Business Savvy

04 Jul 2012

Michael Moran

Insight is defined as

  • Business savvy: what makes a business successful?
  • Context savvy: understanding market trends, what's happening outside?

And Organisational savvy: apprehending the hard and soft factors in running a business. The impact of people, culture and leadership.

Scarily the research showed three fifths of HR practitioners agree with the need to build our understanding of business issues in their organisation but around one third were indifferent or disagreed!

I want to focus on how you become business savvy and reflect on some of what I believe are significant implications for those wishing to peruse a career in HR.

The research goes on to highlight the foundations of business savvy as:

  • An in depth understanding of business
  • An ability to generate insight from evidence and data
  • The ability to connect and collaborate with curiosity, purpose and impact.
  • Finally, to lead with integrity, consideration and challenge.

So I am wondering what does all the above mean for the career strategy of a HR professional. How do you get to grips with understanding where profitability comes from?

Whether the organisation should be growing organically or by acquisition? The significance of market share analysis. Or perhaps more fundamentally how do we learn about ratio analysis, regression correlations and those metrics that determine KPI's. Would a HR Professional be better served by a MBA than CIPD?

It is my belief you need both. It isn't sufficient to rely on vocational expertise. You need the academic rigour in HR that a CIPD qualification gives you, but you also need an in depth grounding in business that the CIPD doesn't give. Too many HR professionals simply don't understand the basics. In addition the benefit of studying with other management disciplines will prove beneficial in significantly widening your network. I always believe we learn much more from others.

So is that sufficient? It's simply not tenable that the next generations of HR Leaders will spend the entirety of their careers in HR. Anyone with aspirations of becoming an HRD should ensure time in marketing & sales and operations as a matter of urgency. I also include line management experience as part of that induction. Far too many HR professionals have never managed anything other than the HR department! It also begs the question that an early stage in your career you will need to commit to a sector. I never got the concept of the gifted amateur, the HRD who moves across sectors bestowing best HR practice. To be truly insightful you need to understand the business. To understand a business you need to have worked within it. Indeed you will have greater employability if you have worked for at least two competitors in the same sector. In an increasingly global world, gaining that experience on more than one continent will also prove beneficial.

So there you have it. A career plan for aspiring HRDs. Quickly find a business sector that you are passionate about. Give yourself 2/3 generalist roles in your early 20s to find this sector. Ensure you work for two of the main players in the sector. Move from HR into the line, sales & marketing or operations or both. Have significant line management experience. Work overseas. Get CIPD qualified and a MBA. You will then be in the ideally placed to be a HRD.

Food for thought!


The Workplace Health Movement

15 Mar 2012

Dr Peter Mills

Thinking back to barely 10 years ago and I have little doubt that the organizers would have struggled to attract a tenth of the delegates that were present on the two days of the conference.

When introducing myself at meetings I often tell the story of my early days in the industry; talking to potential clients about the importance of employee health and being met with blank or even perplexed looks. Fast forward a decade and it is clear that workplace health has evolved from a niche area for a zealous few to a full blown movement.

I think this gradual change has occurred for a number of reasons. First, and probably the main reason, is the research that has been done over this period of time that has shown the clear link between individual health status and work performance. Although there probably always existed an intuitive belief among many that employee health was an important component of productivity, it seems that the majority of employers didn't take much notice until there was unequivocal, scientific evidence of the fact. What has probably clinched the debate is the demonstration that if you can improve individuals' health status, by getting them to address their lifestyle and behavioural risks, you can also improve their, and hence the employer's, productivity and performance.

There are also probably a number of other reasons that have galvanized many employers to invest in workplace health initiatives. The ageing workforce, the competition for talent and the need to continually innovate are all areas that can be enhanced by having a workforce that is fit both mentally and physically. With so much of the UK's economic output being driven by the service sector this reality is here to stay and it is my belief that if you, as an employer, don't embrace the "movement" then you are likely to get left behind.


I'm backing the campaign to get together those who have an interest in reforming employment legislation

07 Dec 2011

Helen Giles

Sian Harrington is right to place her bet that reform of regulation of itself won't bring about employment recovery. But I believe it would make a significant contribution in a whole variety of ways. One example is the amount of time and money spent by public authorities on compliance with regulations that add nothing to service and social outcomes: reform would enable those bodies to become more efficient at a time when they are being forced to reduce staff.

