Re-Imagining the Role of Human Resources #TFP1

Last week, we had the privilege to spend two days with a group of 40 courageous people passionate enough about the work of human resources to spend a couple days rolling up their sleeves and working on it together.  We called the event The Frontier Project because it was designed as an exploration.  We set out together on this adventure, not certain of our exact destination, but resolute to find our way to some solutions.

This group crafted a compelling vision of the future and identified the critical areas where we must focus to achieve that vision.  More about this will be coming in the upcoming weeks.  For now, I wanted to share some reflections that have been ringing in my mind since the event ended last Tuesday.

  1. The discussion about the future of human resources isn’t about departments, roles, titles or hierarchies, it is about the work.  It’s not about saving HR, it’s about saving the organization.  The discussions at this event focused on what needs to happen within the organization to succeed in the future.  It was even acknowledged that to succeed, traditional HR departments may not exist in the future.
  2. The group gathered together last week represented some really accomplished and talented leaders from a variety of backgrounds.  And yet, the one thing they shared in common was that it was really hard for them individually and collectively to think too far into the future.  Further, it was even harder for them to imagine and play with the crazy possibilities that the future holds–those ideas that can’t make sense to us yet.  Thinking big, bold thoughts was hard.  We all cling tightly to what makes sense today.  We huddle around of the comfort our expertise. It made it crystal clear to me that all of us would benefit from more time spent intentionally stretching the capacity and capability of our imaginations.
  3. Analytics and data are truly disruptive forces (in both positive and negative ways) for the work of HR.  And, while most everyone seems to have an appreciation for these trends, we aren’t certain where to start or exactly what it means for our own work.
  4. The power has shifted entirely to the employee and they are increasingly becoming consumers of work. Plus, the employee of the future is more savvy, mobile and connected than ever before.  This prompted discussions about culture, brand, engagement, and evangelism as central to HR work moving forward.
  5. The challenges coming in the future for how humans and organizations come together to create the value we call work, will require a radically different set of competencies and behaviors than what defines HR work today.  As one of the attendees aptly shared at the end of the second day, if HR is to be effective in meeting the needs of the future, they will need to wear a lot of hats.  Most of these hats they don’t own today.  There’s a big gap to close and we must close it quickly.

To hear HR leaders talk about the future of their profession courageously and to take ownership of the challenges that lies ahead was refreshing and inspiring.  The path forward is filled with opportunity and potential. That path is equally exciting and daunting.  Courage will be needed.

In the upcoming weeks, the road map created by these innovators will be published and shared with you for your inspiration, use, and debate.  Stay tuned for more.


  1. This Frontier Project effort is extremely important reflection and amazing work in terms of generating vision around things we can barely grasp conceptually. The emphasis on metrics and data as disruption is very relevant. Sometimes I feel like what HR needs is a bunch of competency soldiers, or competency soldier builders! Looking forward to learning more.

  2. Nothing presented here compels me to believe that HR in its current form does not meet organizational needs. It’s the person in the role that is failing, not the profession itself. Many weak business students turn to HR when they can’t cut the mustard in accounting or finance. HR is the dumping ground for people who like people, rather than people who know business.

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