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