By Dominique Jones
Vice President, Human Resources
The pace of change and its implications on HR and business planning continue to accelerate, but is HR keeping up? For the past few decades, HR has been asking for a seat at the business strategy table and has largely been invited in—as organizational leaders realize the importance of a well-skilled, flexible and high performing workforce. But, unfortunately, the HR function finds itself continuing to lag behind its own expectations of its value to the organization, as well as those of business leaders.
Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 reports that only 30 percent of business leaders think HR makes good business decisions, while only 20 percent feel HR is able to adequately plan for future talent needs.
But the picture is even worse. Business leaders view HR’s performance 20 percent worse than HR leaders themselves view it, prompting the question—do we even know what we don’t know?
What We Don’t Know: The New Questions
Changing business strategies require a new kind of workforce, and according to Accenture’s 2015 report, organizations are having trouble finding the skills they need. At the same time, trends in digital technologies, big data, globalization and the shift to a more transient and diverse workforce bring challenges to HR and business planning. Here are some questions that HR must be prepared to answer:
- Where will new skills come from—when should we train existing employees and when should we hire from the outside? And how do we do that proactively?
- What is required to adapt current training delivery methodologies and approaches to meet the increased demand for employee development and respond to new learning styles and resources, such as MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses), gamification and blended learning, as well as redesigning work and stretch assignments?
- What are the implications of the shift from keeping work and life separate toward a culture of an “always connected” workforce, driven by ubiquitous mobile technology and demanding transparency and accommodation?
- How do we decide whether to hire full-time employees and when to bring in alternate talent options like contractors or virtual talent?
- Where are the best sources to recruit the talent we need? Do we still need to post jobs using traditional methods or should we proactively recruit by immersing ourselves in the same places where the talent we’re looking for spends its time?
- To what extent should we customize employment policies to attract and retain a diverse, multi-generational workforce?
- What do managers need to do differently to lead and align diverse global and contingent teams without treading on labor laws?
- What changes in performance management processes and leadership training are required due to the shifting relationship between managers and employees?
- How can HR best utilize external as well as internal data to provide useful insights and analytics that will impact business results?
- What new HR roles are needed and which will need to change or become obsolete?
- What else is around the corner and how will it impact HR and the business strategy?
Seizing Opportunities to Impact Business Results
The good news is it isn’t all bad. HR is positioned to seize opportunities to make a major impact on business results by asking good questions and being prepared to find the answers.
Accenture’s report also suggests that, just as businesses have met new demands through developing proactive “just-in-time” processes and sourcing, savvy HR professionals need to proactively find and deploy talent when and where it is needed without substantially increasing headcount. This requires close alignment between HR and the business strategy. It also requires the ability to tap into an external global talent pool as well as a thorough understanding of existing internal skills and how to redirect them to meet shifting demands.
HR Consultant Cathy Missildine sees an opportunity for HR to contribute to business results as a strategy executer. Too often, lofty strategic initiatives fail in execution for lack of effective change management, an area where HR can apply a robust toolkit. Performance management processes are optimal mechanisms for cascading new goals and aligning the workforce around them.
Missildine recommends a variety of methods for HR professionals to increase their business acumen, such as seeking MBAs, digesting industry-specific and business information, serving on outside boards and seeking job rotations within the organization. Many organizations are seeking a cross-pollination of business and HR skills by rotating staff from other parts of the organization through HR, to the benefit of both.
The New Normal for HR’s Role Today
The need is there and the tools are available to secure HR’s unique role in becoming a key player in developing and supporting business strategy. Sophisticated talent management systems can generate data and analytics on internal skill strengths and gaps, performance levels and leadership capabilities. They can link to succession planning and employee development resources. To find external talent, new tools join those already in use to find and attract top talent.
A business-savvy HR function, schooled in analytics, can use these tools to draw talent management insights, answer important strategic planning questions and source, deploy and align “just-in-time” skills, able to drive business results.
+ + + + + +
Dominique Jones is vice president of human resources at Halogen Software. She has over 15 years experience in the talent management industry both in Europe and North America. Dominique holds an M.A. Honours degree from St. Andrews University in Scotland, as well as the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) certification from the United Kingdom.