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The Future of HR

Many thought leaders debated the future of work but not many are so quick to discuss the future of HR. There’s one voice that has been signposting the future of HR for many decades and has accurately depicted where in HR we should play next. In this short video we hear of a new perspective that embraces an outside in approach. For many years we focused on the people agenda on the basis that if we look after the people, they will take care of the customer, but is it now time to consider the customer within the HR function. What if we focused our attention on what the customer needs and worked back from there on what the people agenda should encompass. David Ulrich poses this fresh perspective which might really change the way in which we determine strategy. Furthermore, he makes the valid point that we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to the people agenda in isolation but help build the system within which the people operate. Now that really would change the manner in which we position the function, the strategy and our operations. Interesting times for HR, hear more from the man himself, Mr. David Ulrich, here in our short video.

 

Hear Dave Ulrich talk about the key components of agile in organisations. “Great is the enemy of change” and feedback is a key component in driving agile. Find out more in this 90 second video. Full interview coming soon!

To Rate or Not To Rate?

What if that’s not the question your organisation should be asking? In 3 minutes, Dave Ulrich and Aisling Teillard talk further about positive performance accountability and give you the important questions you should ask to guide your organisation’s performance management transformation.

Considering changing your performance management practices, you won’t want to miss the concept of positive performance accountability. Check out this 90 seconds of inspiration from the man who has led the way in HR through his thought leadership that has transformed HR at every level, Mr. David Ulrich.

Our CEO had the privilege of discussing the future of employee experience with Mr. David Ulrich, the true Master of HR. Dave has been the thought leader that has always shone a light on the next wave of HR and what lies ahead of us and in this interview he doesn’t disappoint, giving us a taste of the future direction and where we in HR should focus our energies, when it comes to employee experience. In the space of 90 seconds he gives us clear guidance and framework for how we move the employee experience agenda to the next level.

 

A lot of my life is spent going around HR conferences across Europe and the States and while they are always thought provoking, after too many coffees and snacks you usually leave conferences a little more tired than you came in. Not so with the talent summit, I doubt there was a person there who didn’t leave a little more energised and inspired than they arrived. A great collection of speakers, panels and even a bit of dancing in between by the gregarious Dr. Peter Lovatt left us all wanting more.

The theme of technology pervading all that we do in HR left lots of room for debate. While Stevie the Robot was a stark reminder that robots are not just coming, but already here; it reminded us to use our judgement in applying robotics, to the areas it most makes sense. A sobering reminder that big data and AI, while emerging and constructing new realities in areas like recruitment and talent, have not yet made the strides that either are capable of, in HR.

What stood out the most was the power of leadership and how we can demonstrate our leadership in multiple ways, leveraged by great technology. Many companies giving examples of how they tackled diversity, new means of recruitment and engaging their workforce by deploying simple but powerful technologies. New approaches to feedback and developing performance cultures were addressed as a clear priority for all. Interesting examples emerged of companies who’ve made bold strides in this space and created far more engaging and connected organisations.

Talent Summit proved to me that HR is ready to take its place at driving business and leadership change, through creativity, innovation and new technologies. It will be great to see the outcomes next year of the debates sparked at the talent summit of this year and it was a real privilege to be a speaker partaking in what was some of the most interesting debates and discussions I’ve seen in a long time; congrats to all involved.

Crowdsourced, real time feedback, empowering & energising people.

Life as an HR Director is always interesting, varied and full of surprises and for the most part enjoyable…except for that one month every year that made me question my profession and career choices…January. Not only had you your own January blues to contend with but pretty much everyone else’s too. Facing into the odd sexual harassment case post the Christmas party, the onslaught of resignations from people who wanted more, nothing screamed January blues like the most dreaded activity of all; the rollout of the performance management review process.

Troubled managers stressed over calibration curves and nervous, confused employees stepped in and out of meeting rooms to perform the annual ritual. It’s not the idea of managing performance that bothered anyone, everyone was in violent agreement, this had to be managed, performance should be discussed; the great people should know you value them, the weaker performers need to know to smarten up. But the cloud lay over the ‘everyone in between’.

The ‘everyone in between’ awaited the inevitable; to be told they ‘met expectations’. After a year of hard work and dedication, you met expectations….well done. About 70% would wander around our organization in a sea of disappointment, accepting that they were an unfortunate sacrifice to the unspoken but well understood calibration curve. Managers faltered, promising all sorts of treats to gain back employee favor; training courses, mentoring and interesting projects lay ahead if they could just all forget that we denounced you as having ‘met expectations’. But the disappointment lay thick in the air, it remained through the new year strategy all hands meetings, it lay heavy through the ‘new initiatives’ meetings and it sat heaviest of all through the Department goal setting meetings, that articulated the new goals that demanded more focus and energy than ever before to hit an ever more ambitious set of targets. The new year got off to a bleak start and renewing energy and enthusiasm was an uphill battle from there.

