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Independence is our strength – covering the issues that directly impact on those with the duty of directing human resources

December 2019 – Issue 182

HR’s expanding enterprise strategy role
A decade ago, the best-selling book The Secrets of CEOs, called HR’s credentials into question because the profession’s CV “lacked numbers”. With a legacy of people-centric transaction barricading HR in a deep silo, its reputation as a vanilla department with limited range and scope seemed set for good. Since then, data and analytics has been a real game changer, switching HR from reactive to predictive. Frustratingly though, HR is failing to capitalise on this new power, due to a lack of analytics skills in the ranks, and shortcomings in commercial strategy continues to be a ball and chain. Consequently, commercially-skilled HR professionals are in high demand, and they are few and far between. The reality is, how organisations view their HR function is radically changing and, at the core, is enterprise. Now more than ever before, HR must be more than a department of like-minded individuals who are good “people people”, as merit and reputation is about adding tangible value to the bottom line. The big question is, does HR have the appeal to draw talent from other professions and, in the bitterly competitive digital market, does HR even appear on the radar? What cannot be refuted is, Human Resources as an impact department, is in serious question, unless it can attract a more diverse range of skills and experience sets, with analytics and commercial strategy at the top of the list.

Supporting global business planning
The skills shortage crisis is putting the handbrake on global expansion ambitions and a constraint on the pace of international commercial potential, just as opening up emerging markets becomes business critical. Building global workforces across borders has always been a fine line judgement of how to use expats and hiring and training locals, but expats with the requisite capabilities are in short supply, so hiring, onboarding and training locals is severely disrupted. Without a cohesive network and continuity, global plans are sunk. So, what is incapacitating even large multinationals from developing leadership capital necessary for global expansion operations? Top of the list is a lack of managerial mobility, and a seeming lack of urgency to develop a pipeline of expat capacity that is agile, sustainable and diverse. Indeed, it is a lack of diversity in the headquartered business, which is now playing out in real-time, as the cadre of developed people are revealed to be too demographically similar, and not conducive to international assignment. Expats, halfpats and glopats to one side, it seems clear that firms are lacking agility and diversity. So how can businesses accelerate the potential expat management pipeline, in order to stay competitive in an increasingly international market, as the patent lack of world-savvy, multicultural managerial talent severely impacts the global imperative?

Collaborative and matrixed organisations
Today’s complex nature of business operations is rendering the simple and rigid organisational pyramid to history. In its place is not so much a structure, as a constantly shapeshifting matrix, with the capacity to evolve multilaterally and multifunctionally. Firms at the leading-edge are experiencing greater agility and reactivity, as well as all-important prescience, as coordination and knowledge sharing drives the agenda. Amazingly, business competitiveness is not hinged just on product quality or customer satisfaction, but on operational integrity and agility, and there is clear blue water between more and less matrixed organisations, as talent is inclined towards the former and is repelled from the latter. It is the clarity of culture and attitudes that is driving collaboration and knowledge-sharing, which makes the old siloed thinking and turf battles of business decision-making look decidedly backward. So, can firms build a focus more on working together to realise a shared purpose? How can attitudes and cultures be changed and motivated away from block departmental contribution to a fluid, free knowledge share, where collaboration and teamwork is rewarded over individual, bottom line performance, which is proving such a turn off to emerging talent?

Decision science
Any significant business decision that is not based on the most conclusive data and thoroughly interrogated by analytics is the commercial equivalent of Russian roulette. Yet despite sitting on a veritable Klondike of data, HR is rarely informing at a decision science level, and it is certainly not for the lack of data. Moreover, it is perception, mindset and approach – a case in point, talent management – unarguably a primary concern for all, across sectors and, of course, a constant focus for HR. Rather than reading data to inform resourcing decisions, HR must position TM in organisational strategy, which informs more directly on actual business planning decisions such as; which markets to enter or countries to expand into. A “decision science” approach, as opposed to an iambic and reactive process, can form the future foundation of human resources, as talent is viewed in a more supply-chain frame, which will enable businesses to align business plans with workforce needs in a more perceptive way. One of the issues for HR is that Decision Science is a pure data and mathematical equation, which will unquestionably require Data Science to be an integral element of the profession, as decision science defines an entirely new approach to business planning and decision making. At the present, Decision Science is clearly not a part of the HR lexicon, and equally obviously, it has to be.

As with all our subjects this issue, we welcome your expertise and insight in providing guidance to these challenging times.

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