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Self-organising companies, technology, and HR – How did it get so complicated?

Self-organising companies are very much in vogue right now, because they are seen to attract the top talent. But despite good intentions, the daily work of most HR departments still consists of onerous manual processes and endless email volleys. What has prevented HR from promoting self-organisation through technology?

The idea of self-organisation is nothing new. The concept has been making inroads for decades already, as more and more organisations have started to realise that the gospel of Taylorism is not the best way to manage modern knowledge workers.

Companies are eager to promote the concept of self-organisation in order to create more attractive opportunities, and workers themselves have also learned to demand it. The competion for acquiring and retaining the most skillful and strategically fitting talent keeps intensifying. The best experts are more or less able to take their pick on what kind of organisation they want to spend their working days in.

While this major phenomenon is happening on a trend level, the daily lives at many HR organisations unfortunately still consist of teams grappling with basic processes, torrents of email and chat communications, and compatibility issues with other teams’ interfaces. Even more than twenty years after Ulrich’s strategic HR manifesto, there are still Human Resources Managers scratching their heads furiously, trying to increase their teams’ agility and business-focus.

So, has HR missed the self-organisation revolution – and if so, how did this happen? Are there HR teams that have been able to utilise technology to promote self-orgnisation among staff and management?

Sofigate’s expert Susanna Grundström is a firm believer in the school of thought that any and every technology can be made to adapt to an organisation’s needs, but that the real crux in any transformation is – and always will be! – modifying the people’s behavior.

Here Grundström takes a look at the aspects every HR team should consider if they want to be able to rise up to a new role where they can act as co-builders of a high-quality employee experience, assisted by technology.

Self-organising is co-organising

What self-organising really means in an organisation is in fact co-organising. Nothing gets organised on its own, at least not towards a common goal. Even self-organising teams and companies need modes of practice, structures, and management – sometimes even more so than top-down organisations do.

The 2020s employee experience is formed on two levels: tools on the basic process level, and meaningfulness, openness, and interactiveness on the management level.

Return to HR basics (and we do not mean organising the summer parties!)

To put it bluntly: the core mission of HR should be to support the company’s strategy by ensuring the availability of the correct kind of talent. From an organisation’s point of view, talent also means maximising an individual’s potential for innovation, building elite teams, and helping create an optimal environment for achieving results.

In today’s world, it is not enough for an HR function to be skilled in advising business management and middle management in staff questions. This is an area HR has traditionally been good at, and experience brings assuredness. But now it is high time to break out of your own comfortable silo and start showing the way for the business in talent issues!

All business strategies must take a stand on what kind of human capital the company needs to achieve success. For HR to be able to deliver on this, it needs to learn to keep away from all kinds of summer party organising committees, anniversary gift planning teams, and cake order tasks. Instead, HR needs to become serious about building itself a basic core based on technology. This is the only way for HR to rise up from being a mere support function to becoming a strong influencer within the organisation.

Stop shoveling alone in your silo!

This new mindset is not only about what HR can do. In a self-organising company, everyone from HR to operative management to IT must cooperate closely so that people, practices, and tools can function together seamlessly and create value.

Us Finns have a particular bonus challenge here: the concept of sisu. At times it can be our secret superpower that pushes us onwards. But on its flipside, it can bring a mentality of shoveling through slush on one’s own, through gritted teeth. If these solo shovellers occupy top management positions in a company, they can find it hard to accept help even in situations where change is unavoidable. A part of HR’s role is to shake up this management dilemma and advocate for a change in attitudes.


Susanna Grundström has fond memories of the company’s summer parties, sales meetings, and annual train journeys to Lapland. In her work as Management Consultant at Sofigate, she helps companies find the best methods and tools to create a winning employee experience.