A satellite view of the Human Resource Organisation

imageRecently, I was questioned about the role of Human Resources function, in a vibrant organisation. This blog relates a satellite view of a balanced human resource function.

The purpose of the HR function is to build an organisation, which delivers the Vision, through a culture based on a defined set of Values. The culture should be one desired by the system, including shareholders, BOD, management, employees and even related business parties.

The Values are chosen after consideration of the Vision, the preferences of the system, and applicability to ethics, morality and environment of the resident society.

HRs purpose is not to create the Vision, but to ensure the capability and culture which delivers it. Once the Values are set, the broad HR roles are:-

A) Recruitment of employees who fit within this Value system. If we ignore ‘the right fit’ and hire willy nilly, we will never deliver the desired culture nor the Vision. Open the gate only to suitable people. So, there has to be a defined profile to hire, which is strictly adhered to.

B) HR ensures employees are dealt with even-handedly. Compensation & Benefits should never be a reason, for an employees failure. This means compensation benchmarking to comparator companies and an agreement on a percentile versus the market. So, if we target mid quadrant, then the company will sit around 50 percentile of compensation levels. If it is the top quadrant, it will be 75 percentile. At 100 percentile, it would be the top payer in the comparator basket.

C) While ensuring day to day functionality through C&B, the strategic work of HR is in Talent & Organisational Development.

Annual evaluation
Developing talent
Developing the organisation
Employer branding

Annual Evaluation

If merit is the culture, then evaluation of employees performance becomes the crux. A fair, well orchestrated and deep rooted evaluation (at least on an annual basis) is an essential. A development plan for each employee will be a subset of this evaluation. Compensation, promotions and career building are the end result of this evaluation. The company Vision, Values and culture will sustain or fail on the back of this process.

Developing talent

The talent recruited is modelled to suit the company culture . HR builds their capacity to ensure delivery of employee potential. This includes initial orientation, creating a development plan (based on annual and a 360 degree evaluation); later, executing that development plan. Development could be on the job, through in-house training, counselling (mentoring) or outside training. Sometimes a short term work assignment could be another method of development.

High potential (HiPo) employees are a special breed and this career development route is popular. Employees assessed with high potential are developed on a fast track. They are visibly treated better. It does not go against the culture of merit, since HiPo are evaluated through a transparent system. Nevertheless, the jury is out on this HiPo system and time will tell if it is successful.

Developing the organisation

Organisational development is built around the tool of engagement. An evaluation tool could be an engagement index or an organisational health report. We gauge the health of the organisation, based on the criterion of values and culture implemented. Structures, level changes, shape of organisation and employee engagement activities are based on these reports. Through these actions the company develops its organisation to achieve its Vision.

Engagement activites are many fold. Sports events; birthday bashes; lunch talks; magazines; employees interactivity; town hall talks; homogenous privileges; management walking corridors for better engagement; an open door/communications policy.

In the end, both company and employee should benefit from this development. It is value addition to the organisation and the individual. Even if the individual moves on to another organisation, it adds value to society.

Employer branding

This is taking a leaf out of our brand knowledge in Marketing. Through HR strategy, positioning, its imagery and execution, we create a visible icon, which then represents the employers brand. It is recognised internally and also externally in industry, public and universities. It becomes the main driver of the encapsulation of our HR culture, strategy and the execution centres around this employer brand. Just as we create brands for consumers, so we create a brand for our people and the world of employment.

D) HR plays business partner for CEO. They are the culture and people pulse for the organisation. HR should be the first to feel any vibration, inform the organisation and take action accordingly. Therefore, be a shadow behind the CEO, stepping into the brain whenever required or appropriate.

E) HR being the owner of culture is also the owner of policies, history, and the purveyor of the company story. It establishes an appreciation and awards culture; institutionalises the history; and celebrates its heroes. Once you achieve this institutionalisation, a company would very rarely disappear. There is just too much foundation for that to happen.

F) Technology and its role is already like an extra skin of HR. A reasonable size organisation just has to use technology for efficiency and ensuring data capture. But it should not de-humanise the face of HR. In the coming decades, with huge digitalisation, cognitive artificial intelligence and 3D printers (robotics), I expect this to be the greatest challenge which HR will face. Maybe the greatest challenge which the human race will face.

* thanking Kanwer Anwer Saeed for his critique
** picture is from Dreamstime.com

Cuba, the Final Frontier

imageTo use Star Trek language, imagine Captain Kirk of the Enterprise relating his mission in 21st century Cuba. “This is the story of Cuba, the final frontier, where modern man has never been. Our mission is to enter it, hunt for archaic humans, modernise them and change the culture to modernity. Our goal is to make profits out of that modernity, by bringing consumerism.”

That is the sort of briefing which must have been given in the White House a few weeks ago, as Obama flew across to meet Raul Castro. The first US President to visit since almost ever.

The BBC was recently running a series of pictures from Cuba. It is fascinating. Garish coloured cars from the 1950s, probably shipped across from US, in the days when this was a US backyard. Old men sitting smiling, chewing on their cigar. Old women dancing and younger school children studying in schools, which could well be from early 20th century. This is a place which has no money, an infrastructure which is minimal and whatever is available, is abysmal. There is no consumerism, no malls, no retail giants. The television is archaic and the internet almost non-existent. So, it carries all the pain which poverty brings. But, they seem happy and their lives belong to them. The rat race has not descended on this last bastion of antiquity.

There is a blue print of just such a place. Pre 1975, Hunza, a region in Northern Pakistan, was remote from the world. Some millenia ago, roaming bands of Greek army (invading India) or maybe Albanians or Eurasians, wandered past the Hindu Kush range and entered the Hunza valley in the Karakorum Mountains. They settled there and were remotely administered from the world. When civilisation finally caught up with them in 1975, they found people over a hundred years of age working out in the fields. They were blessedly happy, totally ignorant, healthy (there were no recorded cases of cancer for instance) and lacked stress. They lived long and did not prosper in terms of commerce. Our assessment? Of course they needed to be helped and brought into modern life! It was our mission to do that. Today, they are not as happy, live shorter, catch all the modern diseases and while they have some of modern life’s trappings, are still not prosperous. They have lost a lot and gained little.

My fear is that this is what is going to happen to Cuba also. A place of poverty and happiness, is going to be converted into a modern commerce centre, where no one will be happy and once the worlds great MNCs have taken their share of profits out of it, will be in debt and not prosperous either. Sadly, the final frontier will be conquered, and much that is human will be gone forever. It has been so for successive civilisations, including the Red Indians, Mayans and tribes in Africa. Look what happened to them. Allah forfend!

As a footnote. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones visited Cuba to do a free concert in Havana. Chanel and Lagerfeld have held fashion shows, with Paris haute couture on display, along with the stick thin modern models. That is what I mean. They are bringing happiness to the Cubans and will go away with their souls. Cuba, the final frontier! Wish they would let them be as they are.

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