Navigating the great HR reinvention 

Find out how to seamlessly connect talent supply to project demand—while meeting employees on their terms

COVID-19 pushed organizations to leave behind their exclusive focus on growth, efficiency and return, and pivot to resilience, flexibility and agility—democratizing work more than ever before.

In today’s “Great Resignation,” companies find themselves stretched for talent. In response, they need to make themselves attractive as possible. Therefore, the two most pivotal questions facing HR professionals today are:

  1. How can we connect talent to work as seamlessly as possible?
  2. How will we meet all talent where they are and on their terms?

Addressing these challenges can have a huge potential payoff. A number of progressive companies are leading the way. 

Connect talent to work

HR professionals have the opportunity to re-envision the talent experience—and define it more broadly than the employee experience. Less work is getting done by full-time employees, which poses a challenge to HR practitioners. To face these challenges HR must design their services through the lens of the talent and their needs.

We predict a move toward work without jobs, a system where employees are freed from a single job-based function to become part of an internal or external skills-based talent marketplace. For example, a freelance data scientist could move among projects in marketing, HR and operations as needed. This requires employers to organize themselves along interactions with the respective internal talent group, rather than focusing on hierarchies, departments or functions.

The result will be an organization that has talent coming in and going out in a hub-and-spoke ecosystem where multiple functions, or even multiple companies, can share talent, risk, innovation and costs with an embedded HR function seconding them for success.

Employees in fixed roles Employees in hybrid roles that are a partially fixed but can flow to work as needed Employees who fully flow to tasks, assignments and projects
Employees have traditionally been assigned to fixed roles. In the emerging way of working, employees have hybrid roles. In the future way of working, employees will fully flow to projects.

Full-time employees in jobs

Permanent and collective value exchange

Job architecture enabled by ERP systems

Workforce planning is traditional headcount planning

Roles are partially fixed, but employees can flow to work as needed

Employees make tradeoffs for ability to engage with work on their terms

Infrastructure includes ERP systems and talent marketplaces

Workforce planning includes traditional headcount planning and skills-based planning

Employees but no jobs

Capabilities required in short-term bursts by several different work processes

Infrastructure includes talent marketplaces

Workforce planning includes agile work and skills-based planning

The challenge for organizations will be to figure out the types of work that need to stay on the left side of the continuum and what needs to move to the right. Progressive companies have successfully embraced the flow-to-work model.

Case study: Unilever


Employees were redeployed to address new business needs during the pandemic

Source: Gloat. "Walmart, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Unilever, Deloitte Highlight How the Internal Talent Marketplace is Revolutionizing the Global Workforce", available at

Every employee at Unilever answers four questions to develop their individual future-fit plans:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I good at and what do I want to do?
  • Where are my opportunities for growth?
  • How will I stay relevant and sustain my way of life?
Then, HR helps them upskill and reskill to grow and stay relevant. This system prevents rendering people redundant and, during the pandemic, has allowed Unilever to take on mission-critical projects.
We are driving new ways of working to gain rapid access to the best skills and business ideas available both internally and externally. We believe that our people are much more than their job title. If our people thrive, we thrive as a business.
Jeroen Wels

Executive VP HR, Unilever

Source: Unilever, “Unilever launches new AI-powered talent marketplace” | News | Unilever global company website, 2019

Case study: Global insurance company


Increase in organizational productivity

In a single sweep, a global insurer took all digital employees out of their functions and put them into a virtual shared services marketplace.

Then, HR stood up a new center of excellence to train managers on the new process for sourcing talent for their projects. The marketplace’s algorithm looks at who has the skills, availability and interest in doing the work, and flows the talent to the project.

The algorithm also identifies people who are just a few skills away from being qualified for the project, so those people can take courses immediately to get up to speed.

Not only did this system increase productivity, but the organization is now a much more attractive employer.

Meet all talent on their terms

Meeting all talent on their terms will require a multidimensional approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

Diversity is about getting more people into the game with a broader definition of representation. Equity is about designing work to ensure access to all. Inclusion is about fostering belonging. 

DE&I questions for HR practitioners to consider:

  • How well does our workforce represent the communities we serve?
  • How will current representation change over the next five to 10 years?
  • How well do we ensure that policies deliver equality of opportunity, experience and pay?
  • How well do we create a culture that instills a sense of belonging, authenticity and trust?

One way HR professionals can meet all talent on their terms is by considering their target interaction model (TIM) before their target operating model (TOM). It insures that talent will be met where it‘s needed and put people at the heart of the interaction.

In the emerging hybrid or flow-to-work model, all talent will have a unique set of interactions and experiences with HR. Through DE&I lens, HR practitioners should think about what each individual needs from them, the services HR offers to talent, and the roles and responsibilities needed within HR to provide those services.

The resulting interaction model will look different among the companies, reflecting the dependency of people to the business model and drive both the talent experience and the new HR operating model. New HR roles will arise, others will radically change and the delivery model needs to be completely overhauled.

Stay relevant in an ever-changing world

We’re moving toward a new ecosystem of work where every enterprise is a distributed one and leadership comes from the edges. Just as technology keeps rendering itself obsolete at an accelerated pace, so, too, do organizations—unless they create a mechanism for talent to constantly build in-demand skills, and express those skills by seamlessly flowing to work.

The way to stay agile is to perpetually reinvent ourselves.

About the author(s)
Armin von Rohrscheidt

Global HR Transformation Leader, Mercer

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