HR Of The Future – Partner With Your Competitors

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Audacious Ideas, HR

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an event at Google that was all about the future of work and how to make it better. Cuz let’s be honest—work isn’t always fun!  The speakers were amazing and the conversations with such an interesting group of people were even better. You can check out what they’re up to here. As with many events like this, the main benefit is having the chance the step back from your day-to-day work life and think about possibilities. And, if you’re like me and have two kids under the age of 5, it’s also an opportunity to remember what it’s like be an adult! But I digress. So what was my big “aha!” moment? The HR department of the future won’t be a department at all. Rather, HR will be a collaborative effort or partnership between several organizations cooperating to manage their people. 

Crazy idea? Here’s why I think it could work.

  • Recruiting: Many companies in my part of the world (Cambridge, MA) are desperately trying to hire technical talent (data scientists, software engineers) and we’re all competing with each other for the same pool of talent. But guess what? We’re not only competing with each other, we’re also competing with geographic locations like Silicon Valley. While we’re busy fighting each other, talent is slowly heading west for sun and surf. And before you know it, technical talent may not view our part of the world as a place to be. Instead of competing with each other, HR departments could take the lead, band together and come up with creative ways to keep talent local. We could do things like hold joint recruiting events, share recruiting talent, and (gasp) even share candidates with each other!
  • People Development:  Another challenge (and I suspect not unique to us) is finding creative ways to develop our people. We struggle to find new opportunities and often resort to coming up with funky titles (Super Secret Double Manager) to try and gloss over the fact that we don’t have any creative ideas. All the while trying to retain prevent our people from joining our competitors even if (god forbid) that’s the best move for their career! What if these same companies who were competing with each other for talent got together and figured out a way to share their talent with each other? We could do things like develop joint training courses, provide mentors, and even create “study abroad” programs for people to gain valuable experience with another company (without leaving yours).

I understand this would be a radical shift and require organizations to step back and think about the big picture as it relates to talent, which won’t be easy. But if we’ve learned anything from companies like Uber, for example, the old models for what an organization looks like are rapidly changing. HR can play a lead role in defining the model of the future.