Accelerate by Ron Thomas


Manoeuvre change well

Game plan changes, market corrections, market agility are all phrases that are used repeatedly in business today.

I am a big fan of CNBC and Bloomberg business TV. That is my background music in my home office. As I listened the other day, I kept hearing those various phrases throughout the broadcast. Whether it was Apple, Samsung or Microsoft, they were all mentioned in the same breadth as their fortunes either went up or down.

Being in HR for numerous years, it got me thinking of the human capital involved in this equation. Because however the fortunes of an enterprise ebb and flow, the constant is the level and quality of talent within your organisation.

So many organisations jumped on the Business Partner model, and in a lot of cases, they were latching on to a fad that with no real thought of the skill set of that partner or the HR vision tied to the organisation.

Recently, the new CEO of Microsoft held his first press conference, and he hinted at a change in strategy from operating systems and software to a mobile and cloud strategy . He realised that mobile is the growth area today as opposed to desktop and tablets. When that conference ended, I can only hope that HR realised that their business had also changed. As the business goes, so go talent. Their staffing focus must now change to accommodate and accelerate their new pursuit.


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Strategy drives talent

One of the tenets of Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) is that it is not at all aligned with headcount. SWP is aligned with the strategy of the organisation. As the strategy changes, the talent equation changes. This is the new HR. This is the true business partner.

More than just a title

A former direct report called me and was extremely excited that she had just been promoted to business partner. When I questioned her about the focus of the role, she kept telling me about partnering with a specific department, being their personal HR representative, working closely with the department handling all things HR. After this merry-go-round, I finally told her to rethink the narrative, because everything that she said about her new role had no value whatsoever to that department head.

If it were not rethought, she would just be their personal HR administrator. It was not her fault, it was the fault of the HR department by not getting the team up to the task of this new role, which if designed right, would have made HR a perfect alignment in the departments and the organisation.

Change as the new normal

With constant change as the new normal, HR talent has to be agile and have the ability to grasp business issues. They have to have the ability to dig down deep into the strategy of the department and understand its alignment within the organisation as a whole.

These changes are going to necessitate that HR will eventually have to do a skills audit for the new challenges that will affect their departments. Gone are the days of the generalist as the business now needs specialists whether it be data specialists, strategic workforce planners, total rewards specialists etc.

The age of specialisation is upon us.

This migration has been moving into this direction for years, all the signs were there, but in a lot of cases, they were ignored. The challenges of employee engagement, data interpretation and specialised talent needs have changed the dynamic of the HR professional.

Bring value or leave

I know of numerous instances where the heads of HR at various companies were let go due to their inability to partner with their CEO as an equal. I welcome this change because, if done right, HR could be elevated to the same role of equality as IT, Finance and Marketing. I have always been a big proponent of looking at your HR team as Organisational Consultants embedded into a department. Reaching a level of respectability, as the go-to-team, for not only HR issues but organisational issues, as well.

The rebranding needed for HR will carry significant consequences for the profession. Part of the reason that HR has this perception of inadequacy is that they were slow to realise that the changes were coming. In a lot of cases, this was not because they did not see it on the horizon but because they were ill-equipped to do anything about it. They had staffed their departments with generalists who were ‘jack of all trades’ but master of none.

There was this ill-conceived notion that changing their model to business partner, while in name only, with no accompanying needed skill set, was the nexus that would enable it to be perceived as more strategic. That further hardened the ability to rebound. You can’t make a good second impression when you did not make a good first one.

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So it is apropos that, yes, we be able to accelerate as quickly and be as agile to manoeuvre as the winds of change bear down. Human Resources needs to take note because the new day is here.

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