Hot HR Issues – Part 1

Branding Engagement HR Strategy Workforce Planning

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.” ((Thanks to Romain of unknow origin for pointing me to the Conference Board of CA’s website an a comment here)) ((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)) The interview might be a year old, but it has some interesting observations, and of course my take as well:

1 Building your leadership pipeline is a must. … Identifying and grooming successors is critical. The most successful global organizations, such as General Electric, 3M and Monsanto, engage in systematic succession planning to ensure a seamless transition. These organizations believe in having a slate of high-potential leaders. ((Ibid))

I’ve been continuously disturbed that performance and compensation modules are the leading sellers in the talent management suites. While it’s obvious that these are the processes that will give an organization the most immediate and largest ROI, performance and compensation are also among the most tactical. Succession has long been a staple in larger organizations, but mid market companies don’t do it nearly as well. The tools and data are all within our grasp through HR technology if only we’d use it.

2 Leadership must be dispersed throughout the organization … Unipolar leadership, usually associated with command and control in hierarchical organizations, must give way to leadership exercised at all levels of the organization… Over the next few years, HR leaders will focus on creating an organizational culture that demands leadership of all employees. ((Ibid))

I’m of the belief that HR does not get out to the operational worforce nearly often or well enough. We sit around in tactical processes, or in strategies that are well meaning, but poorly executed. One of the reasons we don’t execute well is that we don’t get out to the workforce. The communication we have with operational leaders is insignificant. HR needs to integrate with the company as a whole to really make a difference.

3 Employment branding gets you the talent you seek. No market is more competitive than the market for employees. The war for talent is fierce and is likely to become more so with the massive numbers of employees retiring in the next five years. Top organizations are moving beyond the vanilla “employer of choice” concept to a more rigorous strategy of attracting and retaining the right employees through “branding.” 3M’s focus on innovation, for instance, creates an employment brand that attracts innovators from the available talent pool. The company retains innovators with HR policies and practices that deliver on the promise. True employment branding ensures high motivation and helps align employees’ vision and values with those of the company. In a tight labour market, a weak employment brand identity can stonewall even the most creative hiring and retention strategies. HR leaders will therefore work more aggressively towards differentiating their firms in the labour market. ((Ibid))

Hey, Regina. Has Dave Ulrich been reading your blog? This should not be a secret anymore. Regina and I and others have been writing about this for a while now. Benefits and compensation are good attractors, but a company’s employer brand is really where it’s at. If you want to make a long term difference to your talent acquisition efforts, increase your attention to the employer brand.

(systematicHR on employer branding here: 1, 2, 3 )

4 Organizations must capture a bigger portion of the employee mindshare. Hiring top talent is one thing; keeping talent and getting its full engagement is another… Research shows that employees operate, at best, at about 60 per cent efficiency despite a plethora of programs designed to enhance engagement. Companies’ strategies to gain employee commitment are often flawed and ineffective. For instance, pay raises may be a great short-term motivator, but motivational theory research shows that money satisfies only to a certain extent. After that, people look for meaning in their lives. To achieve congruency between employees’ needs and those of employers, HR executives will focus on instilling a high sense of organizational purpose in the minds of employees. ((Ibid))

I’ve defined emplyoee engagement as the ability of an organiztion to earn the one extra output from an employee beyond what s/he is compensated for. From an economists viewpoint, it’s basically the marginal return for nothing. Unfortunately, “nothing” is really a difficult thing – getting that additional output without increasing cash, but creating an interesting and meaningful work environment is quite a bit harder than giving out more cash. Take a look at the links above (in #3) as the relationship between the employer brand and employee engagement is quite high.

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