HR 3.0 and the Future of People and Culture in Organizations


*This article is sponsored content, paid for by Maslow Centre for Executive Leadership

The shift in the leadership paradigm for the 21st century has been building momentum for the past few years and is certainly being magnified by the global pandemic. The changes that we are seeing in  leadership practices, influence and building of corporate culture, and the role of Human Resources in organizations are necessary for corporate survival.

In 2021, we will continue to see a massive transformation agenda from organizations that are handling the Big Reset (as the World Economic Forum calls it) with the utmost seriousness and care. And what is this reset all about? The pandemic is uncovering two organizational focal points: people focused cultures and digital transformation.

The competitive advantage of the 21st century is no longer products and services. People, culture, and technology now have the most skin in the game. While the technology transition is not an easy one, it is actually the people and culture dynamics that will determine if transformation initiatives are successful. It is in this current climate that we are realizing the importance of HR leadership. Recall that in 2008 during the global economic crisis, CFOs were the organizational champions for change and agility; in 2021, organizations are turning to their CHROs to lead their people and entire workplace cultures through this crisis. As a result of this, organizations are acknowledging more and more that they need to build people focused organizations, just as much as high performing teams.

The shift we are observing aligns exactly with the modernized definition of a self-actualizing organization. The key concepts are:

  • Purpose driven
  • People focused
  • High performing

These three concepts all go hand in hand. All human resources leaders need to cultivate a new set of skills—coaching skills. Building a culture of coaching in your organization is one of the solutions required to build a high performing, people focused, and purpose driven organization.

HR 3.0

HR 3.0 is gaining traction through a few different channels. Let’s start with what came before.

HR 1.0 was the traditional, administrative role of HR. We all remember hearing about the ‘Personnel Department’; this level of HR was focused on administrative people management and labour relations.

HR 2.0 was (and, in some cases, still is) the alignment of HR with the strategic voice of the organization. Human resources became a partner in the business, earning its coveted “seat at the boardroom table.”

This brings us to HR 3.0 and the key themes we’ve already touched on.

Channel 1: The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report (2020) shares that one of the largest shifts in professions among different organizational departments is occurring in HR. The report highlights functions like sales, marketing, and engineering as fairly static in today’s age. In the meantime, departments focusing on data, AI, cloud computing, and people and culture are predicted to see the most change.

Channel 2: World class analyst, educator, and thought leader Josh Bersin speaks about HR 3.0 being the shift from strategic business partner to internal consultant, leveraging people analytics and systems to help business units achieve results.

Channel 3: Many Fortune 500 Companies have already changed their HR departments to a People & Culture Organization.

Household name Google is just one example of a trendsetting organization bringing notoriety to HR 3.0 through the current practice of it! Google’s People Operations team is strongly embedded in analytics on people and culture. They share a lot of their work on the subject on their re:Work page. 

It’s Already Happening

The last point is an ideal segue into understanding that HR 3.0 is already a reality. If your organization is not already attuned to this, it’s time to catch up fast because we are observing this philosophical change in HR occurring every day.

Some of the rituals associated with the transformation taking place include HR departments changing their name to “People and Culture” and senior HR leaders expanding their roles to cover such things as technology and experience.

For example, at the Doctors of BC, a not-for-profit organization of over 300, the CHRO’s role has been expanded to cover technology as a way to further enable people potential. At Aviso Wealth, a financial services company of over 500, the SVP of HR is now coined the SVP People & Client Experience and is responsible for both employee and client experience—which are seen as equally important to the success of their organization.

Beyond this, HR 3.0 is showing up in the way performance management is changing; what was once an annual process is now continuous. At a minimum, performance management utilizes digital tools and apps and, in the spirit of the shifting leadership paradigm, it takes its shape in continuous coaching conversations that are used to elevate employees, rather than evaluate them.

On the learning and development front, we are seeing a trend that surpasses the focus on basic skills and workplace fundamentals and instead emphasizes programs and options to re-skill and up-skill. Learning how to learn is becoming a key L&D strategy.

HR 3.0 is not just about the shifting human resources function in organizations. It is also about the way in which the overall leadership approach to people is executed. We are seeing an increase in leaders taking on coaching and mentorship roles, helping people discover and reach their greater potential. We are witnessing a greater commitment to development opportunities and a human-centred approach that empowers people to take the next step. We know for certain that leaders can no longer rely on positional power to help their organizations succeed.

One final example of how HR 3.0 is already showing up in some of the most forward-thinking and impactful organizations we work with is through listening strategies. Listening strategies are one of the central points of the HR 3.0 culture. Listening does not mean consensus building. It means consultation, inclusion, and creating a safe space so people can have a voice.  

There Are Solutions

There are a couple of critical steps recommend for any organization struggling to get onto the HR 3.0 track.

  1. Learn about culture coaching: In focus groups with corporate leaders, leaders almost always have a relative understanding of the importance of culture (i.e. culture matters, culture has an impact on our business, etc.). however, it is also evident that many of these leaders are not fully clear on how to lead, shape, and effectively transform culture. HR is often (unrealistically) expected to come in and build the culture. HR leaders have an increasing understanding of the building blocks of culture, but still need a cohesive approach (and partnership) on how to build a great workplace.
  2. [Then] Build a culture of coaching: Today’s organizational literature presents meaningful evidence that building a “culture of coaching” or “coaching culture” is foundational in achieving a consistently high performing, people focused organization. A culture of coaching brings together the right mix of external coaches, internal coaches, and trained leaders as coaches to create a holistic coaching strategy.

Take Action

In HR 3.0, human resources leaders are called to become culture consultants and coaches. They are being asked to leverage people analytics and systems to not just help businesses grow, but to be part of facilitating the realization of greater potential in people, teams, and the overall ecosystem of corporate culture. Alongside supportive and accountable leadership, the scope of what the future holds for the HR profession is exciting and highly impactful to organizations that plan on being competitive for years to come.

Let’s not forget, a critical piece in all of this is gaining the skills, knowledge, and support system to fully embrace the shift to HR 3.0. The call to action is clear: invest in coaching skills, take time to learn about culture and culture coaching, and then build a culture of coaching that is meaningful to your organization and to the people that define it.




Timothy Tiryaki is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and a PhD Candidate, focusing on building a culture of coaching for 21st century organizations. Timothy has four nationally published books in Turkish, including one on coaching, and he has worked with clients such as MEC, Telus, Aviso Wealth, Doctors of BC, and Suncor.

Lisa Smith is a Maslow Certified Leadership Coach with 15 years of Human Resources Experience. She graduated from Simon Fraser University and holds a Certificate in Strategic Human Resources Management from Royal Roads University. Her passions are in talent development, culture transformation and training and facilitation. To learn more about Maslow Centre for Executive Leadership and meet the rest of the team, visit

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