Don’t get too comfortable with a paradigm. It’s guaranteed to change. For years it looked like Human Resources was an exception. As consulting firms were reorganizing to go to market by industry, their HR practitioners were pushing back hard, claiming that they were in an area where industry did not matter. From their perspective, shared services were shared services, centers of expertise were centers of expertise, HR business partners were HR business partners and HR technology was HR technology: one nice big, happy sandbox. And, their point was well taken when HR was transforming for pure efficiency, leaving the transformation of HR as a true strategic business partner for the future.
That day has now arrived. We’re focusing on talent, business value, employee engagement and productivity. Suddenly, industry matters a ton. Just the other day, I saw two somewhat contradictory blogs. One was espousing building talent capability from within http://www.inc.com/laura-zander/grow-talent-dont-buy-it.html. The other was advocating getting rid of people quickly whose skills did not match up to what the future requires and training was not readily available http://www.inc.com/jeff-hoffman/let-your-best-people-go.html. I found this amusing and entertaining, but also thought-provoking. Were the authors just looking for late summer filler, or did they each have a valid point? Although they didn’t call out industry as a factor, it is clear to me that industry is precisely the factor that should drive these positions, and others. Let’s look at a few examples.
In large accounting and consulting partnerships, the talent model is based on high planned turnover, consistent with the ability to promote only a small percentage of professional staff to the partner level. Alumni of these firms often move to client companies where they become great proponents for giving the firms future business. The model also makes room for fresh university graduates trained in the latest thinking and technology. In this environment, some employees are engaged by the opportunity to develop skills and competencies that, along with the recommendation and reputation of the firm, will lead to their next job. Others are engaged by the opportunity to make partner.
The same can be true where scientific research is involved, such as in a pharmaceutical company. The research team needs the right balance of experience and the latest science coming from academia. Fresh injection of talent that can’t be grown internally is essential. At the same time, existing researchers who have lost their scientific edge and were not made to be managers should probably be retired. The key is planning for this in a transparent and fair way. This will engage the workforce by combining exciting, often breakthrough work with the opportunity to plan for a secure retirement. Respect and empathy also go a long way in this environment.
Now let’s look at large technology companies. Some employees join these organizations for a few years of experience and then go on to other careers. For this group, engagement comes from exciting new work and available development opportunities, but only if they have a manager who understands how to engage them. Longer term employees need some job security along with opportunities for continuous learning. They also need leaders and managers who can properly engage them. This industry presents a difficult model. Each year, a significant portion of the workforce becomes “overpaid” as a result of tenure. As this happens, it becomes difficult to justify keeping these people if their skills weaken at all. When results suffer in a down cycle, it is this group that gets “rightsized.” Doing this is not necessarily bad business, but it is rarely handled well. How to improve on this will be addressed in a future blog. Suffice it for now to say that transparency plays a big role.
Let’s look at the healthcare industry, particularly hospitals, nursing homes and home healthcare. The industry is growing rapidly and there is a war for talent. Employees need flexible working arrangements, decent pay, job security and experienced leaders and managers. Dismissing employees who need to be upskilled is not the first choice, particularly where they have developed clinical skills, over time, which are not taught in the schools. Strong engagement here will require much better managers and structured development, not easy things to achieve in an environment where much of leadership and management were trained to be clinicians, not managers. This industry too deserves deeper attention in a future blog.
As I said at the start, industry matters. More to come on this critical point. …