Friday, 31 December 2010

Does HR need to re-invent itself?

A recent article by Dean Shoesmith, President of the Public Sector People Managers Association (PPMA) declares:

"The public service reform agenda provides both an opportunity and a challenge. HR can build and establish its reputation as a key strategic function if it is at the heart of managing change, helping to facilitate service delivery redesign and building the necessary leadership and management skills for sustained public service transformation. However, if HR is preoccupied by its traditional activities, such as hand-holding line managers, then it will be left behind and its reputation as a transactional function will be reinforced."

Brave talk by Mr Shoesmith which, from our observations, is broadly accurate and true of many private sector HR departments as well as the public sector departments he refers to.

We have worked with a small handful of HR departments in 2010 who are effectively managing change and a couple of those who are the driving force behind organisational change. What is common among those who are truly working as strategic partners is an attitude of commerciality, of assessing likely risks, making informed decisions based on probabilities and swiftly implementing those decisions. Qualities more commonly found in entrepreneurs rather than traditional HR managers!

It seems HR does need to re-invent itself and be at the forefront of driving change in order to take up the available challenges and opportunities in the public sector referred to by Dean Shoesmith.
What skills, qualities and attributes do you see as essential for them to have?

Friday, 10 December 2010

A warm leader

Like much of the country I was snowed in at home for a few days last week. With food stocks running very low, children being hungrier than usual because of all the outdoor activity and shelves in the local shops becoming bare, the inevitable trek to the supermarket had to be done. It felt much like Christmas Eve with the crowds, the queues and fellow customer temperaments switching easily between joyful and grumpy.

When I was next in line for my turn at the till I watched a gentleman approach each till. While he was still some distance away I asked the young man at the till who he was. He replied that they had been told that one of the senior directors of the company was at the store today as he lived close-by and no trains were running, so he hadn’t been able to make it to London. The assumption was made that this was the senior exec.

Once the gentleman was closer I overheard his discussions with the till staff. He thanked each of them for making it into work and enquired about their journey, how they would be getting home, the shifts they were working, and finished each conversation by thanking them again. I observed a customer who appeared to be wanting to use the opportunity to complain about something to this exec; who listened and acknowledged what the customer was saying and then turned the conversation around by asking the customer how wonderful he thought the staff were for managing to make it into work to keep the store open in such awful weather conditions.

The whole scenario made me think......
• How many other leaders have expressed their gratitude to their staff who have made huge efforts in recent days?
• How often those very senior people hit the shop floor and speak to the “ordinary” staff and the “ordinary” customer?
• What impact that exec’s gratitude will have on the engagement and loyalty of the staff?

As an “ordinary” customer I was impressed with what I observed that day as I expect were many others. Will it increase my loyalty and commitment as a customer? Yes, probably it will.