How to Handle Outside Factors That Affect the Workplace

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To adapt to the ever-changing political and legal factors affecting business, HR leaders must first understand what matters most to the organization and its employees while also paying strict attention to what is legally required. The challenge facing HR leaders is how to best prepare for these needs in the immediate future while hedging against potential change. To address these challenges, using an agile approach has become an important part of effective HR management.

"In an agile organization, HR needs to provide the same services it's always provided — hiring, professional development, performance management — but in ways that are responsive to the ongoing changes in the culture and work style of the organization," notes Harvard Business Review.

Finding a way to effectively balance business and regulatory fluctuations against organizational and employee needs requires building an adaptable organizational structure, understanding the root cause to drive solutions and adopting an agile approach to talent. With these concepts in mind, HR leaders are more apt to successfully handle whatever changes come their way, while also doing what works best for employees and the organization.

Build an Adaptable Organizational Structure

One of the biggest challenges in handling a rapidly changing environment is how to quickly communicate shifts in direction. Hierarchical, top-down models may have worked in the past. But today bureaucracy only serves to bog down organizations. Savvy organizations have adopted new organizational structures aimed at enabling innovation as well as effective communication.

"Research shows that every time the size of a city doubles, innovation or productivity per resident increases by 15 percent," says Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. "But when companies get bigger, innovation or productivity per employee generally goes down. So we're trying to figure out how to structure Zappos more like a city, and less like a bureaucratic corporation."

Zappos shifted from a typical hierarchical organizational structure to a self-organization, which allows employees to self-direct their work. This type of organization allows for a business to efficiently communicate innovative shifts, as information can be shared without relying on top-down channels to deliver a message. An adaptable organizational structure is one tool that HR leaders can use to increase an organization's ability to react and excel in a constantly changing environment.

Understand Root Cause to Drive Innovative Solutions

When faced with an ever-changing political and business environment, it can be tempting to find a problem and fix it, without completely understanding the issue. However, HR leaders must not ignore the problem while searching for the solution. But that ultimately prevents innovation, and may even deliver the wrong solution.

"Innovation comes down to taking a look at the problem from the problem's perspective, understanding the problem at the deepest possible level and understanding why people are having that problem," says Raj Uttamchandani, vice president of information technology for ADP.

By seeking the root cause as well as the "why" behind an issue, HR leaders can be better prepared to drive innovative efforts that deliver meaningful solutions that meet changing needs. Whether it's a shift in the business climate, regulatory change or employee needs, solutions that address the root cause can increase an organization's readiness to efficiently and productively handle change.

Adopt an Agile Approach to Talent

HR leaders are under pressure to find talent that can deliver new skills and expertise to build or maintain success. They're also under pressure to create an employee experience that engages and retains talent. And, to top it off, they have an ever-changing list of employment regulations with which they must comply.

Rather than the one-size-fits-all HR strategy, an agile approach to talent is necessary to adapt to a constantly changing regulatory and business environment. When faced with changes (such as variations in unemployment rates, fluctuations in employee engagement or shifts in required skills), HR leaders must create talent strategies that allow them to recruit, hire and retain the right people.

Strict plans and rigid structures may work when the world is predictable, but in a world of constant change, what worked in the past does not work in the future. To allow organizations and employees to take advantage of new opportunities, HR leaders should focus on building an adaptable organizational structure, understanding root cause to drive solutions and adopting an agile approach to talent. Then the idea of juggling workforce desires against organizational needs and regulatory requirements may not seem quite so overwhelming.

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