Rob Briner: Five things HR should start doing
Following on from his article on things HR should stop doing, here's Rob Briner's suggestions of five things HR should start doing
1. Start identifying real problems first and only thenlook for solutions. Consider this: you go trotting off for an appointment with your GP and before you’ve even opened your mouth they thrust a prescription in your hand. Bizarre, right? Why hasn’t the GP tried to find out what’s actually wrong with you before giving you drugs? Now think of any HR practice you currently use, such as engagement surveys, management development, or 360-degree appraisal. My guess is that you adopted that practice without first having good evidence for an important or specific problem that practice aims to fix. If so you were behaving no less strangely than your GP. The first and most important questions should be is there a problem (or clear opportunity) here and what, specifically, is it? Once you are sure you have a specific, well-identified and important problem only then should you start searching for possible solutions.
2. Start thinking in terms of likelihoods and multiple possible solutions. Only crosswords and mathematical equations have definitive and single answers. For everything else there are no perfect or guaranteed solutions. Rather, there are just things you can choose to do that have more or less chance of bringing about the effects you want. And for every real problem you identify there are likely to be several possible and partial solutions. So you need to make a judgement – based on the best available evidence gathered from your organisation, your experience, your stakeholders and published research (also known as evidence-based practice). Remember, you’re not trying to solve a puzzle but do what’s most likely to get you closest to the result you want.
3. Start to build information systems that give you the information you need. There is still a lot of mostly over-hyped excitement about big data and data analytics. But don’t be blinded by statistical science. Start simple. Maybe some organisations need the management information system equivalent of a super-computer, but for most of us relevant, valid and basic spreadsheets with some simple analysis are probably fine. The key is to identify the decisions you need to make and therefore what data you need to help you make them. Where is it? How can you get it? In what form and when is it best for you to get it? You are the only person who has the answers to these questions. Information systems need to be designed around your information needs and, quite often, those needs are straightforward.
4. Start paying more attention to the boring but important stuff. Everybody has seen those silly two-by-two tables that so over-simplify the world they stifle critical thinking and analysis. Well here’s another one. Going left to right the columns are ‘exciting’ and ‘boring’. And the bottom row is labelled ‘trivial’ and the top ‘important’. Of course, we all love the stuff in the exciting-important quadrant. The bad news is that there isn’t much in that box that needs doing and, because it is exciting and important, we’ve probably already done it. We really should take a look in the boring and important box as, like it or not, that’s probably where the action is. My hunch is that doing really effective HR is (probably like doing good stuff in many jobs) not a roller-coaster ride of thrills and is an inherently slow process with few quick fixes. Intervening to shape or develop people’s behaviour takes time – and it may be quite a while before effects are seen.
5. Start to boost your levels of healthy scepticism and become a more critical HR consumer. What’s so great about being sceptical? Well for one thing it’s a lot of fun. Yes people get irritated, and yes they hate you for challenging their cherished beliefs. But, in the end, they always appreciate it. Scepticism is great because it makes you a much better and wiser HR consumer. It fine-tunes your BS detector and alerts you to overblown claims and marketing nonsense. When you hear something like 'employee engagement is the number one driver of organisational performance' your BS detector immediately goes off. Is there really a number one driver of performance? What’s the evidence? We should take all claims about the effectiveness of HR practices with a pinch of salt. And if that isn’t working for you, try a shovelful.
Rob Briner is professor of organisational psychology at Bath University's School of Management
How a “tsunami of change” is shaping the future of HR
While the identity and purpose of HR have sometimes been questioned in the past, the future of HR is currently in the balance as it is currently experiencing a “tsunami of change” like never before, according to an expert in organisational development.
“This time it’s different,” said Ben Whitter, organisation and people development manager for The University of Nottingham in China and CEO of consulting firm Tsunami Leadership.
“There are fundamental shifts taking place in HR. Leading organisations, for example, are quickly moving to people analytics and data-informed HR strategies, which are becoming the essential ingredients of solid HR functions.”
The future of HR is about tuning into how to get the best out of people within the workplace and, as a profession, and he said HR is using data much more widely, carefully and creatively to define, develop and market great workplace experiences and the connected business strategy.
“It’s really all about a much stronger and visible impact on business performance, and progressive HR folks are showing where, how and why people strategy affects the bottom-line in a way traditional HR hasn’t been able to – and its adding massive value,” said Whitter.
Key changes for HR
Employee experience is currently a hot topic for HR (as evidenced by recent developments at Airbnb and Amazon), according to Whitter, who said there is intense attention and debate about the quality of workplaces.
“Some companies are trying to get ahead of the curve by bringing together key internal functions, and not just the typical HR stuff, under the banner of employee experience so that they can be much more focused and connected in ensuring organisational culture drives performance,” he said.
“This shift in expectations of the HR function is also affecting long-standing ‘norms’ within the workplace such as performance management, which has been thrown out of companies like GE, Microsoft, and Accenture.
