Corporate boards still believe HR is ‘too fluffy’

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In a rapidly undulating talent landscape, HR is getting increasingly called out for its preoccupation with process and someone else’s best practice.

The need instead is for pragmatic and simple yet highly commercial solutions which can be debated and sponsored at the very top.

The only effective way to align the people agenda with an organisation’s commercial strategy is to get business leaders to consider the internal and external talent context of business decisions in real time. This requires a shift in our strategy models and in HR’s orientation.

“My research suggests that many companies don’t actually have a real people strategy,” says Gyan Nagpal, the former head of talent in APAC for Deutsche Bank and now a talent strategy coach. “What they have instead is a list of initiatives which react to a specific issue or try and solve a problem, often when it’s too late anyway.”

“We find that in large organisations operating globally, major commercial decisions are made impacting distant global theatres with little thought about how the talent can be found to implement them.”

Nagpal, cites the rush into the burgeoning markets of China as a classic example of this. “Everyone wants a piece of the Chinese success story, but few have worked out where the managerial talent is going to come from to deliver it. There are simply not enough indigenous professionals with the expected skills and experience to round. ”

“Corporate boards are increasingly waking up to the need to discuss this early in the planning process and are looking to HR; both for greater involvement and depth of insight” says Nagpal. “to be successful at the partnership table, now more than ever, HR needs to present its case in a more structured and well-researched way.”

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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Here, here Gyan. In my view HR needs a Strategic Plan I have been researching this topic at the group level in large companies and have found;
    1. Few HR functions have a strategic plan
    2. Of those that exist, few are not properly linked to the corporate strategy
    3. None are integrated with the plans of other functions like IT and Finance
    So what is an HR Strategy. First a statement of objectives – how the HR function expects to add value to the commercial success of the business. Second a statement of strategy that identifies what is difficult about the objectives set and offers cunning plans for overcoming the difficulties.
    With regard to the China example Gyan gives, HR might have an objective of helping develop and recruit China talent. The strategy must then identify the difficult – too many companies chasing too little talent – and offer a plan for over coming the difficulty, such as sponsor Chinese students to Western Business Schools.

  2. this exact thing happened in our organisation. a 600m$ investment went south because we didn’t have key personnel ready when we needed them. A couple of years later that division is a white elephant no one wants to join.

  3. Spot on, Gyan!

    Agree 100%

    Most HR strategy is tactical and reactive, mostly focussed around expressed customer/business needs.. And in some cases not executed well.. Unexpressed needs, strategic needs are far from seeing the light of day.

    Part of the problem is the education, coaching, experience-set of the general HR professional. Part of it is the DNA/orientation of the kind of people who get attracted to HR. And part of it is the positioning and compensation offered to the function. Very rarely do the best management graduates choose HR as a career.

    This change will require a 360 degree reorientation of all the above factors if we are to see HR becoming more strategic. 5 years’ operations work-ex needs to become the basic entry barrier to anyone aspiring to an HR role. That will fix a lot of gaps.

  4. I may not have enough exposure as Gyan, but do corporate boards really demand HR strategy or take it as something truly granted for with the expectation that a support function will deliver what ever is asked of it. In organizations that have made the leap of valuing HR as true business partner, this issue of lack of HR Strategy or perception of board may not really be the case.

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