Is this the Death of HR? A New Focus on Workplace Experience

With 2020 upon us, there’s never been a more auspicious time for the future of HR. But it might not be the type of HR you’re used to.

The HR department, which sits at the heart of most organizations’ people services function, is undergoing a radical transformation – shedding its rigid 20th century model to become a more agile, adaptive and insight-driven team.

Death of HR image

What do we mean? 

Well, let’s take a step back. HR has a crucial role to play in the development and activation of an organization’s employee experience, or EX. Employee experience is simply the sum of all experiences and interactions that candidates and employees have with your company, from searching to onboarding through to developing and exiting.  

Investing in a strong EX across every touchpoint and stage of the candidate and employee journey isn’t just a ‘nice to have’.

Consider this: companies that invest in EX generate 25% greater profitability and drive double the innovation than those that don’t.

EX is intrinsically linked to a brand’s customer experience (CX), and seeks to deliver personalized, authentic experiences that meet the expectations of the modern worker.

This is where HR comes in. The HR function of the future must consumerize the workplace, bringing ‘people’ intelligence to the business. It should act as a trusted adviser that partners with internal departments to create a more consumer-centric and commercially minded approach. As well as, champion EX at C-suite and Board levels.

To achieve this, a new lens and vision is required.

Employee experience is simply the sum of all experiences and interactions that candidates and employees have with your company, from searching to onboarding through to developing and exiting.  

The traditional approach

In typical organizations, HR plays a fairly similar and static role. This doesn’t mean it’s not important; far from it. But this rigid and siloed approach has stifled innovation and imagination. 

Let’s consider the following example.

Ask yourself, “How do most HR problems get solved within an organization?” 

Typically, an HR leader is told by senior executives that there’s a problem with ‘X’ and it needs to be solved. 

The HR leader readily accepts the challenge, and returns to his or her team to brainstorm, ideate and spend months working on a solution. During that time, there’s little communication across departments. It’s understandable; this is an HR problem, right? Why would the HR leader involve marketing or IT? Often these departments have little involvement with HR, so see it as a burden on top of their own daily requirements.

In this mindset, there is little to no sharing of insights, data or strategy. I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

Ultimately, the output is tenuous at best. Why? Because time, money and thinking have been invested into solving a problem that fails to identify the most important piece of the puzzle: what do your employees think?

These off-the-shelf solutions usually work within the limitations of what has already been implemented. To achieve real, lasting success, HR must consider whether the proposed solution is actually the best system for the end user. 

The starting point is talking to your employees.

The HR department of the future

In the ‘old world’ of business operations, it was clear that HR owned the employees, marketing owned the customer and IT owned the technology. Today, however, the lines are blurring.

In a world where experience is everything, all internal business functions need to collaborate. For HR, this means a concerted effort to evolve, adapt and innovate. 

The HR department of the future must embrace digital and deliver on new employee values. This means placing people at the heart of its strategy and focusing on building a comprehensive workplace experience. 

After all, EX is about more than just ping-pong tables and flavoured water. HR needs to account for the entire spectrum of employee experiences, and lead with agility to become a consumerized people function.

Start by considering:

  • Digital experience – Do you have the right digital systems and tools in place?
  • People experience – How human-centric are your managers, teams, and leadership?
  • Cultural experience – How authentic is your employee value proposition and employer brand?
  • Physical experience – Have you crafted an engaging workplace environment with useful facilities?

When it comes to implementation, HR must own EX and champion its application across the business.

The death of HR as we know it

The time for change is already upon us.

In a consumerized HR model, internal departments and stakeholders (finance, IT, marketing, etc.) become ‘customers’, meaning HR switches from a rigid, process-driven department to agile advisers and partners.

This isn’t the death of HR. This is its re-birth.

With new roles and responsibilities, the HR department of tomorrow will provide market intelligence, design strategic experiences and think beyond the immediate need of filling vacancies.

The outcome?

Conversations move from static, standalone solutions to agile, strategic visions. 

This isn’t the death of HR. This is its re-birth.

If you’re interested in learning more about employee experience, we’d love to welcome you to our EX event, for more information please contact

Creative Director

Sutherland Labs
Profile Image - Anton Artemenkov

View other blog posts by Anton