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Stuart Lauchlan

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HR at a crossroads: can we collaborate to improve business execution?


Successful organisations need strategic HR people working with IT people to create systems that empower the alignment of workforces through a combination of goals, targets, pay for performance, reviews and effective communication of strategy.

That’s the theory anyway.

The reality – as exposed by a new study from Cloud Computing firm SuccessFactors and services giant Accenture – is that 80% of organisations admit that they are "not doing their best" to communicate strategy through the organisation, let alone executing against it. In the current climate of economic uncertainty and intensified commercial competition, that’s an unacceptable state of affairs.

SuccessFactors and Accenture commissioned market research firm Vanson Bourne, to conduct 450 interviews. Key findings that emerged from the research include:

Organisations are failing to monitor, motivate and retain employees. Only 17% of organisations know all of its top performing employees and are looking to develop them for future roles.

Two-thirds of organisations have a pay-for-performance policy, but of those, only one in five always ensures that rewards are accurately aligned to contribution.

Only 12% of respondents who monitor staff goals and their execution have an IT system that delivers the information needed for goal management and execution. Nearly 40% of organisations are trying to measure the time to real performance, but lack the necessary data and systems to support this.

Over the last five years, productivity has increased, with 79% of organisations using computerised systems to manage goal execution and productivity, compared to only 47% of those using a paper, email and spreadsheet based system.

Collaborative technologies are used in just 40% of organisations, but 73% of those organisations feel their organisation communicates strategy to staff well or very well, compared 62% of those who rely on managers to cascade information.

Organisations agree there is a business critical need to execute strategy, yet only 20% of companies claim to communicate strategy very well internally.

Only 18% say they are very good at converting corporate strategy into priorities and goals. Just 15% are very good at aligning employee activities to corporate strategy.

61% of those using collaborative technologies say their employees’ tasks are well or very well aligned to corporate strategy, compared to only 53% of those who rely on managers to cascade information.

To tackle these issues, organisations need to see their HR personnel step up to the mark, but this does raise the thorny question of (a) whether HR leaders are up the task and (b) whether they have the tools to deliver and © how they will work with their IT counterparts to create the best results.

The SuccessFactors/Accenture report notes: “HR finds itself at the same cross roads that the CIO stood at. We believe HR needs to step up and be part of the strategic planning and execution for any business that is going to prosper in these new and trying conditions.

At this pivotal time, the data from our study shows that some get it and are rapidly becoming the business leaders in this next economy; Others are stuck in the “personnel” mindset and as a result will be further marginalised within the business if not outsourced.

“The HR function should be at the heart of strategy execution and is often the owner of processes and systems which will determine the success of strategy execution. Historically HR has rarely fulfilled its potential in this regard. This is because it hasn’t had the tools at its disposal. What marks out this moment in time as a special opportunity is the technology now exists to enable HR to deliver on its business critical role.”


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