My second example concerns the reluctance of many employers to take on as apprentices high risk groups such as young people who have had not previously had the opportunity to learn the work ethic when they have a disproportionate array of rights and protections from Day One.

Those of us advocating reform are doing so because we believe that it will be in everybody's best interests at the end of the day, including employees and those who want to find work, not because we want unfettered power for employers.

To find out more about HR magazine's campaign, click here


Engagement is just a posh name for TLC

21 Nov 2011

Michael Moran

I am suffering from engagement overload. Whilst it is pleasing to hear what you have know all along that engaged employees drive business success, it is after all the bleeding obvious. The business case is powerful, Tannith Dodge's session highlighted the differences between variances in engagement scores between shops and the variances between upper and lower quartile business performance. Apparently stores with the highest engagement scores sell more!

The difference between upper and lower quartile stores in their engagement scores is £104 million in sales.

My social media drinks session told me that not all my fellow delegates at the conference shared my view on this one, and yes there might be other factors at play, but any data that persuades the CEO to focus on the people dynamics of the business is a good thing in my book.

However does this renewed CEO interest in what we do, put us under added pressure to find the levers that drive engagement. Whilst listening to two excellent sessions on engagement initiatives in Essex County Council and Coca Cola Enterprises ( Supply Chain Management) I was struck that with average engagement figures ranging between 50-60% which mirrors the Gallup one third,one third, one third model. Most organisations have one third of their employees actively engaged, one third actively disengaged and one third not disengaged, but not actively engaged. So at any one at least one third of your workforce don't give a flying.

Assuming you are in the actively engaged category, and you do give a flying, what's the quickest lever you can pull. The MacLeod report highlighted that employees want an organisation with a clear vision and know their their part in that vision. They demand managers who are actively interested in them, listen to them and develop them in their careers. Finally the want organisations that have integrity and play their part in the wellbeing of the community they serve. Towers Perrin study of 200,000 employees, in 18 countries over 10 years put it more simply. Employees want opportunity and wellbeing (an organisation that cares about them), pride in the company and or brand, trust and involvement.

It is my view that personal development lever is quick and easy to pull, and will increase job satisfaction, enhance productivity and improve the customer experience. Additional by-products include reduced attrition, and reduce absence.

Since I know I am not particularly an innovative thinker, I am certain I am not the only one who has had this idea. Why hasn't HR embraced it, or perhaps more accurately why haven't we successfully sold the concept to the line.

Here's the rub. There is an inherent conflict between employee aspirations and management objectives and capability. Employees find it difficult to trust their bosses. We are stuck in a parent child relationship. It takes a special type of manager who can be trusted with the secret I am thinking of leaving my present role. Typically employees are reluctant to enter into such conversations since I might disadvantage myself in future pay and career conversations. Ironically employees are more likely to share their secrets with external recruiters which given their propensity to be driven by commission payments, impartial advice it is not. Moreover it is not in the manager's interest to move the high performers out. They get rewarded for delivery, helping your key players to move elsewhere in the business is counter intuitive. Assuming that I am altruistic, do I really know opportunities exist elsewhere in the organisation. So there we have it a catch I 22.

So what can we do about?

We need to sell the benefits of engaged employees to the line. Yes I mean that. We need passionate advocacy. We need hard data, making the business case . We need to name and shame low engagement and reward and celebrate high engagement. Praise engaging managers will in itself drive up engagement.

We need to train managers to have career conversations after all we train them to hire and fire perhaps we should address the bit in the middle. In my experience managers do not get training into how to listen. Just taking the time out to listen, showing genuine interest, exploring career possibilities will significantly drive engagement. As a big Malcolm Gladwell fan, to become an expert in anything you need 10,000 hours of practice. So let's not kid ourselves this is a one off training that will overnight turn our line managers to expert career coaches, however I am minded of the Hawthorne experiment. During the second world war psychologists were exploring the optimum level of illumination in munition factories. They were surprised to discover that the pilot group who experienced no change in illumination also experienced increased productivity. Just the additional TLC drove up product.

