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Successful Leadership: Stepping up to the future of work

Our world of work is evolving. The speed of change and disruption will have an ongoing impact on our organisations, which means much more transformation activity for HR leaders. Leading during times of change is challenging and HR roles play a critical part in the process. HR leaders need to be aware of the road ahead and ready to help their organisations adapt and thrive.


HR in the fourth industrial revolution

Globalisation, digital disruption, large-scale demographic shifts and technological advances are affecting every aspect of the workplace. The way we lead, work, collaborate and learn; the way we obtain and retain knowledge are all rapidly changing.


Technology is set to have a steady and significant impact on our working life and opportunities. We need to be ready for a whole range of new challenges. How can we support the shift from using machines to working with them? How do we transition people into new roles? How do we encourage the life-long learning approach that will be vital for a sustained career? How do we embrace the endless ways we now have to obtain knowledge - from online content to meetups, to mentoring?


These questions certainly challenge our thinking and will have a significant impact on the conversations employees and employers have around all things digital, the automation of jobs, retraining and education, and more.


The role of HR leaders during times of transformation

During times of transformation, organisations typically focus on two areas. The first is running the core business. The second is reimagining and reinventing its business/operating model to achieve transformation goals.


HR leaders are responsible for any organisation's biggest asset and risk - its people. Managing people and organisations through the times of transformation bearing down on us will be much more than an exercise in morale management. Here are just some of the things you'll need to think about.




Generation gaps

The ideal baby boomer job where age and seniority are inextricably linked is being shattered by millennials with vastly different ideas on what working life should look like. HR leaders will have to think of new ways of engaging, involving and rewarding people to attract and retain top talent.



Team players

Collaboration is the name of the game and HR leaders have a role to play in establishing a collaborative culture and shaping the mechanisms required to support it. Working together across different functional groups to achieve new transformation goals ­ such as innovative recruitment processes, new contracting arrangements, induction systems to people up to speed with culture and compliance requirements, tools and resources that support teams, are all part of the picture. Technology will play a huge part and HR needs to understand it, not just leave it to the IT department.


Talent gaps

With any transformation, organisations require new capabilities to fulfil the need of future of work. Existing skills and capabilities in a 'business-as-usual' environment, may not be enough to drive transformation. HR leaders play a significant role in shaping organisations' talent management strategies to help employees better meet their development opportunities.


Difference of opinion

Diversity is another area where HR leadership is important. Research shows that diversity has huge benefits in terms of effective decision making, innovation and resilience. What is your organisation's bias and how can you change that?



Stepping up to the challenge

The Leadership Contract, proposed by Vince Molinaro, Global Managing Director of the Lee Hecht Harrison Leadership Transformation Practice, helps leaders understand the fine print of what it means to be a truly accountable leader. It begins with the simple idea that anyone taking on a leadership role is signing up for something significant. HR leaders have an opportunity to set the example for other leaders by living the four terms of the leadership contract:


  1. Leadership Is a Decision - Make It. When leading organisational transformation, HR leaders need conviction and determination. You have to make the deliberate decision to be a leader and commit to leading change. Are you all in as a leader?
  1. Leadership Is an Obligation - Step Up. HR leaders need to be clear on their primary obligation to leave the organisation stronger than they found it. Are you clear on your primary leadership obligation?
  1. Leadership Is Hard Work - Get Tough. Too many leaders only like doing the good stuff of leadership, but the role demands that at times you need to make unpopular decisions, give straight up feedback to a colleague, call out unproductive behaviour - these things aren't easy, but if we avoid them we weaken ourselves and our companies. Is there hard work that you are avoiding?
  1. Leadership Is a Community - Connect. HR leaders must step up not only as HR leaders but business leaders. Strong synergy within executive teams is essential. Connecting with future-focused leaders within and outside your organisation will sustain your own leadership. Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone?




Leadership and culture

Today's workplace needs to be agile and dynamic. It needs to be capable of managing the expectations and interactions of five generations, each with a distinct view of the world of work. It needs to be capable of handling a variety of working arrangements, a flow of people in and out of the organisation, ensuring they are able to grasp "new ways of working" quickly and can connect with their team from anywhere. It needs to be constantly evolving, always looking ahead to see what trends or technologies will have an impact on its business and how its workforce can re-train and re-group to meet the challenge. HR leaders have a crucial part to play in building a resilient, adaptive, learning-focused organisational culture.



Are you ready to lead your organisation into the future of work?


References available on request.




  • Sake Hitman, Executive General Manager Lee Hecht Harrison New Zealand

The country manager for LHH, Sake is a globally experienced executive in the areas of business transformation and change management, organisational restructuring and business process outsourcing. In his current role, Sake works with managing directors, senior HR managers and other key stakeholders to plan, negotiate and implement large-scale restructures, downsizes and career management projects spanning the public and private sectors, covering all industries.


Sake has held a variety of key roles for American Express both in EMEA as well as the Asia-Pacific areas. During his time with LHH, he has worked with many organisations including Fonterra, BNZ, Hewlett Packard, Unilever, SAP, PepsiCo and Sanford.


  • Frances Valintine, Founder The Mind Lab & Tech Futures Lab

Frances Valintine is an education futurist and the founder of Tech Futures Lab and The Mind Lab. She has been exploring education, technology and future trends for over 20 years and at the beginning of 2017 was named Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her work in these fields. Frances has worked with and advised 250+ organisations from every sector in New Zealand, from agriculture to finance, retail to law, and has gained a reputation as an expert in leading change initiatives. Frances sits on the boards of Callaghan Innovation, KEA and the NZ Artificial Intelligence Forum and is Chair of the newly appointed Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group. She sits on a US Board of Talentnomics, committed to the empowerment of women in developing nations.