“It’s still clinging on at companies like Google, but it seems organisations are becoming acutely aware that they need to move to more progressive people operations.”
All this combined means that HR is firmly in the spotlight and has an incredible opportunity to become a core part of the business across sectors in what is becoming a more meaningful economy, he said.
“People are now realising the true potential of HR, and CEOs the world over are looking at their current HR functions with a renewed sense of what could be, while at the same time understanding much more clearly what they’re missing out on by sticking to more traditional HR models.”
Skill sets in the future of HR
The traditional HR career and development path is blurring significantly as organisations are starting to recruit people who have shunned the ‘old’ ways in favour of the new, said Whitter.
“Tesla, for example, wants HR people who absolutely do not believe in the ‘old’ HR. They want ‘HR rockstars’ – people who are fully in tune with the business, but also practitioners who utilise data and know-how effectively within their operations to add significant value,” he said.
“This is about laser-like impact in the right places.”
Those well versed in the development of organisations and businesses are being seen as the key to lead HR functions, according to Whitter.
“This changes the career path completely in that more and more HR leaders are coming from very diverse backgrounds, bringing their unique skillsets into play, which can span across a range of functions, and [this] is decent-size step away from the more traditional career routes the profession has been used to,” he said.
The bottom line is that a wide ranging and diverse CV is becoming much more desirable to potential employers than a traditional, core HR background, according to Whitter.
Other critical elements of new roles involve an integration of skills across marketing, employer branding, training, communications, engagement, PR, and community/partnership roles, and other operational roles, he said.
“This is a very different brand of HR leader and a very different brand of HR.”
Taking the step up
HR leaders can take a number of steps to help develop the capability of their HR function, and Whitter said this starts from “where you are and with what you’ve got”.
“For me this means really going to deep into organisational cultures, getting out into the world, learning from each sector and its people.
“The really great HR people figure out a way to blaze a trail within their existing roles.” Organisations are very unique communities of people to explore, learn from and understand, explained Whitter, who said that in reality the challenges that HR people see may not vary too much, but the solutions usually do.
“What is right in one context rarely translates well in another,” he said.
“Those seeking to move into this new brand of HR leadership role will need to become immersed in the business from the get-go factoring in diverse experiences and cultivating a more progressive profile.
“The employee experience is front and centre within this though and securing a skill-set that includes business, data, people analytics, applied-research techniques, and psychology will become an essential requirement within future HR.”
The biggest, most immediate task for HR functions is to move from traditional HR thinking to employee experience thinking.
“This is critical for HR teams and makes clear HR’s role in partnering with the CEO and top team to lead an organisation’s culture,” said Whitter.
“The implied opportunity within this is that the HR function as a whole can become the consultancy of choice within businesses via an in-context development approach focused on the employee experience.
“This, alongside a more intrapreneurial style, will help HR functions seize the future in a way that breaks this support function mentality that holds the profession back.”
Whitter said the new economy needs leading-edge and progressive HR functions more than ever before, and predicted the new HR will not be a business partner and will not be fighting for a ‘seat at the table’.
“All that will fade away. HR has the opportunity to become so much more – a true business leader, and I challenge all HR professionals to make this so,” he said.
Organizational Development, Design and Learning
HR vs OD: let there be peace
Effective collaboration between OD and HR is key to optimising a firm’s ability to initiate and sustain high impact change, writes Wayne Brockbank
The remarkable and challenging world of change has been well documented. Sources of change continue to accelerate: radical revolutions in technology, big data analytics, information asymmetries, hyper-competition, uncertainty in capital markets, morphing demographics, geopolitical disruptions, climate irresolution, globalisation, income disparities and emerging market imbalance. In sum, the management of change is a competitive imperative for virtually all market-based institutions.
In the Human Resource Competency Study at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, we have distinguished between two related but conceptually and statistically distinct aspects of change management: initiating change and sustaining change. Of the total impact of change management on business performance, 46 per cent is through initiating change and 54 per cent is through sustaining change. The overall message is that balance of the two is central to successful change.
Initiating change includes:
- Having a clear and market-based vision of the desired future that includes the case for change
- Aligning leaders from top to bottom and side to side around the vision, including senior leaders who champion the change
- Identifying and reducing resistance to change, and
- Building commitment of key implementers to support the change effort.
Sustaining change includes:
- Ensuring that the right people with the right training are in the right place at the right time to drive change
- Accounting for change initiatives in performance management, including financial and non-financial incentives
- Providing the necessary capital and informational resources
- Communicating the importance of the targeted changes, and
- Monitoring and learning from the change experience.