Perhaps that's the key driver of engagement. Show them you care. That can't be that difficult can it?


How do you manage HR on an international level?

12 Sep 2011

Jeff Benviniste

On a domestic level, the management and nurturing of talent is the driving force for most industries and therefore the primary driver of HRM policies is its human resource needs. However on a global level, there are more complex drivers at play.

The internationalisation of operations involves locating, sourcing, managing and developing talent in different parts of the world. This is a tough job, considering the different needs of the organisation in often very diverse cultural settings or business environments. Indeed, many international organisations still struggle to effectively globalise HRM and thus develop effective capabilities to find, select and manage people across diverse teams, business unit and territories. Despite the benefits of internationalising, some global businesses still retain the concentration of workforce and assets in their home countries or region.

Effectively internationalising HRM policies involves understanding and investigating of the drivers of international HRM before integrating and implementing them as part of our everyday HR activities.

So what are the key drivers of HRM policy within this international context?

There's the obvious challenge of balancing the standardisation of HR policies across the entire organisation with the customisation of HR functions in different business units located across different countries. Schuler and Tarique (2007) describe the factors that drive international HRM under two key headings - functional realignment and global capabilities.

In terms of functional realignment there are five specific factors that drive the HRM strategy of multinational companies - 1) efficiency; 2) information exchange or organisational learning; 3) international provisions; 4) convergence of key business processes; and 5) localisation of HRM policies.

With regard to the progressive development of global capabilities, there are factors to consider such as: 1) focusing on collective service structures; 2) enabling of different HR processes on both a regional and global scale; and 3) pursuing global venues of excellence.

Organisations need to have a better understanding of these drivers and how they influence HRM policy. This would ensure that HRM policy is able to offer standard functions and practices whilst allowing enough room for the customised alignment of these policies between HR functions across the world.

Jeff Benveniste is a partner at sourcing and recruitment company Global Edge


You shoot yourself in the foot if you fail to arm staff with financial education

06 Sep 2011

David Woods - Deputy Editor of HR magazine

What a year it has been. Since we published our 2010 results this time last year, there has been one word dominating the news: cuts. The budget cuts afflicting the public sector have reached deep into the HR field, with pensions and headcounts coming under the Government's spotlight. But, as the savvy HRD knows, these issues also have a way of filtering through into the private sector.

The importance of reward in HR strategy was evident even in the sheer number of respondents to this year's survey: 516, up from 348 in 2010. With pervasive pay freezes - and even suggestions of pay cuts - reward and benefits remain at the heart of our respondents' strategic focus. A clear majority - some 59.1% - say base salary competitiveness is their number one reward issue this year.

But with a year to go until pensions auto-enrolment pushes retirement savings to the forefront of HR, it is disturbing the survey found only a third of respondents (34.5%) have a strategy in place for pensions, while a sixth (16.1%) haven't given it any thought at all. This is only a slight improvement on 2010's report, when 21.3% had a plan in place for pensions and 21.9% had not given the issue any consideration.

And with the economic outlook still characterised as 'uncertain' and employees in consequence worrying about their future, engagement is key - 42.9% of CEOs, MDs or HR professionals rated this as their number one people issue for 2012. Employees are experiencing worries around long-term savings, investments, mortgages and debt. This is matched with a hardly groundbreaking growth in GDP (0.2% at the end of July) and economists threatening another - dare I whisper it? - recession. A perfect opportunity, you would think, for employers to be reaping the benefits of providing financial education to staff. Our survey shows this is not the case.

Only 34.5% are providing education on pensions (down from 40.7% in 2010) and the drop in interest in financial education strategy is evident for ISAs, mortgages, shares, insurance and debt management. A massive 52.7% of employers said they do not offer financial education and they have no plans to do so.

With changes afoot in pay, pensions and headcount, employers who don't arm their staff with information about their personal finances are shooting themselves in the foot, especially if they want to engage staff with their benefits.

I just hope the information in this report can serve as a wake-up call… click here to read more.


In this issue: August 2015
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Stand and deliver: Fresh austerity measures are on the way – but can public sector HR seize the strategic opportunity?

Eureka moment: HR at engineering firm AMFW

Going for gold: Maintaining the Olympic legacy

On the money: Providing innovative rewards

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