5 Arenas – The Business of HR
a sphere or place of intense activity, performance, debate and conflict
5 Arenas for HR
Intense…is a word that characterizes our work in these times. There are constant challenges and shifts that call upon us to look for new ways of doing things and to exercise priorities differently.
For HR leaders and teams, this is a time to play multiple roles. In our conversations with business and HR leaders, and teams, over the last few months, we see the activity and results for HR increasingly focused (and needing to focus) on 5 arenas. These arenas span both problem solving and building for the future. They help to resolve risks and challenges but also provoke us to think about how the future could be built and led differently.
Our purpose in writing about this is to nudge HR to invest in converging their efforts into spheres of intense activity that can create an impact for people and businesses.
Helping Leaders Succeed
Leaders need more than an HR business partner.
They need an advisor, a cheerleader, a critic, a sparring mate (who will challenge them and make them better), a compassionate partner and more.
For those who work with businesses and teams, the time has come to erase the lines and boundaries we have drawn around our roles. These times call for HR to surface the problems they can solve and the opportunities they can address. We see the following as spheres that HR must support and contribute in proactively:
Assess and manage the quality of leadership
As leaders and team members work remotely/in shifts and other arrangements, it is tricky to get an idea of how individuals are faring on both sides. Are people feeling supported? Is work being planned, prioritized and reviewed effectively? How is equity being managed and perceived?
HR needs to bring this information back to leaders with solutions to address gaps. They also need to identify those who need more support and provide that, be it coaching, facilitating meetings, preparing for crucial conversations etc.
Promote purpose and alignment
Evaluating risks and addressing them
– Guide to Organisation Design. Naomi Stanford
New ways of acquiring and selling to customers
The shifting sands of business plans
More local and market specific
Manage Diverse Workforces
The gig economy has been around for a while. We now see more organizations talking about jobs that can work from home or remotely for the years to come. With the advent of these circumstances, HR can create myriad options for organisations to attract, manage and retain talent. In a crisis, everything is up for questioning. Past beliefs and dogmas are set aside.
The time has now come to recraft how we look at employment and jobs. HR must look at how it can manage the needs and channelize the talent of diverse workforces to creating an enriching experience for individuals and organisations. Some ideas we have:
Recast and call out the different workforces
Pay attention to each workforce
Build new and flexible career opportunities
Make development and leadership more democratic
Look at how people can work in communities with leaders and not in homogenous workforces. Offer development as a benefit and incentive to work in an organisation. Allow for different forms of leadership to find expression from the different workforces.
Much of what we have said here is underway – it requires perhaps a certain kind of boldness and value system to bring it all together in a more integrated way for organisations.
Social | Governance)
Champion ESG (Environment | Social | Governance)
We write this section not to draw attention to what ESG is or why it is critical for all organisations, but to ask HR to adopt, contribute and deliver to these life (and therefore business) changing agendas in a bigger way. We include governance here because for great organisations to be built, the understanding (why) and practice of good governance needs to start early.
Businesses have the power and influence to shape the mindsets and choices of employees and stakeholders. A strong ESG focus can help create a lasting impact on society and the planet. Here are four ways that HR can make a difference to ESG:
ESG as a part of the Organisational Identity, Business and Operational Model
Build Accountability for ESG
ESG needs specialists but it also needs to be embedded into a multitude of roles as key accountability across the business. This will ensure a domino effect – to set goals, assess and reward performance and build skills. In many CEO and CXO searches, we have witnessed, understanding and experience in ESG have not been assessed or even called out in the profile. This needs to change and at every level. A good start is also to determine how this needs to be built in HR jobs and profiles.
Develop Knowledge and Abilities
- Run certifications internally alongside promotion and mobility processes.
- Make ESG a part of induction, new manager orientation and a gate to apply for key roles.
- Offer an ESG stint/project in MT programs, in high potential programs, leadership journeys, etc. Make it part of the Board induction and development program.
- Find and develop ESG coaches (just like advisors and coaches for TPM, AGILE, etc.)
- Build HR’s knowledge about ESG and how other organisations are setting standards and doing work in this area. Help HR to understand how to set goals, assess performance and abilities in ESG, so that they can advise businesses on the same.
- Bring experts and champions from other institutions and businesses to talk about what good looks like.
Make it Visible
Unbox Talent Development
If the exoskeleton of an organisation is its structure, then talent is the DNA and everything that breathes life to it.
In many organisations, the focus on people in key roles and at the higher levels of the pyramid has been disproportionate. This we believe is not so effective for 2 reasons –
a) Those who deliver performance and are closer to the employees and the customers are at the mid and lower levels of the structure.
b) Development takes months and years – starting early pays huge dividends. In this environment of social distancing, WFH, and fewer people at the workplace, we can really think about talent development differently:
Opening New Doors to Learning:
Build knowledge in teams and not only individuals
The CXO-2 and -3 levels are critical as they represent the capability of the organisation to deliver performance and are also the powerhouse of critical skills and expertise. Look at how to equip teams (small clusters of intact groups) with knowledge and skills. It is easy to get such teams together virtually – they will find opportunities to apply these newly learned skills together and sharpen them as they do so. Some examples – compensation management skills for all HRBPs; risk management for all unit heads; talent assessment and selection for managers in an intact workgroup; sustainability for a whole branch. Note – that we have not said training! The avenues to do this could be many and unconventional.
Step away from the commercial frame around L&D
Unfortunately, in many instances, we see training and development as push initiatives and not a pull. Participants get nominated and sometimes persuaded to attend – trainers and coaches are evaluated – but nobody looks in great detail at whether the individual made good use of the opportunity either for themselves or the organisation. This needs change. Individual initiative guides admission to college, completion of online courses and additional qualifications. Why should it be different at the workplace? We need to
a) Make learning an imperative to work-life – a bit like staying fit to lead a good life, and there are many ways to do this
b) Shift ownership to the individual and not HR or the manager.
In the process of unboxing, we may find new and reimagined roles for HR. Maybe we will have talent counsellors (like career counsellors after school) for different career stages and streams who can guide you to the path and choices one can make to learn and develop. The rest is really a choice.