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  • Danny

HR 3.0: The Next Evolution

Updated: Sep 19, 2023


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I've been deeply inspired by Perry Timm's writings on many things, the most recent being the transition from conventional HR to what he terms HR 3.0. If you haven't read them yet, I highly recommend you explore the links below and give him and PTHR a follow:

Welcome back! I'm fortunate to consider Perry not just a peer, but also a friend. His writings often spark profound reflections, leading me to put pen to paper on thoughts like those below.


Building on HR 3.0

I'd like to build upon Perry's posts with some of my thoughts and insights on how to get moving to HR 3.0 and more importantly how you can roll up your sleeves and turn HR 3.0 into real life

Today we will jump feet first into the not-so-simple question of:

Should you move to HR 3.0?

In future newsletters, we will look at how HR can strike a balance between exploration and execution, while also shaping a more human-centric approach. We will cover everything from listening, team accounting, setting up a measurement engine, and much more. So let's go…


The Reality of Change

I firmly believe that people like change, but they often don’t like the transition. HR is no different. You may find yourself reading through this series saying we as HR don't need to change, and maybe you don't. It's worth remembering one size doesn't fit all. In fact, for many organisations, moving to 3.0 just isn't the right move whatsoever. Just last year, I was presenting at Unleashed and had the chance to stop in at Erin Meyer's presentation sharing learning from Netflix, which was awesome. However, the model that works for Netflix often will not work for something like large financial services. We have seen these tensions at a lower level when organisations try to lift and shift a model like the Spotify model into their legacy ways of working only to get nowhere. (A model which even Spotify don't use) While Erin's presentation was great, I've yet to see someone turn a big legacy of an oil tanker around using a model that works for a small start/scale-up. That's not to say it can't happen, it can, but to my eye, these organisations first have to see the value in the change before actually changing. The choice to change is ultimately up to the business and its sponsorship. However, with the likes of IBM stating 94% of employee interaction with HR is now done through AI and automation without any human intervention at all, it's worth at the very least looking at it and asking what is HR anymore and should we move to 3.0 The answers of course depend on the maturity of where you work now below is a whistle-stop tour of HR's evolution which era is your HR in at the moment


HR Timeline



1980: Many would describe HR as an admin-type function, usually looking at making sure people's records were up to date, etc.

1990s: Then came the 90s along with awesome brit pop like Oasis, we also saw many people in HR, who I’ve spoken to, say it was a bigger shift from the tactical to the strategic, again depending on where the business maturity was at the time. It started to look at areas such as talent management and succession planning. At around the same time, we start to see the increase in technology used to manage some of the tactical tasks and store employee data.

Naughty 00s: We continued to see the rise in tech and metrics and how to start using them with things such as performance management and retention.

2020: Came and so did COVID. With it came the biggest shock to HR, a huge pivot from office work to remote, and with that came a whole digital transformation.

In just a short space of time, HR evolved at an uber pace, moving from tactical doers to strategic thinkers to culture builders… or has it?

The above tells a story of a progressive organisation that has moved with the times, however many are still stuck between the 00s and 10s. So moving from HR 1.0 to 3.0 could still be a giant leap for many, hence why I believe before we get to 3.0 we first need to stop at a 2.5 which demonstrates the value of the change before we change the whole of the HR function

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast utter BS

Okay, maybe I'm being over-provocative but we know culture is a powerful thing, It can either drive or hinder progress. Let's walk in the shoes of the organisations that are in their 90s, 00s, and 10s moments. The culture that exists at this point is to foster legacy thinking, doing and executing existing processes. It may well not be well equipped to drive HR 3.0. This could be at a system level right down to team patterning and tooling.

In a nutshell, if your culture still operates in legacy, the best new approach in the world will fail. We must be mindful at any point in this change that we have two camps we need to support:

  • Those in the change who are busy Executing current HR business as usual.

  • Those who are Exploring something better in the form of HR 3.0.

We can't look at any transition to HR 3.0 without raising the red flags such as change fatigue, Burnout, and Mindset Moving.

Many HR functions are still in whiplash recovery from Covid-19, many have been in a stage of change for nearly three years now. With a period of change like this comes burnout, tiredness, and frustration. However, again to me, there is a massive mindset piece that needs changing, and that is the reality that HR is no longer in the game of basic service, It now in the game of people products, services, interactions and overall experiences..

I have worked with many businesses and have noticed this dynamic between business and HR. It may come as a shock that business functions see HR as a barrier to getting things done. In many organisations HR is seen as the middle layer that often slows down business by playing the gatekeeper to justify their need for existence.

However, I think there is a nice stop gap between where your HR is right now and HR 3.0. Over the coming series I will share how to roll your sleeves up and test out 3.0 to validate and prove its value.

Heres the rub

Must you move to HR 3.0? Well, no, you don't have to do anything you don't want to, it also depends on which era of HR you are in right now and in some situations, you shouldn't. That being said, though, should you look into HR 3.0? Absolutely, yes. having one eye on the present and one on the future very rarely hurts anyone.

If I was to summarise some of the questions you may have when moving to HR 3.0, or progressing with this series would be:

  • How might we assist HR functions in the transition into HR 3.0?

  • How might we demonstrate the value of HR 3.0 before any large change?

  • How might we continue to keep the current day-to-day HR setup running smoothly while validating HR 3.0 assumptions?

  • How might we avoid mass shock and organ rejection from HR and the business?

  • How might we make sure teams are valued and supported in transition and enabled with the right mindsets, and capabilities and are measured on metrics that matter?

The good news is I think I have some answers on how you can turn the dream of HR 3.0 into a reality by rolling up your sleeves and doing it at record speed.


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