Designer Org Structures? Focus on Individuals.

CaptureOn Monday, Peter Cappelli’s newest HRExec column, IBM and the Great Divide in HR, stopped me in my tracks and I’ve been mulling it over ever since.

Apparently Peter was smitten at a recent Wharton event by Diane Gherson, IBM’s Senior VP, who shared her company’s journey through 3 stages of HR.

Diane described the first stage as developing ‘best’ practices by observing others and focusing on making sure they were ‘fair’. The second stage was to leverage their skills, technology, etc. etc. to intentionally scale, reduce cost and improve & maximize efficiencies for HR practices.

It is the third stage that caught my attention “ which is where IBM is now, is to focus on the experience of individual employees.” IBM sees this as the area where innovation lies at the core.

The Moneyball moment for me, however, was Cappelli’s comment that, “The approach requires a shift away from command-and-control management. At the employee level, managing employees as individuals requires lots more feedback and — you probably guessed — big data and technology.”

Suddenly the calls we’ve been fielding, maybe a dozen in the last month came together. Many of our members, TA leaders, are in the midst of a significant organizational re-design effort. “Transformation” is so 2015. Restructuring to meet those transformed goals is the order of the day. (The TA analog by the way for the “experience of individual employees” is (wait for it) the experience of the stakeholders in the hiring process- managers, recruiters and yes, the candidates’ experience.

It is clear to me that events like this one at Wharton, as well as books connecting innovation to business strategy, structure and culture like “Originals: How Non- Conformists Move the World” written by Adam Grant (also from Wharton) and, finally, numerous research studies from Bersin by Deloitte and others reflecting how our rigid organizational structures in an increasingly flexible, agile networked world are obsolete (the #1 challenge of CEO’s in 2016) are all converging to drive this third phase. Although, the path for building organizations out of ‘networks of networks’ isn’t as clear as some might hope.

Still, at CareerXroads we worked this past month with Colloquium members to create and distribute a quick survey, Rethinking TA Structures– more as a starting point than a guide for where to go. (We plan to hold a conference call with participants to share results and so, if you want to participate and are a large firm, feel free.)

I’m thankful and content that Cappelli’s column offers a few insights and missing puzzle pieces.

IBM’s Head of HR, Diane Gherson, also noted some specific challenges they are working on that touch Talent Acquisition:

“[This new approach] means setting up programs to forecast the flight risk of employees and respond especially to needed changes in wages in advance.

It also means getting better at hiring by looking at what predicts good hires with their own data to weed out candidates before the expensive interview process begins.”

Chris and I think it also means sharing equivalent (individually configured) data about the company culture, job, team and direct reports that would help candidates make better decisions.

We think this conversation will continue for the next few years and suggest at least some high level white-boarding about how to execute is in order. #Heads-up