Alexander

Alexander

  • More than 20 years of expe­ri­ence in stra­tegic as well as opera­tive HR- and Talent-Manage­ment of SMEs and large enter­prises in Asia and Europe
  • Lecturer for personal manage­ment, deve­lop­ment and talent manage­ment, contri­butor to the deve­lop­ment of a next gene­ra­tion of our HR-leaders
  • Actively engaged in the deve­lop­ment of a better HR

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When atten­ding confe­rences or any other gathe­rings of HR colleagues and peers, I expe­ri­ence over and over again a mixture of disap­point­ment and huffi­ness about HR not recei­ving the appre­cia­tion it deserves, despite the fact that people are the most critical success factor for orga­ni­za­tions. Ever­yone talks about Enga­ge­ment, Leadership or Employer Bran­ding, and these topics are iden­ti­fied as areas in which top mana­gers have to excel. At the same time, many orga­ni­za­tions struggle to retain and hire the right talent critical to maste­ring the chal­lenges of digi­ta­li­za­tion and other mighty disrup­tions they face. Instead, arti­cles like “Why we still hate HR” find broad consensus.

It is telling that getting a seat at the prover­bial table is a sought-after goal, and a point of despair, for HR Mana­gers. CEOs are, unfor­tu­n­a­tely, not often willing to send out an invi­ta­tion. Some­thing seems to be wrong here.

In an ideal world, the CEO will reco­gnize that HR is a busi­ness-critical func­tion and ensure that they have their prover­bial seat at the table. To get this reco­gni­tion, however, HR must become much more entre­pre­neu­rial than it is today. These are the steps to follow to get there:

  1. Begin with the Busi­ness Stra­tegy and think about what do you want to achieve as an orga­ni­za­tion and how do you want to succeed in compe­ti­tion. This is not a conven­tional question for HR, but it is essen­tial for each and every HR Manager to fully under­stand these points. Ask your CEO, who should be able to provide a strong argu­ment. If not, you are asking exactly the right question in this moment. Some good reading on this topic is the book Blue Ocean Stra­tegy.
  2. Discuss with your senior leadership team which Stra­tegic Capa­bi­li­ties your orga­ni­za­tion needs to achieve your stra­tegic objec­tives and which cannot easily be copied by your compe­ti­tors. Well-known examples are Amazon’s outstan­ding logi­stics (same day deli­very) or Google’s ability to intel­li­gently use big data to place targeted indi­vi­dua­lized adver­ti­se­ments. Unfor­tu­n­a­tely, many HR Mana­gers do not have a deep insight into how the busi­ness model of their own company works – but exactly this is crucial for success.
  3. Only now do we get to HR’s core compe­ten­cies: derive, which Talent Port­folio your orga­ni­za­tion needs to build and sustain your stra­tegic capa­bi­li­ties. Which jobs and roles are needed in future and who is the “right” talent for your orga­ni­za­tion?
    The German engi­nee­ring and elec­tro­nics company Bosch is a striking example of how tremen­dous chal­lenges arise from digital trans­for­ma­tion: whilst the company hires thousands of engi­neers to conquer the Internet of Things (IoT) and Auto­no­mous Driving markets, else­where long-stan­ding employees of the Diesel divi­sion are in fear of losing their jobs. The answer to how to deal with the many employees of large enter­prises who are not able to easily make the move to Indu­stry 4.0 and the new way of work is still unknown, and this is a big chance for HR. HR Mana­gers, however, have to learn to see invest­ments in talent like a finan­cial inve­stor: all orga­ni­za­tions have limited resources and have to make a conscious deci­sion on how time and money shall be inve­sted to gain an optimum return instead of trea­ting all roles and employees equally. Most HR Mana­gers feel uncom­for­table with such a mindset or outright reject it, even if it is vital for the orga­ni­za­tion. An excel­lent paper (probably the best on the topic) is from Huselid: “A-Players for A-Posi­tions”.
  4. With the foun­da­tions in place, you can derive Compe­ten­cies Critical to Success (know­ledge, skills, abili­ties and atti­tudes) according to the role prio­ri­ties you defined in previous step. Please, do not think in terms of the still-common job descrip­tions with 30+ requi­re­ments listing ever­y­thing and anything that comes to mind. Better use the Critical Inci­dent Tech­nique and ask senior busi­ness leaders what diffe­ren­tiates the successful incumbents from the less successful ones. Beyond a better quality of responses this has the advan­tage that busi­ness mana­gers do not have to under­stand the HR world’s language but stay comfor­tably in their own ecosy­stem. As a result, you directly find your desired and genuine quali­ties instead of some arti­fi­cial set divorced from reality.
  5. Finally, you can start the activi­ties which HR is usually very good at. Let me label these as Talent Manage­ment:
      – Hire the right candi­dates
      – Help the new hires to succeed with appro­priate on-boar­ding (even if HR should be “only” the coor­di­nator and enabler – people mana­gers should be held accoun­table)
      – Syste­ma­ti­cally develop talents with diffe­ren­tiated career models and career paths to multiply indi­vi­dual success
      – Assure sustai­na­bi­lity through syste­matic but flexible succes­sion plan­ning
      – “Main­tain” current staff by scou­ting talent, asses­sing poten­tial and perfor­mance as well as by provi­ding chances to learn and develop (main­tain is not a nice word but here we are talking about the conti­nuous care for the most important asset of a company)
  6. In parallel, HR has to ensure Leadership Enab­le­ment. HR must enable people mana­gers by esta­bli­shing common beliefs and beha­viors regar­ding leadership princi­ples and values. Getting the middle mana­gers and HR to ensure a common set of values and necessary tool­sets for good manage­ment and leadership is key to any successful change.
    Another dimen­sion of leadership enab­le­ment is the supply of reliable data for all people-related deci­sions to replace the all-too-common gut feeling – a huge area for impro­ve­ment for many orga­ni­za­tions.
  7. Last, but not least, HR should take care how people work toge­ther. That Commu­ni­ca­tion and Colla­bo­ra­tion are critical for busi­ness perfor­mance is nothing new, but still only a few compa­nies actually excel in these disci­plines. HR, as an inter­di­sci­pli­nary func­tion with respon­si­bi­lity for orga­ni­za­tional design, corpo­rate culture and effec­tive colla­bo­ra­tion, is required to initiate impro­ve­ment, even if it means being relent­less and persi­stent.
  8. As long as HR does not master the first three points, HR Mana­gers will remain imple­menters but not active crea­tors and desi­gners. Even­tually, they are at risk of execu­ting at the wrong end which in turn leads to the poor repu­ta­tion HR has in many orga­ni­za­tions. Behind the curtain there is an implicit percep­tion that “those folks at HR simply do not under­stand us.” This could be, by the way, one of the reasons why Chief HR roles in many orga­ni­za­tions are prefe­ren­ti­ally taken by candi­dates from busi­ness instead of HR. But this does not have to remain this way.

