Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Review of day 2.

I made some poorer choices in sessions today so found some of day 2 a bit disappointing. The session on entrepreneurial leadership was OK but I should have gone to see Emmanuel Gobillot on The Connected Leader as I hear he was a good speaker with some provoking ideas. I’ve previously referred to these in a comment to my post on my daughter’s sports day (there is a connection!). So I’m going to pick up the mp3 recording of his presentation, and buy his book, and will post on my perspectives once I’ve been through these.

Or I could have gone to see Peter Reilly from the Institute of Employment Studies and speakers from Fujitsu and Nortel talking on The Changing Face of the HR Function. They discussed CIPD research finding that 53% of organisations have restructured their HR function in the last year and over 80% have done so in the last five years. The most common reason for this is to enable the HR function to become more strategic. However, the biggest challenges that HR departments face, in their bid to become more strategic include developing the necessary skills, roles and capabilities (not setting up shared services or outsourcing). This also aligns with the BCG survey findings that developing as a strategic partner is much more important than HR transformation.

And maybe instead of the Future of European HR I should have gone to see John Boudreau and Beyond HR: The New Science of Human Capital. I didn’t because I have read and seen Boudreau quite a bit before and don’t think his thinking on talentship is as clear or strategic as mine on what I call strategic HCM, but which covers very similar ground to talentship – see my post on Which Direction - Beyond HR?

But my main issue with Boudreau is this Decision Science thing. I absolutely don’t believe that strategic HR is based on decision science. The more important and strategic the elements of people management we are considering, the less amenable to this sort of perspective they become.

Yes, it may work for road sweepers at Disney. But take hot spots – a lot of Lynda’s ideas may have originated in her research, but you don’t create a hot spot in your organisation by measuring levels of engagement and co-operation etc. You do it my artfully shaping the environment in the right way so that if you’re lucky the results you’re after will emerge. Art not science.

This is what I think is the most important issue in the changing face of the HR function. It’s not transformation and it’s not even capability, it’s mindset. What do we believe about strategic people management?

We all know we need to be strategic. But what Geoff Armstrong, John Boudreau, Allan Leighton, David Rock and myself mean by this are all very different things. I think we need to have some deep and insightful conversations about this if we’re to move forward on our agenda.