Human Resources Agility in a VUCA World

Agility Consulting |

By Nick Horney, Ph.D., Leadership Agility Practice Leader AAEAAQAAAAAAAAteAAAAJDRlNDkzNTExLThhYWItNGYyYS04OTU5LTViNjVlMDM4NzFkZg AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxVAAAAJDc3NmU5OWEwLTRhZTYtNDEwYy05ZTEwLTUxMWMzNDA5MTVmZgCHROs have the opportunity to take the lead in overcoming organizational, culture, experience, process, etc. barriers to develop HR Agility to more effectively compete in VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. Barriers that CHROs will confront range from HR processes to organizational culture. For example, existing HR processes for recruiting, onboarding, engagement, talent management, etc. primarily focus on full-time employees with limited consideration for contingent workers as part of the organization’s talent portfolio.  The business imperative for Human Resources is to become Focused, Fast and Flexible.
The rapidly accelerating growth of the Gig Economy represents one of the most significant and all-encompassing VUCA challenges faced by Human Resources professionals. With this workforce disruption, the fundamental question is whether Human Resources can demonstrate the agility to lead the change in culture, programs, processes, and policies originally designed for work completed by full-time employees to a new era when more of the work is being completed by a talent portfolio increasingly represented by contingent workers (AKA — Gigsters, free agents, contingent workers, temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, independent contractors or freelancers).
Anticipating the changes resulting from the VUCA disruptions represent one of the first priorities that CHROs must address with their HR Team. Multiple resources for HR trend data are readily available and should be studied by HR Departments to understand the implications of these trends on their work.

HR Trend Institute

Tom Haak, founder of the HR Trend Institute, is one of the leading authorities on key HR trends. I recently had the good fortune of discussing the implications of HR trends with Tom via a Skype call. He shared many examples and emphasized the business imperative for HR Agility. A useful infographic is illustrated here to illustrate key HR Trends for 2017.
Other useful HR Trend information can be found in annual reports published by some of the larger consulting firms (e.g., PWC, Deloitte, etc.).
The 5 Steps for CHROs to Build HR Agility
Transformations like this led by CHROs are by no means easy to achieve, but for many firms, they are a competitive necessity. CHROs have the opportunity to drive the agility and rapid innovation necessary to compete in VUCA world and demonstrate the change readiness in Human Resources which impact the entire organization. The volume, velocity and intensity of “noise” encountered in our VUCA world requires the Human Resources department to demonstrate agility in its policies, processes and practices to enable the organization to transform to be more change ready.
CHROs have the opportunity to drive the agility and rapid innovation necessary to compete in a VUCA world and demonstrate the change readiness in Human Resources which impact the entire organization. The Agility Audit framework illustrated below helps guide the choices that CHROs must make to help transform their organizations in the face of the VUCA challenges.

Anticipate Change

The first step for CHROs would be to conduct an HR Agility Audit which would include the identification of the key trends impacting their organization and HR. Implications for HR processes (e.g., job analysis, recruiting, onboarding, performance management, talent assessment, etc.). Example – Modify Job Analysis Process to Work Analysis — HR will need to shift its reliance on job analysis to implement work analysis focused on the tasks involved in accomplishing the work, regardless of whether the worker is a full-time employee or a contingent worker. HR should consult with its internal client functions to determine what work is best accomplished by full-time employees (e.g., work tasks involving sensitive intellectual property) and that work which can be accomplished by contingent workers).

Generate Confidence

Generate confidence in the changes necessary to thrive in a VUCA world – Equip managers with the training and coaching to better understand how to more effectively lead in a VUCA world where functional and project teams include contingent workers, consultants and full-time employees. An important element of the management training would include the updated process for conducting the talent review for high potentials as noted in the graphic.

Initiate Action

Initiate action to change the policies, processes, and philosophies of HR which relied on the assumption that organizational talent only consisted of internal full-time employees. As described earlier, work analysis would include process mapping to identify the current and future tasks in each HR process. The illustration above provides the detailed tasks for the current recruiting process and the improved process focused on the entire talent portfolio. As this is a process that is continual and on-going, the ability to alter processes and structures quickly is vital. This element is fundamentally about process improvement in HR processes to better equip HR for the Gig Economy.

Liberate Thinking

Liberate thinking by creating the environment for the HR Team to think creatively about the how to redesign HR processes, policies and philosophies supportive of the VUCA world.  Applying scenario planning to the Talent Review process, contingent workers would also be reviewed for performance and potential so that the organization’s entire talent portfolio can be identified and developed. Talent Portfolio mix of full-time and contingent workers.  Combinations of talent are likely to vary depending upon the strategic planning business scenario.

Evaluate Results

What impact has the HR Agility transformation had on key performance indicators of Human Resources? Key performance indicators as represented in the graphic are illustrations of results which can be tracked and monitored to determine if the HR Agility initiatives are having the desired impact on the organization.

Join us for a presentation and panel discussion on HR Agility sponsored by SHRM — Atlanta

About Nick Horney

Nick Horney, Ph.D. is the Agility Doc and Founder of Agility Consulting & Training. He first discovered the value of agility during his 23 years of service as a Special Operations Naval Officer responsible for diving and explosive ordnance disposal teams. In these rapidly unfolding and changing circumstances–and now, as an organizational psychologist–Nick discovered that the key ingredient separating good leaders from great leaders is agility. Learn more about Nick at

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Focused, Fast & Flexible

Focused, Fast & Flexible

Nick & Tom's new book, "Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World", is now available for purchase on amazon.