Hays have called on HR to help their organisations move from a traditional, rigid structure to a more fluid organisational structure that can respond and adapt quickly to change.
“Many organisations follow the same traditional rigid structure as they always have, whereby juniors report to managers, managers to the department heads, and department heads to executives,” says Grant Torrens, business director of Hays Singapore. “Strategy is decided at the top level and communicated down. However, today’s rapid rate of change means organisations need to be more agile, allowing them to respond to the changing market and ensure their processes are optimised.”
According to Hays, there are three ways HR can help an organisation move to a fluid structure:
Businesses hoping to achieve a less hierarchal workplace can do so by removing individual offices or managerial floors and instead adopt open plan offices and use workstations to encourage greater interaction.
Grant says, “In place of the more traditional setup, whereby a manager will have their own office or the executive team will be on a separate floor, businesses can foster collaborative working between their people by literally removing walls. This allows teams to work closer with one another, as well as with other departments, where ideas can be shared more freely.”
By promoting a company’s shared values, HR departments can help to foster an environment in which employees will think and act through these values, as opposed to being governed through managerial oversight. This allows an organisation to react more quickly as a result. However, in a world where employees are expected to operate in a more autonomous way, it’s the job of HR to ensure employees feel comfortable enough to do so by supporting them.
“When businesses become flatter, so must HR,” says Dave Ulrich, co-founder of leadership consultancy The RBL Group. “The primary purpose of any operating model is to govern or control how work is done. Flatter, less hierarchical businesses often govern work through shared values more than managerial oversight. So, HR’s job is to help shape strong and shared values that govern how people think and act.”
Businesses can also review their processes to identify any that hinder the responsiveness of the organisation. However, hierarchies are usually so ingrained that it can be difficult to enact change. For this reason, the streamlining of processes must be adopted and supported by all staff, especially those at the top.
“The only way the move to a flatter organisation will work is if the people at the top themselves move away from a more hierarchical way of working,” says Gary Miles, programme director at London Business School. “They need to abandon their territorial mentality, be role models and own the change themselves and almost put themselves out of a job in the long run.”