Monday 19 November 2012

#HRSummitExpo - The Credible Activist


DSCN4878.jpg  There are some nice links in the programme at the Miiddle East HR Summit.  So after Dave Ulrich yesterday talking about his outside-in competencies, today and tomorrow is organised by competency area.

We're starting with the Credible Activist competency and a well delivered presentation from Christel Heydemann, EVP Corporate HR from Alcatel Lucent.

Christel has presumably been selected for this session because she was a business executive who was selected to run HR because the CEO thought this function said 'no' too often.  She got lots of good feedback on her appointment because she was someone who had been in the field and understands the company.  (Not that pure HR people can’t develop this level of credibility but it’s a useful warning shot to those who haven’t or say no too much.)

Christel saw her challenge as making HR simple, selling it and executing:

-   Simplification because Alctel Lucent face the same issues as other organisations.  And a lot of what they do is common sense (Christel repeated this point several times).  So Christel grouped activities into three areas:

  • High performance culture
  • Execution of strategic workforce plan
  • Attract and develop talents


-   Sales because the company had lots of initiatives but people weren't clear what these were for.  She spent time explaining to managers what they were doing and simplifying corporate initiatives.  Often this was about explaining what the team was already doing - so there was no resistance.

-   Execution - doing what was needed well.  For example, one activity I quite liked was setting up an internal job opportunity market, 'ijob', where employees post CVs (or use their Linkedin profiles), and hiring managers post internal job opportunities.


Credible? - yes, clearly.

Activist? - yes - Christel clearly understands what she wanted to do in the business.

Great HR? - well, I’d have liked to have seen more...  That's not a criticism of Christel or Alcatel Lucent HR - they've skillfully executed the approach they’ve wanted to use.  It's just that I personally would have focused more on developing their HR strategy.  Please note that I'm not arguing for unnecessary complexity.  But I do think great HR has to involve more than just common sense.

This is part of my issue with outside-in.  Christel talked about listening to what managers, employees (and yes, customers) want and translating these into HR terms.  Fine - that's going to help you gain credibility.  But I’d have wanted to see more in this presentation (other than the ijob site) that would help Alcatel Lucent gain competitive advantage.  Doing the same as other organisations, or doing common sense things well doesn't do achieve this.

And to me, creating competitive advantage is the key opportunity for HR.  So I don't think practitioners can really be seen as credible activists unless we're focusing on this agenda.

But I suppose that’s also more about the Strategic Positioner competency which we’re moving onto next…


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