    Depen­ding on the matu­rity level of an HR orga­ni­za­tion, the change to become more entre­pre­neu­rial can be a longer journey. Taking a route through the 7 steps, however, can lead to the top. If you make it, however, you get the satis­fac­tion of getting your seat at the table, as well as the fulfil­ment of what you have been able to accom­plish toge­ther with your team.

    [If you made it, with the satis­fying result to have got the “seat at the table” and even more important with the fulfil­ling look back what you have been able to accom­plish toge­ther with your team.]

    Refe­rences
    Kim, W., & Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue ocean stra­tegy: How to create uncon­te­sted market space and make the compe­ti­tion irrele­vant / W. Chan Kim; Renée Mauborgne. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Busi­ness School Press.

    Huselid, Mark A., Beatty, Richard W., & Becker, Brian E. (2005). „A players“ or „A posi­tions“? The stra­tegic logic of work­force manage­ment. Harvard Busi­ness Review, 83(12), 110.

    The ‚Critical Inci­dent Tech­nique’ was first intro­duced by John C. Flanagan and describes a proce­dure for collec­ting direct obser­va­tions of human beha­vior in such a way as to faci­li­tate their poten­tial useful­ness in solving prac­tical problems and deve­lo­ping broad psycho­lo­gical princi­ples.

Alexander

Alexander

  • More than 20 years of expe­ri­ence in stra­tegic as well as opera­tive HR- and Talent-Manage­ment of SMEs and large enter­prises in Asia and Europe
  • Lecturer for personal manage­ment, deve­lop­ment and talent manage­ment, contri­butor to the deve­lop­ment of a next gene­ra­tion of our HR-leaders
  • Actively engaged in the deve­lop­ment of a better HR

Want to get to know Alexander?

Get in contact

Still curious?
There is more to see here:

All Perspectives