HR’s New Job: Business Results

focus on resultsToday, as the economy picks up and companies are competing for people again, businesses want HR tools and systems that directly drive employee engagement, help improve employment brand, and platforms that harness and reach out into the internet to find, source, and attract candidates. They want learning software that builds a compelling self-directed digital learning environment, and they want goal management tools that are agile, easy to use, and help people develop.

Today CEOs and business leaders just want you to address these topics – and do it in an “integrated way” with a modern and high-impact HR service delivery model. HR has to “get out of the way” and spend more time in the business giving business leaders simple and effective tools, not building complex multi-step business processes which nobody has time to do. It is no secret that most managers don’t think of their company’s performance program as a useful investment of their time.

Companies still want integrated HR systems, but what they don’t want is complex, integrated ERP software that makes everyone’s life more complicated. In fact, they want life to be more simple. On a daily basis and in my current job, my clients are embarking on projects to “simplify the work environment.” “Ease of use” and “integrated user experience” are some of their top two buying criteria for HR software.

Finally, as we consider how talent management has changed, let’s talk about the word “talent.” I remember when we first started using the word, HR staff used to say “we don’t recruit talent, that’s what Hollywood does.” Well now everything in HR is about the “talent” and the word has started to become a little meaningless. Are we all just “talent” to be used by our employers? Are we defined entirely by our skills and ability to drive results or do work for the organization?

While everyone is here to drive results in some fashion, I would suggest that thinking of people entirely as “talent” has become a limiting concept. Of course we want to hire, train, develop, and lead people so they deliver results – but today we have to reflect on the fact that each individual who works for us (and many more are contingent each day) are actually individual people, coming to work for their own particular reasons.

For example, most companies no longer think about people from “prehire to retire” any more. As Reid Hoffman discusses in his book The Alliance, we hire people like we hire professional athletes. They work for our organization as long as it is valuable for both parties, and then people move on. If you’re highly skilled and successful in your career, you’re getting job offers in your in-box, so you’re always an “active candidate.” You are definitely “talent” – but you may or may not feel committed to your employer over a long period of time. And unlike professional athletes, most of us don’t “sell our skills” to employers, we volunteer our efforts at work every day. We come to work because we like it (hopefully), and the compensation and benefits we receive is only one of the many reasons we show up. We have outside lives, personal career goals, individual passions, and we want to be creative. I would suggest we are more than just “talent,” from a management perspective – we are simply “people” – just like our customers are “consumers.”

We know this shift has happened because all research shows that engagement and retention has become one of the biggest issues in business today (followed very closely by the need to give people education, training, and development). If we can’t create an environment that attracts you and others to the organization, you go elsewhere. This is why new tools to understand the drivers of engagement, analyze and predict retention, and manage flight risk are among the hottest new areas of HR. (The annual engagement survey is rapidly becoming obsolete.)

So I would suggest that we, in HR, start to think about employees as “people” – and this is why more and more companies are starting to rename their HR organizations things like “People Operations” or “People Management.” Sure we have to do HR administration, but ultimately our job is to make sure “people” are engaged, trained, in the right jobs, aligned, and supported.

But this is far from the end of this story. More to come in the coming days.

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