Monday, June 17, 2013

The New 'R' in HR

So here's an idea.  Write down your company's top 3 business goals and see if you can find any common themes.

I’m guessing what they all have in common is a need to respond to change with new business strategies.  (Uncanny, I know.)

Let’s take a quick look at some of the changes that are probably impacting your business strategy:

Consumer technology has changed the face of business.
  • The mobile device is today’s desktop.
  • People shop with their phones.
  • Everyone’s talking ‘SMAC’ (social, mobile, analytics, cloud)
Social technology has inspired new ways of working.
  • People expect an intuitive, personalized experience.
  • They’re mobile and connected.
  • They want to share ideas and information.
Modern business is global and ultracompetitive.
  • Companies must adapt their strategies faster than ever before.
  • The most important product is service.
  • Human resources is about building relationships.
The companies that are ahead of the curve on all this change are the companies that are able to innovate quickly.  For example:
  • Pharmaceutical companies must innovate to compete with cheaper generic brands.  
  • Retailers must innovate to reach online consumers. 
  • Manufacturers must innovate to streamline processes and reinvent the supply chain. 
  • Financial services companies must innovate to rebuild consumer trust. 
  • Management consultants must find ways to differentiate their services in a networked world where information is freely available.
Companies that fail to innovate will quickly find themselves falling behind.  And innovation is no longer limited to product R&D but impacts every aspect of service delivery.

If innovation matters to the business, it’s mission critical to create a culture of innovation.  There is plenty of literature about how to do this but it really comes down to encouraging experimentation and collaboration. 

A personal story that illustrates the importance of collaboration: My 9-year-old daughter just ran into my office for help with a geometry problem.  I could see the answer but not how to show the work so I made random suggestions until she experienced a cognitive leap and found the answer herself.  She was amazed that she got the answer with me - even though I didn’t have the answer - but hadn’t been able to figure it out on her own. 'That’s the power of collaboration,’ I explained.  She frowned so I tried again.   ‘Sometimes working with someone else helps.’ 

In today’s social economy, relationships matter to the business more than individuals because business innovation springs from collaboration and a feeling of connection to the organisation.  HR’s remit in the social economy is to remove barriers to collaboration with new technologies, organisational models and ways of working.

In other words, instead of human resources think 'human relationships'.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Talent Profiling 2.0

My oldest daughter (9) has successfully lobbied for riding lessons.  A former equestrian myself, I was all for the idea but my husband was harder to convince.

His initial response: ‘No way. What a completely useless skill!’

I bristled a bit at this. I rode horses competitively for seven years growing up, two of them on the school rodeo team, and while I don’t exactly use those skills today they are part of who I am.

‘Oh, yeah?’ I retorted. ‘If I’d married a Texan rancher instead of you I bet he wouldn’t say that to me!’

My husband stared at me blankly. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘You know I used to ride on a rodeo team in school,’ I responded icily.

I knew he knew because he’d laughed heartily at my tales of lining up to tie the understandably depressed school goat. I can still hear its plaintive ‘baaaaah’ each time it got flipped to the ground.

‘Oh, right.’ He still looked confused.

I sighed. This is the man who didn’t realize I could swim until we’d been married for about six years because he thinks an icy cold lake is perfect for a ‘refreshing dip.’

(He's German.)

‘Rodeo’s no cake walk, you know,’ I said sternly. ‘You have to keep your seat, pay attention to your posture, keep your ride in check, and often as not you have to rope a running cow or something from the back of a galloping horse. It’s a real skill.’

He stared at me thoughtfully, presumably trying to picture the woman he married on the back of a racing horse whirling a lasso in the air and yelling, ‘Yeee-haaaaw!

He seemed to be looking for the right words. Finally he settled for, ‘I find that hard to imagine.’

By now you're probably wondering what my point is, beyond letting the world know I know more about cows and horses than one might assume meeting me for the first time.

My point is that people have histories, skills and experience beyond what you hired them to do. Many of these skills may be completely useless but others could be exactly what you need for a particular project or job.

For example, if you're looking for a project manager you might try asking if anyone on your team knows how to herd cows. Trust me, I've done both and it's a transferrable skill.

One of the best ways to motivate people is to look beyond the tasks they perform for you today and consider how they can develop and integrate other skills going forward. Everybody wins.

All you need is a way to track skills, experience and interests globally and the ability to search against this information  when trying to fill a new job or staff a project.  The global visibility is really important because you may have the skills you need elsewhere in the organisation.

It's called talent profiling and some HR systems do it better than others.  Profiling your internal talent can help you find the right skills in your organisation when you need them as easily as buying a book or booking travel online. 

For hard to match skills, it's also a great way to find, leverage and develop the 'hard to imagine' talent in your organization.
Bottom line: In organizations that struggle to attract the right skills, developing and retaining talent matters.  And if you only look for obvious skills you may be neighing up the wrong tree.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hey, HR, have you hugged your CIO today?

Josh Bersin recently wrote an article about why HR technology is so hot today.  These are all great reasons but all too often either IT tells HR which solutions they can use or else a charismatic CHRO drags a reluctant IT into this century. 

The result is typically incremental improvement in some areas, which is good but falls short of what is possible when HR and IT join forces. 

If you're curious about why, watch this HBR video called 'Change the Conversation, Change the Game'.  (Or, y'know, just keep reading...)

Here are a few highlights :

There are three forces changing the world of business: 1) The accelerating pace of change, where the future is no longer an extrapolation of the past; 2) Technology as a disruptive force changing how companies connect with people; 3) A new ‘authority phobic ‘ generation that expects openness, transparency and opportunity.

To be fit for future, companies must be adaptable, innovative and engaging, which is why traditional organisational models no longer work in today’s world. Too much authority is held by too few. There's too much emotional attachment to the past. It's difficult and personally risky to experiment and try new things. Business are slow to change and tend to weigh experience over new ideas and squelch initiative.

That's why here's what's top of mind for CEOs who want to do more than a bit of financial restructuring and an acquision or two:
  • If I want to run an agile, innovative, engaging company I can’t run it in the same way;
  • The new value proposition is in service, and to deliver world class service people need instant, accurate information about the people they serve.

 To succeed today, companies need to find new solutions for both organisations AND technology. These two things need to happen together, i.e., you can’t just throw some open source ‘innovation wiki’ at a traditional Management 1.0 organisation and expect innovation to ensue. Nor can you implement wide-sweeping organisational innovation without supporting it with the right technology.

Wallgreens CIO Tim Theriault spoke about being part of the ‘healthcare revolution’ and driving innovation that ‘increases revenue, lowers costs and enhances the customer experience’.  As an example of innovation that meets all three criteria, Walgreens allows customers to scan prescriptions on a mobile app and sends a text when the prescription is ready for pick up. 

Theriault also talks about changing the conversation from ‘opening more stores’ to ‘what happens in stores,’ i.e., the traditional inside out products focus evolving into an outside in services focus.  To make that shift you must empower people with the necessary information about customers in order to provide the best care and retain business. 

Whole Foods empowers people at all levels of the organization to take ownership of their part of the business with real time information on profitability for their departments and rewarding for targets met in each paycheck. Technology is used to hold everyone accountable as well as empower them to be successful with accurate, real-time information.

Bottom line: Both HR and IT often find themselves in the role of ‘order takers’ focused on keeping the lights on rather than driving true innovation. Together they can change the conversation because both new techonologies and new organisational models are needed to transform the business. 

So, have you hugged your CIO today? 

(Hey, it's a great conversation opener and you have LOTS to talk about.)

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