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Gary Cookson



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Reimagining HR roles to suit hybrid working

Things are changing and it's time that HR upped its game but are you ready for it?
HR in a new era

The CIPD’s forward look at what 2030 might bring for the people profession summarised the focus for people professionals as being:

  • Internal change – evolving organisational models, structures, and processes
  • Digital and technological transformation
  • Changing demographics and diversity and inclusion strategy
  • Diversifying employment relationships
  • Sustainability, purpose, and responsible business

Tomorrow is now

These areas have become more noticeably important as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The way work is done now is different for many people, and the organisational system has changed around that. Our organisations make even greater use of technology to deliver services and connect people, producing ever more data to be used.

This changing landscape brings challenges for us as people professionals. Our skillset has changed and we need to adapt

The nature of remote and hybrid working brings challenges and opportunities alike around inclusion and belonging which many have not faced before. Types of working arrangements have diversified and are likely to continue to do so to help organisations adapt to changes in societal views of work/life balance and wellbeing.

This changing landscape brings challenges for us as people professionals. Our skillset has changed and we need to adapt.

What has changed for people professionals?

Many people professionals need to prioritise enhancing their skills and knowledge in these areas:

1. Confidence with technology

​​As many of our services will be delivered via technology, we have to be comfortable knowing what data it holds (more on that below), and help end users get the best from the technology.

2. Organisational design and development

If we are seeing changes to what work is, when and where it is done, this will mean job redesign, team development and changes to other parts of the organisational system – we have to be able to help the business do this successfully.

3. Supporting not just individual, but the team and organisational health

This means focusing on the factors that can influence wellbeing but also cultural indicators around team health and ethical issues around how organisations behave and are perceived by their stakeholders.

4. Using data

Linked to all the points above, we need to be more comfortable using data to gather information about what is happening in the organisation given the reduced amount of face-to-face work and reduced ability to ‘see’ what is happening. We need to help teams and their leaders to determine what data they need to function effectively and how to interrogate and analyse that.

We will also need to ensure that the organisation understands what data needs to be gathered and used to make decisions about people, and help it to do that effectively. We must deliver the right intelligence to the right people, teams, and organisations so that all of these can perform better.

The emergence of new roles?

All of this may mean that, unless we go for generalist roles entirely, we may see new roles emerging at the forefront of our profession:


This role is often present already in large teams but can be considered a back-office role. It needs to be more visible within our teams and active on our front line, selecting and using the right data and providing the right intelligence at the right time to the right people.

Professionals who are aware of the factors that influence the wellbeing of individuals can focus on team dynamics and psychology, organisational ethics and culture

‘Hybrid experience’ experts

Work is different, and the experience likewise, with a hybrid model. We need people who can focus on this difference and create and shape the right employee experience for those working remotely, face-to-face or in a hybrid way.

Wellbeing specialists

Professionals who are aware of the factors that influence the wellbeing of individuals, can focus on team dynamics and psychology, and organisational ethics and culture.


Again often present already but usually integrated into other roles. However, we need professionals who can help others to identify optimum performance and the best conditions under which to produce it, utilising knowledge of human behaviour and psychology, coaching techniques and more.

We need to change

We must be flexible – not rigidly enforcing policies which apply to everyone because the employee experience is highly likely to become more individualised in the future. We need frameworks and general principles.

To make that work, we have to improve our visibility and reputation with our businesses, proactively raising issues that need addressing as well as ensuring we are the trusted partner other senior leaders approach when they need help.

We need to avoid working in isolation. The organisation of the future requires a joined-up approach to the employee experience, meaning other functions need to be our partners in that approach so that all the touchpoints remote and hybrid (and face-to-face) employees have with the organisation are smooth, supportive and positive.

Everything could change in the organisation – from communications, relationships, decision-making, conflict management and more

We should be flexible enough to potentially redesign each job in the organisation, making the most effective use of technology to enable individuals to adapt their working lives to best suit all the stakeholders they have.

We need to ensure that all stakeholders in our organisation understand that the way things used to be pre-pandemic, and the way things were during the pandemic, is not necessarily the way things could or will be in the future. Everything could change in the organisation – from communications, relationships, decision-making, conflict management and more. Leaders and their roles are different now. They will need our help to manage this change effectively.

Are you ready?

Interested in this topic? Read Leadership approaches for a hybrid working world.

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Gary Cookson


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