of the organization and reinforces digitally-forward cultural norms throughout its operations.

Practice guides at the level

Establishing leading HR-enabling services that support and reinforce the new digital realities.

Evolving HR’s ability to serve the organization by pursuing and establishing leading practices to modernize the digitally relevant capabilities that help assess and drive adoption and change.

Futureproofing HR by anticipating talent needs and market trends.

Investing in ways to understand the future needs of the organization and the tools that can support its growth and future-proof itself to achieve long-term success.

Creating a top-tier organizational culture that embraces and reinforces a new digital future.

Fostering a culture that supports the digital future as it evolves through HR transformation strategies that drive the employee experience and measurable/traceable efforts to integrate into the employee lifespan and journey.

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