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The Organization of the Future is Neither Organized (like it used to be), Nor in the Future

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on April 26, 2017 02:15 PM

 You can’t miss it. The “organization of the future” is showing up just about everywhere this year – headlining research reports, white papers, conference agendas, podcasts and yes, blog articles.

It all sounds a bit mysterious, abstract and well, like it’s a thing of the future, right?

No. The planning and implementation are happening now.

If futurizing your organization is a matter of both survival and success, what role do you, as the HR professional, have in the equation?   And what does it mean for the benefits and services offered to employees?

Keep reading for insight and answers to these questions.

Here are three places to start when building your organization of the future:

  • Transform leaders into organizational architects
    Receptive, collaborative leadership is essential to the organization of the future. Leaders must not only lead by example, embodying the mission, brand and main tenets of their organization, they must also think of themselves as “organizational architects.”   With their finger on the pulse of the overall well-being of the entire organization, they must adjust their leadership style to improve and stabilize it.  

    HR’s Role:
    Now more than ever, the role of the HR professional as a “whole organizational leader” is key. As Linda Sharkey and Morag Barrett highlight in their new book, The Future-Proof Workplace, “the role of HR is being steadily incorporated into a leader’s role.” Not only do HR professionals need to coach, educate and help evolve the well-versed 21st century leader, they need to be the well-versed leader themselves. A deep understanding of their organization’s networks and what’s taking place in each one, as well as a knowledge of their industry and their customers – both external and internal – will help preserve, stabilize and propel the role of the HR leader.

  • Write a playbook, not a processes manual
    Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report includes a great side-by-side of the old vs. new rules in the organization of the future. Gone are the days of the rule book and processes, enter the era of the playbook and projects. The organization of the future will not run on “do this” and “don’t do that,” but rather on a mindset of shared knowledge and collective experience, where innovation is the key force driving strategy.

    HR’s Role:
    With this shift comes the importance of organizational culture and values, where HR will continue to play a critical role in authoring and ensuring its successful adaptation. An organization’s culture must adapt to meet what Starkey and Barrett call, “the social contract of the 21st century” – one that is no longer paternalistic but rather “focused on the worker’s needs and the organization’s need for creativity and growth.”

    Benefits (including wellness initiatives, flexibility, PTO and rewards based on skill and innovation) will play a huge role in creating and stabilizing this culture of interwoven employee-employer growth. Supporting the varied whole-family care needs of your employees, which contributes to their overall wellness and well-being, will in turn influence the success of your teams and organization.

    RELATED: You Had Me at Benefits: A Consumerist Guide to Making Employees Fall in Love with Their Benefits

So, as you put your future plans to work now and peel away the last few layers of the 100-year old Industrial Age workplace, will anything stay the same? Yes - our remarkable human ability to adapt.

Provided we embrace the change, while keeping the workplace safe, positive and supportive of self-determination, the future is here…and it works.


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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.