Prior to the onset of the worldwide pandemic some HR leaders were starting to embrace, plan for, and implement new ways of working.

However, many HR functions continue to deliver their services in the same way they have always done. Professor David Ulrich developed a solid, guiding framework that is still very much in use today. Over the last two decades the Ulrich model has become the largely accepted operating model for HR service delivery globally. The building blocks of the model are HR shared service centres (SSC) for administration, centres of excellence (CoEs) for content expertise and the HR business partner (HRBP) for business alignment. Whilst there has been some progress made in transforming and building agile organisations and HR functions, the prevailing mindset is that regardless of the busines model, the necessary capability to deliver on the organisation and people strategies should be hired on a permanent basis. This provides little opportunity for HR to flex teams up and down with the necessary skillsets to meet business need and deliver priority programmes of work.

HR leaders have a critical role to play in inspiring innovation, leading, and driving change and thinking about the skills the organisation and the HR team will need for the future. However, the current and emerging skills employees need have increased exponentially as illustrated in a recent HBR article by Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “The number of skills employers are looking for has risen dramatically — our analysis shows that companies listed about 33% more skills on job ads in 2020 than they did in 2017. Ultimately, organisations simply can’t reskill the capabilities of their existing workforce fast enough to meet their changing needs.” This applies to HR too.

As organisations look to the future and life after lockdowns, HR leaders have an opportunity to change things up a bit. If HR is to capitalise on the positives that have come out of this pandemic for the workforces, HR teams will need to supplement their permanent teams with new skills and capabilities that may be difficult to source. We are already seeing the demand in market for HR increase significantly. But why do we always need to hire on a permanent basis? In an environment of economic uncertainty, pressures on budgets and cash flow and some businesses just fighting to survive, to build in permanent cost seems to be counterintuitive. It reduces flexibility and constrains your ability to be nimble and responsive to fast changing business needs.

Brian Kropp introduces the concept of partnering with organisations to ‘rent’ the right capabilities and skills when they are needed to complement existing team members. Other functional domains including IT and legal have been early adopters of this approach. At shilo. we have deliberately set about building a consultancy with the HR skills and capabilities needed for today and the future. We have made it easy for HR Leaders to deliver on their significant agendas by ‘renting’ consultants with specific skills and capabilities for periods of time to deliver key programs of work, transformation and integration projects, cover longer periods of leave or help with high volume, transactional activities. Smaller organisations have tapped into our expertise to ensure they have the right HR foundations in place and down the track they will bring in different capability to deliver on their growth agendas.

The global pandemic has been and continues to be challenging for HR consultants and the workforces they support. However, with any crisis, comes opportunity. In this new and uncertain world we now live in, maybe renting – not buying, is the way to go!