Tuesday, 17 March 2009

CIPD Managing through a Downturn conference


   Most of the sessions in today's conference have referred to the need to balance both short and long-term perspectives in people management strategy.  Some have also dealt with the potential reset and its HR consequences, that I've also been posting on.

I particularly liked the metaphor used by Arvinder Dhesi, Group Talent Management Director at Aviva, which was of a (dramatic) change in season, moving from Summer to Autumn.  Dhesi explained that this change includes the increasing democratisation of organisations ( listening more closely to the voice of the ordinary worker, as well as the ordinary shareholder and tax payer), and a corresponding reduction of faith in the celebrity CEO (the myth that these individuals have a magical power, and that autocrats are the right people to run our organisations).

The change may even involve increased use of social media to stay in touch with all the constituents of a business (although I wasn't convinced that Aviva are doing much with this technology as yet).

The metaphor changes the way other aspects of HR practice are seen - for example, the war for talent becomes looking after a forest or a fertile field.  Dhesi describes HR's role as one of constantly nurturing and guarding the environment - talent will grow itself but how fertile are we making the ground?

Dhesi also believes, and I would support his view, that this seasonal change provides HR with an opportunity to pause and reflect, to ask how well we have secured the institutions we work for.

We also need to think smartly about how we engage the rest of the business with this change.

Steve Tappin, ex-Managing Partner for Heidrick and Struggles, and author of 'the Secrets of CEOs', described how, in his view, we have the wrong CEOs at the top of most of our organisations - a lot of whom won't be able to adapt to the changes in the business cycle fast or far enough.  They may say the right thing, but their focus will be on survival and they will just cut people out.  Other types of CEO (the missionaries) may not cut enough.

In Tappin's view, the real war for talent is an internal one - and involves championing talent and HR within a company.  And this requires making cautious but brave moves from within HR.


Photo credit: Hedwig Storch


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