Amidst growing global turmoil, many people have become disenchanted with anything that could possibly be labelled as belonging to or representing the “establishment” or the way things have been. As a lover of history, recent world events seem to me to mirror pre–revolution France. Everyone is upset about something and screaming change. Whenever there is this overwhelming desire for change there is also concern and fear coupled with a desire to find a secure way of navigating the tumult.
This trend toward chaos and fear not only exists within the context of politics and social issues, it is also a business or an organizational issue. Albeit for entirely different reasons, businesses are nervous and looking for solutions. A survey of Canadian CEOs revealed that they are concerned about many things but listed the following as the top worries:
- Cost cutting measures: The survey noted that 76% are focused on cutting costs, this is 68% higher than outside of Canada.
- Demonstrating business success when shareholders are looking for more than financial profit and into social realms for success indicators.
- Branding and marketing.
- Recruitment and talent retention in a world where top talent has a preference for organizations that share their social values.
- Accommodating millennials and their digital needs.
- Cyber security.
One of the fundamental responsibilities of any HR practitioner is to align an organization’s human asset management policies and practices with the strategic direction of the business. With this in mind Canadian HR practitioners have been reported, by a separate survey, as self reporting a strong focus on employee engagement and culture in the hope that this focus will address issues of productivity, recruitment and retention. However, this same survey reports that this is out of sync with global trends and apparent best practices. Research now indicates that global trends have been toward a focus on organizational design to address the complex and rapidly changing needs of organizations within a hyper competitive world market.
According to Peter Drucker in The New Realities, “Good organization does not by itself produce good performance. But a poor organization structure makes good performance impossible, no matter how good the individual managers may be.” The new wisdom therefore seems to be that organizational design is the root problem and therefore the solution to the challenges faced by organizations, while engagement and culture are a consequence of this root problem. Organizations therefore need structures, models and operational designs that enhance their competitive advantage and allow for agility and innovation which will in turn allow for the creation of a winning culture and full engagement.
This creates a new opportunity for HR practitioners as it redefines their mandate and provides an opportunity for HR to become integral to business success while being able to prove it by demonstrating ROI. The new HR Mandate seems to be:
- Increasing the focus on HR Analytics. This allows HR practice to tangibly demonstrate ROI and guide decision making away from biased and assumed logic.
- Committing to Digital HR. This will allow for the employee experience to be more in tune with what employees really expect. HR practices continue to exist in an ancient world or be executed in a manner that would be unacceptable to any customer if it were being delivered as a paid good or service by a business to a consumer. For example, a significant percentage of goods and services are delivered using apps and other forms of instant technology, yet few HR services are being delivered in a similar format to clients within an organization.
- Committing to innovation. There is a need to move away from the traditional interpretations of work in order to not only attract but retain top talent. Research indicates that a growing number of employees are willing to give up on something in order to telecommute. At the same time a growing number of top talent is becoming disenchanted with the employment contract and are opting for temporary assignment. Yet very few organizations have built these trends into their work practices to capitalise on talent. Instead top talent is being swallowed up by new and innovative start–ups that are willing to be more fluid in their approach to work.
- Commit to constant change. Organizational design ought not to be an activity reserved for mergers and acquisitions or a solution to a catastrophe. It ought to be a regular part of operations to ensure that the business remains in touch with the needs of customers and is not being outstripped by the competitor.
Such a mandate is no doubt very daunting and difficult to execute by lone HR practitioners, as is often the case in many organizations. HR practitioners will therefore need to retool as this daunting task must be executed or we might just be left behind.