Don’t Abolish HR Yet!

Data driven HR

In an article written in Harvard Business Review, Dave Ulrich, a Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and co-founder of the RBL Group, addressed a raging debate – ’Should we do away with HR? He goes on to say,

“The debate arises out of serious and widespread doubts about HR’s contribution to organizational performance. It is often ineffective, incompetent, and costly; in a phrase, it is value sapping. Indeed, if HR were to remain configured as it is today in many companies, I would have to answer the question above with a resounding “Yes—abolish the thing!”

In the light of the economic crises in the corporate world in the last few years and the changes that have also been precipitated by emerging start-ups, HR has to become future forward to stay relevant. HR professionals can help turn aspirations into actions by focusing on three things:  talent, culture and leadership.

HR professionals should then be the architects of talent, culture, and leadership as they help line managers deliver what they promise.

In the course of NxtSpark’s work on Talent Development, I work closely with organizations on challenges faced by them with their people – ranging from change management, competency development, leadership building, mentoring, etc.  Most of the times, our clients approach us not with the problem per se but with the manifestation of the problem. During our conversations, on how the interventions designed and deployed by us is going to help them, I have realized that their focus is usually on the episodes where the business manager has faced the challenges with his people in executing and implementing and they want overnight solutions. As is the case with any behavioral change, it takes time, a process and an environment that sustains the change.

Basis experience of working with the clients, I have sifted the crucial observations and parameters of making HR interventions work. Here are the top pointers on how to get the best out of such HR interventions:

Solve the problem, not the manifestation: Getting to the root of the problem is important. Most of the times the attempt is to address the manifestation rather than the problem itself. One of our clients had a challenge around their managers not being able to do ‘Next Level Thinking’. The workshop was then designed on what’s causing this challenge, providing conceptual frameworks for the participants to get equipped on the skills to overcome this challenge and simulating case situations to enable them overcome that problem in the workshop.

Align the intervention outcomes with the business objectives: This is perhaps the most important criteria to ensure success of any HR intervention. Without linking the outcomes with the business objectives the training becomes an ‘offsite’ to relax, network with other colleagues in the organizations and only to go back to their work with no clarity on what has been learnt and how to use in the workplace. E.g. if a communication skill improvement has been planned through a workshop, it should be linked to in what sphere the communication needs to improve – whether it is with the customers or internally with other colleagues of the team or another department. Having clarity around this ensure that the workshop has enough activities and modules to simulate the real situations in which those skills will be tested.

Don’t look for quick fixes: Business managers want overnight solutions to problems that have persisted for ages. When dealing with HR interventions, one has to realize that people base their world views based on their background and that has been built over years of experience. Once the change has been set into motion in a workshop, it takes a little bit of time and constant encouragement to reinforce and continue the process of change in the individual.

Ensure follow-through happens: After the training or the workshop, it’s imperative that the business manager provides necessary projects and assignments to the people who have gone through the workshop. These projects allow the people to implement the concepts that they have learnt and receive feedback on how they can improve.

Identify and track post intervention metrics: Metrics for measuring the success of workshops need to be identified in advance and then tracked at regular intervals. Feedback from peers, managers and customers can be taken to track the progress on the identified metrics. These metrics can then be processed further through Analytics tools to give insights on what can be done to improve performance, achieve business objectives, have sharply-focused training programs, design better compensation structures etc.