If you’ve begun reading this article because you wanted to know how to lead a ‘wildly successful’ HR strategy in your organisation – consider putting your focus on the latter half of the title.
Because as a HR leader, you simply can’t become ‘wildly successful’ if you don’t know what HR in the modern world is, or how to manipulate its dynamics.
It was precisely to gain more insights into the domain of modern HR that hundreds of HR professionals gathered in Chicago for the Oracle HCM World Conference 2016 on April 5th-7th of this year.
The conference couldn’t have come at a better time – for the modern age demands HR to let go of processes and ideas shackling its speed, and to pick up the tools that will actually help make an impact to the business.
Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources best summarised this in his opening keynote.
“Over time, HR has become powerful, less powerful, and powerful again,” Cappelli said. HR today has an immediate opportunity to drop failed and unnecessary ideas; such as the obsession with “Millennials”. “What problem are we solving?” he asked.
To explore what HR needs to do to win in the modern age, here are three key lessons I learnt which can help CHROs become significantly successful today through personal interviews and media roundtable discussions:
1. Put employees first
At various aspects of the conference, the message of not underestimating employee engagement was constantly reiterated – mostly so by Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle.
“I keep trying to evangelise that HR is not unique to a bunch of HR people – it is the strategy of the company. As more and more CEOs get this, and as you convince them that engagement drives productivity, and productivity drives performance and performance drives cash flow and earnings – then you get a process that has a chance to enhance your financials,” he said.
Yazad Dalal, senior director, HCM transformation, Oracle Asia Pacific reiterated this notion, explaining that companies simply cannot survive if they spend money, time, resources on satisfying customers and ignore employees.
“It’s remarkable what happens when a company focuses on their employees first, by giving them respect, engaging them and boosting their overall satisfaction rate. If CHROs can focus on such an employee-first mentality, they will automatically provide them with a more attractive place to work. Their hiring costs will lower because fewer people will leave, and because more people will come to them organically. Their profits and revenues will go up because their employees feel proud of where they work,” he said.
2. Solidify HR’s role by leverage on the synergies between HR and marketing
In line with the notion of giving employees as much respect as firms give customers, another key message highlighted at the conference was how CHROs should start thinking more like chief marketing officers (CMOs) and learn from the function to create a winning employer brand
“I think we should stop saying HR, its company. HR is the company. We have to get away from this evil mentality. HR is the company, the people are the product. It’s a simple recipe, if you treat your employers like your customers, they will be happy, make more money,” Dalal explained.
Echoing him, Aaron Green, vice president, HCM, Oracle dwelled into the benefits of HR acting as internal marketing officers who are able to align the employer brand with the consumer brand.
“The CMO looks at all aspects of a business – they look at sales, the pipeline numbers, customer buying behaviours, market numbers, a l of those things. And then they make very calculated decisions about how to attract new clients and retain exiting clients,” he said.
“HR needs to start doing those same things a CMO does. Remove the word customer, put in the word employee and there’s just no difference. Maybe it’s not retaining customers, but retaining staff by putting in a new functional work space or by making non-traditional reward programmes. I think that forward looking CHROs understand this and those are the ones who really look at their role as really encompassing not just workplace safety but what does the workplace look and feel like.”
3. Don’t be afraid to try new things
The beauty of modern HR today is about doing everything on an HR application, on the Cloud. And that is why Green believes a key thing which CHROs need to master today is their proficiency around data and analytics.
“In order to really contribute and be effective, CHROs have to have comfort and fluency – no not comfort – with data and they need to be as fluent in data as they are as with people,” he says, adding that fluency, when compared to comfort, involved having a real, deep understanding of not just what the data is made of, but what drives the numbers.
The significance of this, is, he adds, is perhaps best felt in the way HR is able to contribute to the business.
“That’s really what we consider to be modern HR. It’s a world that has that steering voice, a strategic voice, at a seat at a table in the same way that their peers do. And they’re able to make not just observations but recommendations and implement strategies and techniques that very much drive those objects.
“Wildly successful CHROs are the ones who are testing the limits of HR, I suppose, and getting very comfortable with social media and new styles of learning in the workplace. I really believe that all leading CHROs are the ones who understand that those lunge pools that we use in our personal lives, we should be using professionally.”
Green’s message of “testing the limits of HR” was indeed, pivotal, as it implied both a revaluation of how its concepts have been used in the past, and an provocation of how they might be used in the future.
But all said and done, however, the conference emphasised on the need for HR to be proactive, look forward and speed up the path to success.
“Do you know what happens if you always look in the rear view mirror? You’ll crash,” Green said.
“HR needs to adopt that mindset – if you’re always looking at the rear view mirror, or obsessing over your past data, you’re going to crash. If you’re looking at the rear view mirror to make a decision to go forward, then you’re actually make objectives and that’s the mindset HR absolutely needs to adopt.”