As HR reaches into a new era for performance management and prepares the ground for more frequent check-ins, ongoing dialogue on performance and a greater focus on new ways of working, we are getting closer to the time when we reach a point where the backbone and engine of our businesses; the 70% who ‘met expectations’ will feel reinvigorated, reenergized and ready to take on the world in a new year ahead.

Given the strides made in this area over the past year there is room for real optimism for a new way of managing performance through continuous and crowdsourced feedback. This year has the potential to change the game on performance management for good. Here’s to better Januarys!

What a busy and incredible week at HR Tech in Las Vegas. The past few days here at the Venetian, I have been struck by the transformation of HR over the last 5 years, where we are now is almost unrecognizable to its former self.

The future of HR is awash with AI/robots/machine learning and endless analytics tools that provide many levels of transformation. Robots are everywhere; in presentations, USBs and cute giveaways for the kids. Making robots friendly to all seems to be everyone’s game, not discussed as openly, is a flip side to this strategy that will perhaps lead HR back into the more familiar territory of redundancies and upskilling. Many commentators invested energy in reassuring us, endlessly, that the pace of transition is slow and our workers will be upskilled into more interesting jobs, avoiding the repetitive tasks of old. For us, HR directors and business partners, I think we have been here before.

Analytics and predictive analytics continue as hot topics, although I’m not convinced anyone quite knows what to do with them yet. Despite this, I could not ignore the excitement in the room, as the future of HR was envisioned as one that can change our working lives, and for the better. Thought leadership focused on the importance of moving with the tide and welcoming the future of technology and data with solutions to overcome current HR problems.

An interesting talk that embodies this message, spoke about encouraging HR to embrace experiments; Easier to get up and running, and a licence to bypass many of the restrictions brought on by traditional approaches, including stakeholder management, procurement and other internal barriers. A strong emphasis on moving in this direction is to obtain data in order to make your business case. Overall, it sounds like a clever way forward for many who may struggle to convince multiple stakeholders of the benefits of moving to agile ways of working.

What was uplifting about HR Tech was how ready HR is to embrace change, adopt new technologies and demand more from their providers. There is a strong sense of HR demanding what it needs and wants from its providers with none of the usual compromises that were traditionally expected or, indeed accepted. A strong energy around start-ups and young companies who can offer these high levels of innovation. HR is ready for transformation and is taking brave moves, in practically all areas and the sales data proves this – HR is the faster adopter across the enterprise to move to cloud.

My final thought leaving Las Vegas was that the wonderful and yet the frightening thing about being in HR is that we have the power to transform working lives. What a power that is to hold, but every time you have the opportunity to transform something there is the possibility of wonderful outcomes, but sometimes it comes with unintended consequences.

My hope for our profession is that we remember, in our pursuit of AI, robotics and innovative technologies, that there are real lives behind our every decision and they are counting on us to do the right thing.

Let’s not forget our people on the digitization journey. Let’s put them right in the heart of our every decision, building our transformation centred on their greater good.

The Board meeting that none of us relish, things aren’t going so well, revenues are down and the business is facing its greatest challenges. Where do we look to resolve our challenges? Sales, we need to double down on high growth clients, what are the pipeline opportunities. Our brand doesn’t resonate with particular segments of clients, marketing you need to turn things around out with a new ad campaign. Finance, a cost analysis to highlight the areas we can cut costs without hurting our operational activities. Technology, we need to review what projects to stop for this year. Finally, we look to HR. HR, a recruitment freeze effective immediately, lets control headcount, new sign off processes needed.

