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“COMPANIES NEED TO RE-ENGAGE THEIR PEOPLE. THE PRACTICE OF BOTH MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP NEEDS TO BE RE-THOUGHT”
Henry Minztberg, HBR July-Aug 2009
One of the great minds of business and management, Mintzberg has been at the forefront of thinking about what works and what does not in organisations for decades. We ignore his conclusions at our peril.
Similarly Gary Hamel in The Future of Management spelled out frankly the broken nature of the present model of management and suggested how it needs to be re-constructed. While for HR practitioners the post recessionary landscape may look blurry, the outlines are daily becoming clearer involving engagement, innovation, community, leadership, culture and trust.
- ENGAGEMENT– is certainly now coming into much sharper focus. Previously it may have been tolerable to accept levels of engagement in which less than 25% of employees felt committed to and involved in their work. Now we can see this truly dreadful state of affairs for what it is—a futile and shameful waste of resources that no sensible enterprise can possibly defend or accept in tackling its future.
- INNOVATION–In the post recessionary landscape another looming mountain we can now clearly see is the need to turn innovation into a pervasive force affecting every single employee, not just an R&D division or a product development team. Unless everyone in a company starts thinking creatively about innovation—whether in terms of product, service or how things are done internally, most organisations are going to be severely hampered in their struggle to stay competitive and discover new opportunities for themselves that can be properly exploited. HR’s role in this remains unclear, but it is likely to be taking a lead in helping to establish an innovative driven culture.
- COMMUNITY–another mountain in the post recessionary landscape that will need to be scaled and that will test the courage and values of HR practitioners to the full will be helping the company see itself as a real community of interests. Shareholder value, for example, will come lower in the pecking order than in the past as the focus shifts to how to grow, energise and win people’s commitment.
- LEADERSHIP–Yet another mountain that must be traversed in the new landscape will be a fresh approach to leadership. HR practitioners will need to be either helping to guide the company towards this destination or risk being left behind as irrelevant to the journey.
Establishing a new form of leadership will require insightful HR people who can communicate what this new leadership is all about.The “new” leadership will demand that leaders see themselves as steering, nudging and influencing their organisation, rather than “running” it in the traditional sense. This has long been talked about and acknowledged by the best corporate leaders, but now this approach will need to become mainstream.
The idea of embarking on a great journey together will need to be re-established and there will be even more focus on what Jim Collins calls “getting the right people on the bus.” Only then will it be possible to establish where the bus is supposed to go.
HR practitioners will need to become adept at using the language of leadership that views the organisation organically, rather than mechanistically. The new leadership will reach outwards rather than downwards, facilitate rather than command, stimulate rather than direct, and inspire rather than tell.
- CULTURE–astute HR practitioners have always had an interest in culture, but the post recessionary landscape will require them to become champions of culture, stepping out boldly where others may fear to tread.They will need to develop working frameworks that look and sound convincing to their leaders as viable tools to make sense of the task of influencing culture.
For example the Home Group, a Housing and Social Care organisation based in Newcastle, is currently raising the bar in relation to the performance of their top 200 leaders. They are using a basic framework as a basic template for developing their own approach to sustaining culture change.
- TRUST--finally, the post-recessionary landscape is likely to see HR practitioners advising and tackling exceedingly low levels of trust in their organisations.Countless research studies have underlined the prevailing low levels of trust in organisations and this has only worsened during the economic crisis.
Since trust is earned, not imposed, this will require HR practitioners to take a much greater interest in what builds trust and sustains it.The trust challenge means that organisations will need to stop treating people as constantly expendable and interchangeable. Instead, we can expect to see a greater focus on bringing humanity to the workplace, making it fit for human beings to flourish in.
This in turn implies that companies and their HR leaders will need to take a longer term view of what the company is for, and how to ensure that everyone finds meaning in the work they do.Who trusts HR? That poses the kind of challenge once presented to line managers as: “why should anyone be led by you?” Now the vital question will be “what difference can HR make to our ability to scale the heights before us?”
As with mountain climbing, you can have all the right gear and still come a cropper. What will matter even more than the right equipment or skills, will be HR practitioners with the courage and character to show how they can really make a difference.
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