The roles of HR and OD
One challenge that companies face in their change management efforts is the clarification and integration of the respective roles of HR and organisation development (OD) in change management. Historically, OD professionals have tended to be the initiators of change – they identify and drive the momentum of change. They see themselves as the “change managers” who work with the line managers the make change happen, with the focus on initiating change as defined above. They see themselves as strategic partners who implement team-based change processes. A challenge is that they sometimes see HR as inflexible tactical administrators who are driven by processes that may be obstacles to change.
On the other hand, HR professionals tend to strongly influence the levers for sustaining change as described above. They apply focused discipline in ensuring that the supporting human and organisational infrastructures are in place to sustain the requisite changes. HR professionals may occasionally view their OD colleagues as disruptive, in over their heads, undisciplined and (ironically) insufficiently collaborative.
Unifying HR and OD
But what should unify HR and OD is greater than what separates them. The fundamentals that both must exhibit to be optimally effective are a full understanding of the business strategy, an in-depth sensitivity to external sources of change, and a shared view of the cultural capabilities that both must create for sustainable competitive advantage.
Most important is that they must both understand and appreciate the role that the other plays in change management and work together as partners in change. To do so, HR needs to develop greater OD facilitation and process skills while OD needs to exert greater expertise in ensuring that HR and organisation practices are in place to sustain change. They must work together to provide seamless change management processes that include both initiating and sustaining change initiatives. As they do so, they will optimise the full impact and effectiveness of their firms’ ability to initiate and sustain high impact change.
4 steps to unifying HR and OD
- Your HR and OD professionals should meet to develop a comprehensive change management process that includes the above steps in both initiating and sustaining change.
- The respective HR and OD professionals should become conversant with and appreciative of their respective roles in change management.
- Since both are working towards the shared end of effective change management, they should both have some level of competence in the other’s domain.
- They should then co-operatively ensure the seamless implementation of both initiating and sustaining change initiatives.
Top HR Takeaways from Think 2018
Employee experience rules
Play offense by using AI to empower people
In this new era of AI, data is the key to the castle
Skills, skills, skills
AI won’t take our jobs, it will allow us to do our jobs
In fact, AI may just make us more human(e)
Organizational Development, Design and Learning
2018 Workplace Trend: Focus on Filling Internal Skills Gap
The rapid pace of technological evolution has shrunk the life of learned skills and increased the skills gap. With the uprise of the digital world encompassing virtual reality, robotics, software development the internal employee skills expire within short/no duration. The importance to remain relevant to the present work profile is an immediate and top requirement for executives, managers, and employees in 2018. It is a considerable move to invest in the talent management to re-skill or up-skill the present diverse & multi-generation workforce.
Talent developers, here, play a crucial role in bridging the internal skills gap and hence accomplished a place on top management board. They are the architect of an organization’s growth as they recognize the skills gap, create learning content, and hone relevant industry skills.
According to 2018 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn that interviewed 1,200 talent developers, 200 executives, 400 people managers and 2,200 employees, 94% of staff members agreed to continue with the present company if it devotes finance, time and efforts in their career development. Overall, 68 percent of surveyed employees favor learning at work. Additionally, 58% of employees prefer opportunities to learn at their own pace and 49% prefer to learn when necessitate. This is an important insight into the current workforce’s attitude.
“As the rate of skills, change accelerates across both old and new roles in all industries, proactive and innovative skill-building and talent management is an urgent issue. What this requires is a [talent development] function that is rapidly becoming more strategic and has a seat at the table—one that employs new kinds of analytical tools to spot talent trends and skills gaps, and provides insights that can help organizations align their business, innovation and talent management strategies to maximize available opportunities to capitalize on transformational trends.” - World Economic Forum
“Laddering up, the age-old pattern of career development is replaced by multi-directional career approach in the lattice world”, advised Cathy Benko, Deloitte Consulting LLP's talent game-changer. The employee can go for sideways or diagonal moves in order to put on competencies, experiences, and relationships.
It is reasonable to cater skills gap of the present pool of workers who are already aligned with the company culture and working style. This saves time and money compared to the new recruitment process. Moreover, in the automation world, the new employees’ skills will also get obsolete in near time. This calls for another training session with the new bunch of employees. Therefore, the vicious circle of learning & development is the core of a continuous ‘hot skills’ supply and holistic expansion of a company.
Bridging Skills Gap
The LinkedIn report highlights a critical issue in the talent development priorities. The talent professionals put a focus on filling internal skill gap according to the present needs of an organization whereas the company executives expect much more. The top management demands talent managers to identify future industry trends too and design skills curriculum. To unlock modern employee’s potential, it is important for both parties executive & talent manager, to reach a consensus here.
Nevertheless, getting out time for learning is a challenging task for employees, as stated by talent managers. One of the ways to overcome this issue is encouraging digital learning solutions to update the skills. The industry terms like “microlearning” and “just-in-time learning” for the present workforce are in-trend. Talent managers can meet learners on the platforms where employees are available such as emails and messages. The continuous interaction between the teams and managers to recognize skill requirement will fasten the process.