Really, that’s all we get! Is this the only way the business perceives that HR can help in a revenue crisis? The people agenda is the engine that runs all the functions. It’s people who will come up with the new marketing proposition/brand campaign, people who will ultimately analyze the costs and spot the opportunities and people who make sales. The real question for our board rooms to address is how do we optimize the people agenda to drive the revenue growth we need.
It’s rarely about getting more from the top performers, our old ‘reliables’ who deliver every time but ultimately will burn out for having to carry the weight of the organizations expectations. It’s not through managing the bottom performers who will drain your time and energy in exiting them from the organization. But where you will get your real return from the people agenda? The answer lies in your average employee. The core, the reliable, the one who always got a 3 in their performance rating, fully meeting expectations. What if we could accelerate their performance by just 1%, the impact of the core performing at a higher level has an exponential impact on the future growth of your organization.
So why in HR do we obsess about the top talent and the bottom 10%, have we neglected to consider how we really drive performance from the core and the majority of your organization. What if that middle section of your traditional bell curve, the 60-70% of folks who sit in the middle, delivered just 1% more; made one more sale, delivered one more marketing win, reached one more customer with their campaign, found one more opportunity for cost saving, delivered one more dollar on every customer you have. The impact on your bottom line is inevitably going to be greater than the impact from leaning on your old reliable talent heroes to come rescue your company just one more time, ..before they break.
So if you are to focus on your core employees, how do we get the additional 1%? Firstly, they would have to know that you need an additional 1% from them, setting the expectation, creating the stretch goal. When we’re clear what it is they need to deliver, we’ve got to give them feedback on how they can develop to deliver it. Our feedback processes are traditionally recognition driven, it’s time to shift them to growth oriented feedback. Giving the kind of feedback that delivers recognition but in parallel offers developmental opportunities too. Not an annual discussion on what course we should send you on but a continuous flow of feedback that identifies where they can improve or deliver just that little bit more, that all important 1%.
We all want to give people the opportunity to be great, navigating them to their true potential. Growth oriented feedback is the map they need to focus their direction. Maybe you won’t get an additional 1% from this, but just maybe you’ll get an additional 10. So, next time you are in a Board meeting, and the business has some challenges, how about starting with the people agenda.

We forget how hard it is to be a young Manager, to manage people for the first time, to wonder if your team think you’re a bit of a flake or even worse. The insecurities that all young Managers face are probably the hardest part of the journey to becoming a great leader. In the early days, the temptation is to be the Mr or Mrs nice guy so you do all the usual’s, the team nights out, paying the bill (sometimes out of your own pocket!), praising them when they do well and working so hard on team spirit that it seems you are, in fact, the last to leave the office, when really you thought it would be the other way around, as soon as you hit management!

Then it happens, somebody drops the ball on something really important. You can’t ignore it; you can’t let it go with the comforting remarks ‘it could have happened to any of us’. No, this time it’s serious and if you’re being really honest with yourself, there’s been a bit of a pattern of mistakes. Little things, nothing to lose sleep over but not our highest performer. You can’t avoid it any longer, you have to have “the talk”. Address the issue and plan the development from it. It’s awkward, it’s all a bit of a downer, you dread having it and you’re more than relieved when it’s over. You get on with it and you all move forward.

Now its performance review time, you have a whole team to evaluate and HR are talking bell curves. All the team spirit you’ve built up is about to be trashed with reviews, recriminations and all-round stress. You dread it but get through it, with the end results that everyone seemed disappointed. The high performers were looking for more constructive feedback to help them get promoted for jobs you can’t identify, the average performers were disappointed to not be high performers and the lower performers are annoyed that you didn’t tell them sooner. This people management business is harder than it looks.

Over the years, you become more skillful at it, you give feedback at the moment its relevant, you provide regular feedback that helps develop your’ people. You catch the issues early so that they don’t build, you praise in public and you deliver more constructive feedback in private. You try to grow and develop your team and when it’s really going well your team become superstars, get promoted and move on to bigger and better opportunities than they ever even envisaged for themselves. You are proud of your team, proud of your managerial skills and your 360 reviews/employee surveys tell the organization of your accomplishments of your leadership.
But how can we short circuit it all, why does it take so long to move from the insecure first timer to the experienced and professional leader that we all love to work for. Why? Because we are rarely naturally equipped with the skills we need, they are learned over time. We rarely get the chance to be coached on the job with measurable and tangible measures that teach us continually how to improve the art of being a great coach. Sure, we are sent on the odd leadership course and we might be lucky enough to have a mentor who is a great people leader but all of that feels more like therapy than something we can tangibly change in our work practices.
Now, more than ever, leaders need to move faster through the learning curve of being a great people leader. Giving them hands on tangible measures of their coaching capabilities will help. Giving them real advice and tips based on their results will help even further. We need to give a lot more feedback to our Managers on their true coaching capabilities. Coaching is like any skill, it needs to be learned, practiced, measured and refined. There’s a real role for HR in taking Managers from early stage to maturity, through rolling out coaching skills in the same way we learn many other skills, through practice and feedback. It is only with a continual focus on refining the art of becoming a great coach that we will produce great leaders.

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