Are HR Ready For New Horizons ?

In short : if tomorrow’s enterprise should be agile, it won’t only be because of how it operates but also because of the way it manages talents. Are HR ready ? It even seems that they’re asking for it

It’s useless to narrate once again the love and hate story between RH and “Social / 2.0″. A misunderstanding I explained here before my talk at HRTech Europe. If it’s easy to see how much new HR models and social technologies have in common, the challenge is to start at the right place. What supposes to clearly understand that the goal is not to deploy tools and have them used but help HR to become the progress lever they were decades ago before they lost their way and end up proposing a model that’s irrelevant with today’s socio-economic context.

In short, to become more resilient and be able to adapt and succeed in a complex and fast moving environment with very short cycles, businesses will have to think in terms of talents rather than resources. They’ll also need a more dynamic vision of talent life-cycle management programs rather than a the rigid and planned current one.

That’s exactly what Alexandre Pachulski deals with in his new book Les nouveaux horizons RH (The New HR Horizons in english…unfortunetaly there are few chances this excellent book makes it over the ocean one day). Alexandre starts with an undisputable statement : in today’s context RH struggle at aligning their talent offer with internal business needs.

But before going further I’d like to be more specific on the notion of talent which, for most people, often sounds exclusive and elitist while it’s not. As the book shows, there are many approaches to talent, many kinds of talent and one thing is obvious : talent is contextual. It’s the ability to bring an added value in a given context. And the evolution of the context, the unpredictable of our environment and the frequent disruptions we have to face makes it necessary to put adaptability at the very core of talent management at least as much as the people’s intrinsic capabilities. Talent is a people/context issue, not a diploma/position one.

After having explained what talent is, the book adopts what I’ll call a lifecycle approach. Acquisition, retention, mobilization, development….and puts the 2.0 paradigm where it should be : a means to face a need.

The complexity of our economic environment and the sociological evolution force businesses to deal with new concerns :

- less standardized profiles, often entrepreneurs of their own talent

- a new approach to career paths

- the need for real-time adaptation of the internal talent offer to business needs leads to rethink learning and make employees in charge of a large part of their own talent development.

- the fast emergence and obsolescence of skills and jobs means the end of job descriptions as we know it. HR need to identify talents without retrospection. Most students will join the workforce doing jobs that did not exist when they joined the university and will do more than ten different jobs and their carreer : that’s a reality HR also needs to adapt to.

- new generations (but not only them) get this new paradigm and are very demanding in terms of personal development. They will leave their current employers at the very time they see they don’t learn anything new.

- to be continued.

In brief, business performance needs better talent allocation. What supposes businesses are able to identify, develop and mobilize the needed talents when and where it matters. A kind of internal market where talents themselves would be in charge of their own offer, being responsible for their own adaptation to the market, a market where talents would even interact to stay individually and collectively relevant and where HR would rather play a facilitation role instead of being global planners.

There’s a reason why agility came into the HR debate. According to a Bersin & Associates study, the HR function is one of the two that contribute the least to business agility. (This deck is not the one shown at HRTech but the study is the same)

Conclusion : from both a worker or  businesses standpoint, the 2.0 paradigm allows to put these new practices at work, to do it faster and more scalable. As a matter of fact, it helps to know others better, favor engagement, makes peer-to-peer knowledge sharing more contextual and seamless…just to mention a couple of benefits. So social technology is a powerful lever provided HR being by wondering why they should change and how their new job should look like.

Fruit of the author’s long experience in the field of talent management, “Les nouveaux horizons RH” gives us food for though, shows how to adapt and transform the HR function and comes with many practitioners’ interviews telling how they did start to change things in their own company.

Last point, Pachulski shows HR people how to avoid a very common trap : the book is not about using social technologies in an HR context but about how to make HR contribute the most to business performance and people development.

So it’s time to ask the only question that matters : are we ready ?

By luck I read this book while being at HRTech Europe. I have to say I appreciated what I heard and the way the audience responded. The conference was made of three tracks : HRTech (supposed to be conventional), NextGen Talents and Social enterprise. The last two being, of course, the dedicated place for disruptive words. I spent most of my time in these one and saw that the audience was here to hear things like : “if you had to build your HR department from scratch today, would you make it exactly as it is today ?”, “what we usually call learning is only getting prepared for real learning, which happen on the job”, “do you want to stay the function that contributes the less to business agility ?…the corporate burden ?”. And when the discourse is held by HR people talking to their peers it bears fruits. HR know that a new model is needed, they’re only looking for fellow travellers.

Even the “traditional” track I followed on twitter did not look that conventional and tackled many troubling truths. It seems that talent management has reached the year zero of a new era, tools are improving and businesses start to successfully implement new ways of doing HR.

The audience (800 people) seemed aware of that…and looking for it.

By the way, here’s my presentation.