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

July 2020 – Issue 189

Although Coronavirus seems to be dictating the narrative of our time, with all the subjects being covered in this issue, it’s important not to just frame it in the current landscape, but to look towards the future, where we will all return to relative normality. We look forward to your synopsis for potential articles in this issue.

Organisational Development
As we all adjust to universal unpredictability, businesses in all sectors are considering new ways of meeting operational and market demands, as we all adapt to a constantly moving narrative beyond our control, for some time to come. There are two key objectives, overcoming the biggest peacetime crisis in generations and planning ahead, to a time when normality returns. On both counts Organisational Development is a vital component and, now more than ever before, calibrating OD requires prescience and carefully considered steps. Cohesion and continuous communication are even more critical – particularly as colleagues work remotely – and leaders must be clear that making decisions in isolation and expecting the entire business to follow, is guaranteed to fail. The continuous mission statement has to be over-communicate and then communicate some more, so that the entire workforce understands the OD purpose. There also needs to be a strong ambition within the boardroom to orchestrate cultural transformation, because OD isn’t a quick win, it is a work-in-progress and a long-term vision. Clearly, HR plays a critical role in empowering people on the never-ending journey, as the modern constancy of change requires agility, fluidity and the capacity to adapt like never before.

Business & HR Transformation
The inevitable choice businesses and HR functions face amid today’s unprecedented forces of change are clear; drive change or be changed – shape or be shaped. As we continue to steer through a protracted period of disruption, the necessity to; predict, react, change and adapt remains top of the business agenda and pivotal to the effectiveness of HR in the future. An agile framework, increasingly augmented by AI and automation is the sharp focused, future-facing model, with intelligent automation increasingly making a notable dent in the traditional “human resource” operating model. As HR frantically transforms to meet a fast-changing future, many organisation are facing obstacles that are placing them in technical lag and threatening future competitiveness. Some other businesses are struggling, fearing the consequences of disruption and discovering significant technical capability shortcomings in supporting HR technologies, which is in itself impeding progress. There is potentially a damaging roadblock that stands between HR and its capacity to deliver strategic value and support to the business plan and the two must urgently be factored into the same frame, not in isolation. As with all crisis that need to be overcome, Covid-19 is forcing the need for rapid solutions and may in time be regarded as the catalyst for historic change.

Employee Advocacy
Never before has employee voice been so critical to competing for and retaining talent and skills – the two are inextricably linked. When it comes to conveying values and building on reputation, active and engaged staff pack a powerful and authentic punch. Equally, the voices of the disenfranchised are just as impactful, for all the wrong reasons. Technology provides the platform for communicating to the world at large, but it is people as advocates that make the difference as employer brand ambassadors. Conveying the “feel-good” factor is infectious and is a major boon in the recruitment for key skills and talent, in an increasingly challenging market. Indeed, harnessing the emotional investment paid by employees and enabling authentic advocacy, whether in communicating with colleagues or customers, living and breathing shared values is the modern equivalent of waving the flag. But calibrating the balance and ratio of authenticity versus control is critical, particularly on social media platforms, where it requires a combination of spirit of freedom and clear governance to enable and support sustainable employee advocacy.

Equality, Diversity and inclusion
On the surface, there does seem to be a greater affinity towards the promotion and support of equality, diversity and inclusion in work and in wider society. But scratch beneath the veneer and many of the same old biases persist, even if they are not blatantly conscious and verbalised. However, silent and unconscious bias is equally as insidious and potentially as damaging, not only to reputation, but also engagement, performance, competitiveness, attraction and retention. What is patently obvious is that, whatever is espoused in a firm’s “values” is not enough to support an organic path to improvement and, whilst there is a reluctance and squeamishness about dragging inequality out into the light, it will continue to lurk in the dark and shadowy realms of NDAs, pay offs with the debris swept beneath the corporate rug. On the other side of the coin, where equality, diversity and inclusion are perceived as some philanthropic activity for worthy causes, very public disclosure that deeds don’t match words is never far behind. Meanwhile, the spectre of Corona Virus is itself presenting inequalities that HR also needs to address as this unprecedented story unfolds before us.

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

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