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Carina Muskolus

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HR Transformation: From brake pad to business booster

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Agile processes, total workforce management, modern employer branding, a competitive corporate culture: In order to remain competitive in the age of digitalization, companies depend on professional human resource management. How HR can change from a passive follower to a competent, connected change driver: a plea and guideline for an inevitable transformation.

Metal steps built into the mountain for climbing

Challenge ahead: Can you count on HR as your sparring partner?

Imagine you are a manager in the middle of a transformation project that is likely to have a significant impact on the competitiveness and sustainability of the entire company: For example, the realignment of the portfolio or the digitalization of customer processes. Automatically put to the test: organizational structures, competence profiles, culture, efficiency and the effectiveness of previous cooperation.

Dream of an inspiring sparring partner

How helpful would it be to have someone by your side who drew your attention to pitfalls early on, who regularly brought in own ideas, who was approachable, who provided expert support in all relevant HR issues - from personnel restructuring to up- and reskilling of employees to the further development of organizational structures. Someone who brings the relevant experts on board, is an inspiring sparring partner through his business- and technical expertise and, as part of your management team, already thinks along with you when you make your proposals for the subsequent steps.

That is already your daily routine? Personnel issues are the smallest challenge in your company? Congratulations - then you can stop reading.

Or do you have five different HR contacts in such transformation projects, which have to be updated, connected and controlled regularly?

Because you have defined development paths with your HR business partner, but unfortunately these are not translated into concrete measures by the HR colleagues responsible for career planning? Because your HR business partner is a nice guy, but - trapped between HR Service and the Competence Center - is unfortunately unable to implement your concerns?

From “same old” to the change driver

Recently, I have encountered such constellations more frequently - through the exchange with managers from a wide range of industries and sizes, but also through my own experience. And all of this at a time of change, in an age of digital transformation, globalization and political and social upheaval. In other words, at a time when companies' business models and the qualifications of their employees are being questioned. Because the same old approach is no longer sufficient and new solutions are only just being found, as a global, representative, cross-industry Deloitte study clearly shows, which asked managers about current HR trends. According to the study, 86 percent of those surveyed consider further training of their employees essential for the future, but only 46 percent feel sufficiently prepared for it. There is a similar gap between the need and status quo in the areas of leadership (81 versus 41 percent), talent search (70 versus 37 percent) and incentive models (69 versus 33 percent).

These figures prove: If companies want to remain competitive, they depend on professional HR management - more than ever.

Train tracks are going in two different directions

Quo vadis HR? Brake pad or business booster

Raising HR to a higher level

But instead of taking change into their own hands as a competent business partner, moderating and acting instead of reacting, HR professionals are increasingly presenting themselves as followers, unfortunately sometimes even as a business brake pad. Which is why I am increasingly asking myself the question: Quo vadis, HR? And I am convinced: It is about time to take HR work to a new, more professional level. To remain relevant as a function and to make a valuable contribution to companies again - as a competent, connected driver of of change.


To ensure that HR once again adequately fulfills its assigned role, we must find answers to three challenges:

  1. Mastering the balancing act between standardization/automation and individualized service
  2. Identifying and covering the relevant topics
  3. Driving the transformation of the own organization

How the current situation came about and which ways I see for the future follows in the next article. Today I am curious – what is your perspective on the current HR work? What are your observations?

FAQ