HR should focus on 'aggregate talent' over individuals, says Hamel

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HR as a function can pay too much attention to how individuals develop and should focus on "collective capability", according to London Business School visiting professor of strategy and entrepreneurship Gary Hamel.

Talking to HR magazine at the 2014 Global Leadership Summit, Hamel explained the primary function of HR is to "understand and amplify the human factor in an organisation".

"How do we build these factors into our organisation, how we do we make them more innovative and engaging?" he asked. "Not a lot of HR professionals think of themselves as the architects or the engineers or organisational capability. The dilemma is that so much of HR is about hiring individuals."

Hamel said this is particularly relevant in the case of embedding innovation into companies.

"One element is taking individuals and training them to be better innovators, but there's also an institutional element to it," he continued.

"The institutional side is, how do I create an environment that lends itself to innovation? This includes the kind of people we hire, the kind of metrics we use and the way we structure our organisation, the tools we give them."

HR's fundamental role in this involves creating "deep structures of capability" that will differentiate high-performing organisations from those with lower performance, according to the London Business School professor.

"Looking beyond individuals you have to ask: 'How do I aggregate talent and create an environment where we can do more collectively than we could ever do on our own?'" Hamel concluded.

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