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3 Ways HR leaders can adapt to uncertain times

Wilhelm Crous - Friday, October 09, 2020

The impact of Covid-19 has dramatically changed the people management playing field. 

HR leaders are now challenged to get everything done from redesigning and restructuring work; creating healthy workplaces; layoffs and redundancies, redesigning people management practices and processes and all-in-all playing a critical role in the organisation’s survival. 

In most cases HR leaders and their teams have done a great job. But, with a continuously-changing environment, new challenges keep arising…

In a recent article in the Harvard Business ReviewHow leaders can adapt to uncertain times”, Sue Bingham makes the point that in order for HR leaders to be effective in this “new normal”, they need to develop a complexity mindset.

This mindset change requires shifting away from complicated thinking and embracing a complexity consciousness. Complicated problems require linear thinking – they can often be avoided and can benefit from expert input. This kind of problem-solving is familiar.

In contrast, complex problems live in the realm of the unknown. There are no best practices to solve these complex problems, because we’ve never experienced them before and, therefore, couldn’t have predicted them.
Adopting a complexity mindset starts by accepting that complexity exists and needs to be accounted for differently. 

Bingham suggests the following framework for HR leaders to embrace this mindset:
  1. Tap into the power of collective intelligence. Tap into your most valuable resource: the genius of your own employees. The majority of your workforce consists of smart, trustworthy people who know their jobs better than their leaders do. Collective intelligence is group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration, efforts and engagement of diverse teams. Sue Bingham refers to James Surowiecki who stated that collective intelligence needs four conditions to flourish:  (a) Diversity of opinion to guard against group think; (b) independent thinking that frees each person to express their own opinions without judgement or pressure to conform (c) decentralising which means that the closer a person is to the problem or the customer, the likelier they are to offer a meaningful contribution; and (d) a good method of aggregating results.

  2. Develop a culture of trust. In this volatile landscape, trust serves as the foundation for teams to be compatible to grapple together with uncertainty and the unknown.

  3. Prioritise your company values. Adapting a mindset for complexity means returning to the values of the company and allowing those values to become a filter when making decisions in high pressure situations. Using your values as a filter means less stress, more time and better results. 

Adopting a complexity mindset will help leaders to make better decisions about current HR challenges, such as: Performance management (especially amongst remote workers); crafting the new HR strategies for the future; developing optimal mental health practices for employees and upskill and reskilling employees to meet future demands.

Here at KR we’ve put together several conferences and workshops to assist you, as an HR leader, meet these challenges, reskill and refocus for the weeks and months ahead:


Bingham, S. (2020, August 4). How HR Leaders Can Adapt to Uncertain Times. Retrieved from





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