Many HR professionals assume there is only one best practice version of Human Resources, encompassing HR systems, processes, policies & procedures. In reality this is not the case and is not what we, as HR professionals, should be striving for. All Organisations are unique as are their needs. If we want to best support these Organisations and find solutions in response to the emerging needs, we need to seek out best fit HR models. How do we do that?. In my experience there is only one way. Spend a lot of time learning and understanding the Business you are committed to supporting. The better you know your Organisation and how it functions, the more obvious the best HR approaches to take will emerge. You will be guided to specific solutions that make best, most appropriate sense for your Organisation right now.
Understanding the Business your support from a HR Perspective is a pre-requisite for consistent positive HR outcomes and your own career success.
A well designed HR Model has all its component parts fully integrated and aligned. Otherwise it is not an effective functioning System. For example, you can’t have a Performance Management System that rewards effort, if your variable pay system does not individualise and link pay to performance/output. You cannot Recruit for future potential if your training system does not build capability, you cannot grow or accelerate talent, if your Talent Management System does not have a career ladder component, you cannot build strong employee engagement, if you don’t conduct employee voice surveys and you cannot build teamwork, if your recognition systems do not celebrate it, etc.
When changing or upgrading any aspect of your HR Model, spend time assessing its impact on all other aspects of the model and lookout for disconnects. They are clues your HR approach is sub optimised. All best practice HR Models are a series of sub HR component systems, which should all feed into each other and build upon each other to ensure effective support for best business outcomes, while simultaneously facilitating and enabling employees to grow & flourish.
I’m a fan of regular Organisational alignment reviews. What do I mean by this. As an Organisation grows and evolves the needs of the Organisation change. The design of the Organisation should also adapt to reflect this. It is best practice HR to check in regularly and conduct Organisational realignment reviews. The reviews themselves should be focussed primarily on Organisation Development & Structure. Reporting lines, role clarity, spans of control, flat or layered Organisational levels, centralised versus decentralised decision-making, teams versus individual contributor models, multi-skilled or expert skill accumulation, etc. will need to be critiqued (and perhaps modified) as part of each review. The goal is to ensure an ongoing fit for purpose Organisational Design. Another key focus of these reviews must be Talent Development, always aiming to allow strong talent the runway it needs to fully display its potential as the Organisation moves through its lifecycle. I recommend undertaking these strategic reviews at 2 yearly intervals. Done correctly they will generate change and required actions. Such actions will ensure continual strong alignment to business goals and will help avoid Organisational inefficiencies creeping in. Done methodically and consistently the changes themselves are likely to only require Organisational fine tuning.
We need to always design our HR processes with end users in mind. They do not need to always be focussed on best practice or designed from a HR textbook perspective. They do however need to be designed to support the Organisation that will be asked to use and adhere to them. They must be easy to understand and follow, otherwise they will be ignored. The best way to ensure this is to seek to make the systems practicable, simple and clearly logical. To do this is not easy. It takes great effort and creativity to develop a simple solution. Putting simplicity as one of your key cornerstones and top design principles ensures that you are much more likely to build an effective bespoke HR solution for your Organisation ……. in my experience.
Knowledge exists at all levels within all Organisations. It exists both vertically and horizontally across all levels and this repository of knowledge is an often overlooked, unharnessed prized Organisational asset.
HR professionals should be seeking to address and harness this. It is more important now than ever, given the knowledge economy we live in where often what differentiates modern Organisations is their ability to systemize and use this knowledge productively and purposefully.
As I see it, the challenge to us is threefold:
1) Develop Organisation Cultures that facilitate and reward knowledge sharing and knowledge collaboration. This is a largely unexplored activity. It will not happen naturally and will need focus and leadership to flesh out how best to do this. Organisations that crack this will flourish and have a unique asset in their armoury. It is a clear competitive advantage.
2) Build out Knowledge Inventories and Organisational Knowledge Hubs.
3) Code advanced data analytics to ensure that insights contained within are available to all Organisation team members, are fully understood and fully usable.
An added complexity is that much of the key knowledge that exists across an Organisation is Tacit Knowledge. Much of an Organisation’s expert knowledge base is in employee heads and not in an existing Organisational Database. New, creatively designed, databases are required.
