Which way forward for HR: an elitist or an engagement model of people management? Part 2: A suggested way forward

29 June 2015

In the first article, Duncan Brown, Head of HR Consulting at the Institute for Employment Studies, argued that behind the market-convoy-following rhetoric of HR reward and talent management strategies, rhetoric supposedly aimed at securing the levels of employee engagement required for high organisation performance, HR policies and resources have pandered to a “talented” elite of high performing employees leaving the rest to face worsening terms and conditions. So what can and should HR professionals do to address this emerging “say-do” gap and productivity shortfall? In this final installment of a two part article, Duncan Brown continues to consider five areas of thinking and action.

Which way forward for HR: an elitist or an engagement model of people management? Part 1: The dilemmas and contradictions

25 May 2015

In the first of two articles, I consider the “say:do” gap that has emerged, in recent years, in people management policy and practice, between an engagement and employee-orientated HR philosophy and unilateralist employer and cost-driven practice, which has furthered economic inequality in the UK, and resulted in an increasingly differentiated and divided two-tier workforce. In this first article, I examine the contradictions and how they have come about within HR functions and policies, returning us, in some senses, to a Victorian approach. In the second article, I consider how the contradictions can be addressed and suggest ways forward (or is that back?) towards a more genuinely people-focused approach than can be applied and practised in our current climate.

Valuing of values

21 April 2015

There has, perhaps, never been a better time to talk about values. Public discourse seems to suggest an “us and them” culture, a growing distance between the establishment and the public, between those who sit at the top of organisations and the wider workforce. Lack of trust and an entrenched cynicism appear to be the societal backdrop to multiple institutional failures, whether it be the NHS and substandard care, or big banks and the rigging of markets, or the mis-selling of financial products. At the same time, businesses are accused of pursuing short-term shareholder value at the expense of long-term sustainability and the wider community. The scene would seem to be set for a reconsideration of the value of values, why they are so important and yet often prove so elusive and difficult to embed.

How to implement strategic workforce planning without being crushed by the elephant in the room

30 March 2015

Quite simply workforce planning has not delivered enough for the top team and its popularity has risen and fallen several times over the years, rather like playing a game of snakes and ladders. It was on top of its first ladder when large organisations planned for the number of staff they needed to rise imperiously up the hierarchy, over 40 years ago. The emphasis was almost entirely on the supply of labour. Demand was taken as given, or at the most, it was to change only slightly, which was easy to plan. This serene world was shattered by a much more turbulent, global economy. Having “planning” in your job title was like a voluntary redundancy application for many.

The future for HR business partners

2 March 2015

Business partners are here to stay. This is an easy statement to make. Ever since the first use of the term in the 1990s they have seemed an attractive proposition especially to the larger, more complex organisations. They seemed to offer the twin benefits of business focus and strategic contribution which are both key elements in HR transformation. For as long as there have been business partners HR has sought to justify itself through the added value it offered. Gone was the welfare worker; redundant was the IR specialist; and marginalised was the administrative assistant. Instead, HR wanted to prove its worth to the business.

Change – why “small data” is HRs best friend

2 February 2015

Big Data clearly has the ability to grab headlines in the business and HR arenas. But bigger data does not always mean better data. When we are concerned with leading, managing or supporting change in organisations, then “small data” can be HR’s best friend. Far from being trivial, small data on a human scale can herald early warning signs of change in organisations. That’s why it is so important for HR professionals to ensure that it is not simply brushed under the carpet.

The future of HR leadership — looking back to look forward

1 December 2014

In 1909, EM Forster wrote a fabulous book called “The Machine Stops” about a future world where people sat, alone, in their rooms, communicating with their friends and family and lecturing via their screens to thousands of people around the world. Food, drink and other goods were delivered directly to their rooms. If they did venture out of their underground lairs, they were transported vast distances, by air, around the globe. Does that sound at all familiar?

Dynamic patterning — implications for leaders in the midst of change

20 October 2014

Change is everywhere. It is not uncommon for HR professionals to talk about continually “reorganising the reorgs” as leaders and managers work to achieve demanding business goals and respond to changing needs. But, in an ever more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous working world (VUCA for short), change itself is changing. We are forever in the midst of change, and we therefore need better ways to understand and lead change from within.

Journey of leadership in the workplace

8 September 2014

For well over 100 years the workplace and environment in which we work have been constantly evolving, along with the skills and approaches that are required of managers and leaders of organisations. Among the perceived changes in social norms within society, there is an expectation of individual interaction with work. It is reasonable to conclude that an organisation’s work environment has a big influence on the skills required of its managers and leaders.

Developing a truly collaborative board

18 August 2014

It is hard to imagine a dysfunctional board leading a highly successful company. But what do we mean by dysfunctional, and what do we really need from a board for it to be fully effective? Is part of the answer to take a collaborative approach to running a board, one that emphasises the relationships and the collective operation of the whole group, asks author Alex Cameron?