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Geoff Glover

Business South HR Forum

Chair

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Sharing proprietary practices to drive performance across regions?

Allan Danahar_istock_thinkstock

With the global economy gradually moving out of recession challenges are returning for businesses; such as managing the financial pressure of maintaining a highly skilled base of human capital and the rising recruitment cost of attracting talent.

In this highly competitive economic environment, companies have recognised the need to provide more innovation, greater value for money and more personalisation of products and services if they are to connect with customers and secure competitive advantage.

Many firms who savaged their cost bases and developed highly efficient processes in the last few years have been left with little room for maneuver by further rationalisation of traditional processes, so need to find new innovative solutions to prevent cost creep.

Access to talent is fundamental

Access to highly capable and highly motivated talent, which is organised in such a way as to maximise innovation and productivity, is key to this business agenda.

However, demographic changes mean that the highly experienced “baby boomer” generation is on the verge of retirement and these retirements will leave gaping holes in many organisations.

Lack of investment in learning and a stagnation of internal development throughout the recession, has meant that experienced internal replacers are not readily available.

Furthermore, new generations entering the workforce may be less prepared to accept traditional hierarchical and “one-size-fits-all” approaches. The presence of these challenges means that talent will be the most valuable business resource, but also the most unpredictable.

A collaborative approach to HR best practice?

Against this complex background, progressive firms increasingly recognise that rather than taking a propriety approach to HR best practice it can be more advantageous to pursue collaborative approaches and share knowledge to ensure core competencies are instilled within as many companies as possible in a region.

While employee retention, minimising churn, is to be welcomed, it is inevitable a percentage of employees will migrate to new employment opportunities each year. The solution then is not to fight like cat and dog over a diminished pool of talent, but to collaborate together and with public authorities and academic institutions to increase the depth and breadth of talent available.

Local v regional level

The logic for a collaborative approach at the micro- company level finds resonance at the regional level too. Progressive public authorities recognise that their regions are in an intense global competition to attract, grow and retain investment.

Jobs cannot simply be created; the conditions to support jobs growth must be put in place. The critical factor for future success in the global, modern, knowledge economy will be the availability of ready supplies of talent to support business development amongst companies in the region.

Furthermore, for a region to grow and prosper it must work with the broadest possible coalition of interests to ensure globally competitive talent pools are available to support economic growth.

Three areas to drive collaboration in local communities

  1. Knowledge-sharing and the sharing of best practice
  2. Connecting companies and strengthening the collective effort around CSR
  3. Identifying where demand for talent is headed, particularly in terms of generic employability competence, and creating and piloting new innovative approaches to learning

With the rapid pace of change in the world and the seemingly continual reduction in the half-life of knowledge, companies and regions will need to ensure they can get accessible learning to more people, more often and at a lesser cost.

There is only so much progress that can be made on this type of agenda within the walls of one organisation and single-company action will not alter the dynamics of an entire region.

Collaborative approaches to learning can help. This principle could be extended to having a standardised approach to workforce planning, with outputs being used to inform the learning supply side of the aggregate movements in the demand for employability skills, standard appraisal formats, or the adoption of a standardised skills passport across a region.

Such knowledge and approaches could be made readily available to SME companies. After all, the beauty of knowledge as a resource is that it is not reduced when shared. In fact, sharing can lead to its enhancement!

Talent, connectivity and collaboration in a complex and challenging world is not a bad agenda for HR for the future.

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