Mark Stelzner is the Managing Principal at IA. With more than 25 years of HR transformation experience, Mark has spent his career fostering relationships through attention to detail, natural curiosity, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. By offering unbiased and candid advice to C-level leaders in nearly all geographies and vertical market segments, Mark has brought billions of dollars’ worth of value to his clients and employers. Since 2006, Mark has had the privilege of leading IA, a management consulting firm that aids organizations from 1,000 to 500,000 employees through all aspects of their HR transformational journey.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Mark, who will be speaking at People Matters TechHR SEA 2021 shares how the role of HR is getting transformed this year and what are some things that HR needs to prioritize in order to thrive in the age of continuous change.
2021 will call for continuous reinvention. What are some of the ways workplaces need to be reinvented?
The past year has taught us all that reinvention is no longer a project or initiative. Instead, it’s a mindset shift to continuous improvement and reprioritization centered on the impacts to our workers and people leaders. For example, pandemic restrictions opened the eyes of many to the benefits of working from home or remote locations; however, others long for truly human connection and struggle with isolation and “Zoom fatigue”. Taking into account both perspectives, workplaces will need to foster flexibility and freedom in setting in-person expectations if they want to retain their talent.
In a similar vein, the pace of change in business is relentless with a constant stream of new technologies, markets, industries, products, and initiatives. As a result, businesses will need to be prepared to facilitate the unlearning and relearning of skills within their working populations. It is frankly too expensive and too inefficient to expect to continuously hire new talent with existing skillsets (and can disproportionately and negatively impact mid-career workers).
“Instead, businesses should be very intentional about investing in the ongoing development of their workers with an acute eye toward the emerging skills that each role will require over the coming years.”
Purposeful transformation is the need of the hour. How do you think companies need to do that in the second year of the pandemic?
As we like to say at IA, organizations need to go slow to go fast. Given the frenetic pace of the past year, we need to thoughtfully and mindfully consider the order, impact, dependencies, and outcomes of a truly purposeful transformation. At the same time, we need to reserve capacity and capital to react swiftly should an unexpected need arise. Given no organization has the luxury to do so in serial, these parallel tracks of strategic planning and tactical triage will ensure we are reflecting upon which changes are temporary, which are permanent, and how to clearly convey the purpose and precision of each.
How do you see the role of HR getting transformed and reinvented this year?
HR has taken on an incredibly difficult role during the pandemic. As a result, it has elevated HR’s visibility both internally and externally. We as HR leaders should not retreat from this position of strength and instead double down on the truly differentiated and strategic value of a modern and thoughtful people function. This is also the moment for HR to find ways to use technology to automate and outsource the administrative side of their work. I’m not speaking to the elimination of staff; instead, I’m suggesting the reinvigoration of those who came into HR to transform yet have been mired in transactional and tactical support.
“HR can leverage the trust they’ve built this year with business leaders and apply agility, a consultative mindset, and dynamic teaming to fundamentally reshape the HR operating model.”
HR can then focus on being the connective tissue to help businesses transform – advising on people strategy, assisting in change management, and helping the business solve problems as they arise.
What are some things HR needs to prioritize in order to thrive in the age of continuous change?
Before we talk about what HR needs to prioritize, we need to address the fact that a universal prioritization model is required. Given the magnitude and pacing of change, both qualitative and quantitative criteria must be established to determine what initiatives HR can support, how they will be resourced and funded, and potential collisions among and between key outcomes. I know this sounds tactical, but one question I love to ask CHROs/CPOs is, “How do you make decisions?” I usually get a laugh with the recognition that HR has never sat down to document how decisions are made. If done well, prioritization can lead to unprecedented transparency and visibility into ALL of the work HR is required to support across the organization.
What is the role technology will play in enabling HR to sustain the relentless pace of modern transformation?
Technology should exist to serve processes, not the other way around. There is no shortage of innovative platforms and services organizations could deploy, so we must be incredibly intentional in establishing a point of view associated with what we believe technology can achieve. This includes how our technologies will integrate to unify the employee experience, how we foster frictionless and integrated experiences, that both high tech AND high touch still matter, that security and privacy are core considerations to building trust and that all workers must embrace technologies in the flow of work --- NOT in the flow of HR.
“Lastly, we have to recognize that all of workers may not be digitally proficient, have access to devices or bandwidth, or be allowed to bring their devices into certain facilities. This is all to say that technology is an incredibly powerful tool in driving efficiency and effectiveness, but technology alone is not a panacea.”