The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Hot HR Issues – Part 2

Article Series

  1. Hot HR Issues – Part 1
  2. Hot HR Issues – Part 2

The Conference Board of Canada did an interview with Dave Ulrich where he stated “the 21st century will belong to human resources and to organizational capabilities.”1 2 The interview might be a year old, but it has some interesting observations, and of course my take as well:

Here’s the Second Half:

5 Organizational capacity must exceed the rate of change in the business environment. Change in the knowledge economy is non-linear and discontinuous… Competition today is between the processes different organizations use to ensure that their employees are trained and up-to-date… HR executives will focus on creating learning organizations.3

Not only does the workforce need to be trained, but knowledge technologies are severely behind. Formal and systematized networks of knowledge are incomplete and skills are not easily mined. Not only does HR need to train everyone, but the learning and competencies must be fully integrated with knowledge management procatices. Once again, I go back to my theory in the last post – HR is insufficiently integrated with the organization. We think of ourselves as a solution when we are only a beginning. Even Ulrich does it here – the learning organization is the start. Integration of learning results with knowledge management and operational systems is the real objective.

6 Get ready for a heterogeneous workforce, and make diversity a living value... Diversity must move beyond being a purely intellectual exercise to becoming an inherent component of organizational values. Some companies have already begun investing heavily in formally ingraining diversity into their culture. Organizations that don’t follow suit will not be able to fully maximize the talents of their entire staff. HR leaders will focus on fostering a culture welcoming of visible minorities.4

Here I go again talking about talent and how hard it’s going to get. We need to start thinking not about diversity for diversity sake, but as a global enterprise. Not only will organizations need diversity due to large retiree populations, but globally if organizations don’t tap into cultural competencies, they will be the ones to suffer. Not only might these cultural competencies affect marketing campaigns, but development efforts might also benefit from the different views of doing things. In other words – cultural diversity, just like any other type of diversity, brings new opportunities for innovation.

7 Line managers must communicate effectively with employees. Research shows that the major weakness in organizations is communication… Employees’ levels of motivation are dependent on how well line managers communicate with staff. It’s not about sending numerous e-mails; it is about effective face-to-face communication. When the going gets tough, effective communication is key.5

Let’s face it. HR changes nothing. We are reliant on operational leaders and line managers to actually enforce changes. Unfortunately, process adoption from employees hinges upon process adoption from managers, and we’re not so good at making that happen. Here again, HR needs to be closly aligned with communication professionals – whether that’s a consultant or internal practices. HR does not suficiently understand the roll-out of process, nor does it understand behavioral change management.

8 Measurement leads to credibility, but are HR measures meaningful? … The HR function will be called upon to create meaningful measures of HR performance. Traditional HR measures focus on activities (e.g., the time it takes to hire people, the number of individuals who have taken training programs), but senior management will no longer accept such measures from a function that is so critically important for organizational excellence. HR executives will be tasked with showing how they are building organizational capabilities. As Dave Ulrich reminded us in the interview, “rather than measuring the number of people hired, we should focus on the quality of people hired. How well do they help the organization innovate, change and deliver other capabilities”?6

Ending on a positive note, I actually think we’re getting there. The systems that are available, and the data we now have gives us the opportunity to truly impact the organization. What we really need to do is align our metrics to the organizational strategies and prove we have a right to participate in the organization’s future.


  1. Thanks to Romain of unknow origin for pointing me to the Conference Board of CA’s website an a comment here [back]
  2. The Conference Board of Canada, August 2004. “Hot HR Issues for the Next Two Years. Retrieved from http://www.conferenceboard.ca on March 19, 2006 [back]
  3. Ibid [back]
  4. Ibid [back]
  5. Ibid [back]
  6. Ibid [back]

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