Put simply I would empower HR professionals to seek to build knowledge Inventories within their Organisations. This will involve development of bespoke systems to capture this and advanced data analytics to retrieve this knowledge effortlessly, speedily, in a useable way.
Building real sustainable and inclusive team engagement is not easy. It requires effort, focus, commitment and action.
The blind-spot with some of these programs is frequently in the application. All the effort goes into fleshing out the required company policies & guidelines, while little goes into ensuring the behaviours and actions demonstrated right across the Organisation match these. Company/HR policies are well developed, detailed and often based on best practice. This is a great start, but only a start. The key to the true application of these policies is what happens on a day to day basis within the Organisation, after roll-out. If the day to day actions are not matching the clearly outlined policy detail, then employees will not buy-in to the policy or commit to its principles. Disconnects if they exist will become visible, inevitably leading to confusion, rendering articulated company policy redundant , ineffective and in all probability counter-productive. Where policy exists it must be matched with recognisable, reinforcing actions and behaviours and strong supportive leadership, leading by example.
As referred to in earlier posts, I firmly believe that there are numerous solutions for each and every HR Challenge. Many are good and workable solutions. The trap to be avoided is searching for the ideal best case or best practice solution. Delaying progress during this search through over analysis, lack of complete data, conflicting inputs or consideration of each and every stakeholder view, can lead to procrastination and lack of progress. I have been very guilty of this habit in the past. However since starting my own business I have become more aware of the power of momentum. Seeking continual progress, often in small (or even sideway) steps, builds momentum and more often than not solution pathways present themselves. If a HR challenge exists, don’t delay the tackling of it by waiting for the silver bullet. It may be too late by the time you find it. Be open to finding it as you move forward with action. Otherwise we as HR professionals can rightly risk being accused of procrastination, indecisiveness, inaction. These are habits that can and must be changed. For me forward momentum is the key to changing them.
This principle is as true for the HR function as it is for any other business function. Often in HR we see ourselves as more right brain focussed (intuitive, creative) and less analytical , logical or rational driven (left brain focussed). We should be using both brain hemispheres for maximum effectiveness.
Data exists in numerous repositories within the HR Function. Often the data is poorly codified, regularly inaccurate or outdated and in many unconnected (often unspecified) locations. It is also true to say that often as HR Professionals we are not aware of the incredible amount of data we have at our finger tips.
Crisp, clear accurate data, when interrogated properly, always points to and drives enhanced logical next steps or action plans. HR professionals need to get serious and business like about the data we generate. We need to build one secure data warehouse for all this data. We need to organise it logically and wash it up for use. Then when we are called upon to input to business challenges, we can offer our intuitive HR expertise coupled with hard supporting and ideally compelling data. Now we truly are playing an important Business Partnership role on an equal footing with our Leadership colleagues.
Business decision-makers demand supporting data. The reality is we have mountains of it at our disposal. We just don’t use it effectively in my experience. We can change that anytime.
There is two sides to every story, debate or indeed argument. There will always be some right and some wrong in all versions. You need to hear all sides, before you decide on your own considered professional view and form your opinion. ‘Listen with your ears, hear with your emotions’ is sound advice. I have used this approach a lot throughout my HR career. I always try and look at every HR action or intervention from the users point of view and in discussing the detail am open to trying to see it from anothers’ perspective. This understanding has guided me to better decision-making and better judgements. Listening is such an under developed and under utilised skill. Most people are so attached to their own beliefs and opinions, they shut out the beliefs and opinions of others. This is a great pity as good engagement flows where people with differing opinions listen to each other and build on each others input. ‘Listen to understand, not to argue’ is more sound advice. We in HR should be the practice champions in this space.
We all like to feel valued and that we are contributing to something better in our work and career lives. Most of us within our Organisations are interested and keen to contribute to the business, add value and be rewarded for doing so. We want to come to work each day, do a good days work and get fairly rewarded and recognised for it. This is my starting premise and it has been borne out consistently throughout my career.
This being so, what are the key takeaways for us as HR professionals?. Mine is simply, design your HR model with the above premise to the forefront. Build HR systems, develop HR policies & procedures for the 98% employee cohort who will abide by, comply with and live within them. Challenge & tackle, as exceptions, those who try and live outside your corporate ‘way of doing things’. The 98% will expect you and want you to do so and just as importantly you owe it to them to do so. This in my opinion is a key building block towards creating your desired Organisational Culture.