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Why we need a new model for HR, an introduction

Wherever I turn, whoever I speak to in HR roles (be they in talent acquisition right through to organisation development, change and engagement work) I see and hear the same thing: We’ve never been busier and it’s more demanding and intense than ever.

Statistics and reports are showing us some pretty paradoxical things:

All of this creates a compression chamber that people live in and the things they look for in their lives are the most elusive - certainty and sanctuary.

And the things that mostly provide them (due to time spent with them) are family and work. And one doesn’t always help us with the other, yet combined as a force for good they provide economic viability on an individual level and a place, esteem and purpose, worth and value, learning and comfort.

In conversations with people across all walks of life, what comes up time and again is this: we want to know we matter and that what we do, counts.

This is where most people underestimate, and perhaps even underplay, the role and importance of the HR function and the people profession in its widest sense to create this sensation of mattering in the world of work that positively impacts our lives.

I’m not just conflating this because I’m in it, but HR sits in the space of harmony creation - between work efforts and reward, design and deployment and more.

It’s also the recipient of a lot of cries for help for life’s complex issues, leadership with ambiguous demands and some less-than-articulate needs to meet.

Businesses, such as those committing large layoffs, are asking for loyalty yet offloading people with such a harsh sense of indignity that HR feels constricted by the incongruence of helping people feel part of something and cared for.

That something is now seen as a cruel capitalist machine serving shareholders and investors when company bosses have previously declared themselves as great places to work and doing societal/planetary good.

HR’s lot has never been more crucial, yet HR has a more complex, chaotic and challenging landscape than it has previously faced.

With this, my sense is that we absolutely need a new model for how HR sets itself up to succeed and a departure from mechanical and capital-fixated business functions to more sustainable and stabilising ways to operate.

We don’t just need data-rich, evidence-led, business-savvy HR - we need this and people-centric, planet-pro, prosperity-delivering HR.

This is why I think we need to remodel HR functions and teams of all sizes, sectors and specialisms.

And over the course of the next three months, I’m serialising the model I’ve conceived based on the last decade of being acutely aware of the way things are, and more and more agitated about the way things could and should be.

The headlines to this HR 3.0 model are:

  • A departure from three verticals in the existing, dominant business partner model.
  • Embracing the disaggregation of HR functions in favour of fluidity for HR professionals, whilst bringing more clarity to their impact and role across different domains on how we design work, and better support our people.
  • Increased and discernible practices in psychology, analytics and systems thinking with product management and adaptive operations, fuelled by next-generation technology that enhances high-touch human-to-human co-creation of solutions and ways of working.

In this article series for HR magazine I will explore both the pragmatic shift and application of a theoretical model that I sense will spark an evolution in the people profession and a revolution in how work is done and experienced.

More to come so for now, be curious.

Perry Timms is founder of PTHR


This article is one in a series of Timms' final months of being ranked top of HR magazine's Most Influential Thinker list for 2022.

2023 HR Most Influential rankings will be released in June.