In the last post we looked at the empty rhetoric of ‘talent management’ but we could equally have asked to see the substance behind ‘employer branding’, ‘employer of choice’, ‘employee engagement’, ‘competence’, ‘HR business partners’, ‘e-learning’, ‘social media’ – the list goes on and on and it is almost as if we are moving further and further away from actually making a concrete connection between people management and business performance.
This is what ‘Team HR’ has become, a mere logo, a low value brand that is obsessed with appearance and style rather than substance. ‘Team L&D’ hail from the same stable and struggle with the concept, never mind the practice, of putting a $ sign on their impact, preferring instead to concentrate on the ‘process’ and activity rather than business outcome.
If you want a perfect, bang-up-to-date example of what I mean you only have to read the cover story on this month’s HR Magazine from the American Society for HRM (SHRM) Vol. 56 No. 8 entitled “The Care and Feeding of High-Potential Employees” by Robert J. Grossman suggesting that “Up to one-quarter of your top talent might be fed up and thinking of leaving your organization.”
No doubt many SHRM readers will be fascinated by this apparent insight but my reaction is – are you sure you have identified the right problem? It is not at all clear what this article is about. It seems to be about hanging onto ‘talent’ but offers the reader no evidence that these “high potentials” are actually great performers. It also assumes that Eric G., as a “freshly minted Stanford MBA”, must have been a real catch (does having an MBA guarantee that?) but only reveals that he relocated 5 times in 3 years. One could reasonably deduce from this that he could not possibly have performed effectively in any of those roles. Have a read for yourself and see what you think.
This blog/book is a determined attempt to change the emphasis of HR, L&D and articles like this from process to evidence. It is building a new brand of HR and L&D that is not concerned with vacuous logos such as ‘talent management’, ‘human capital’ or ‘analytics’ but a fundamentally different brand of management with clearly distinguishing features. Right at the top of the list is probably the most obvious and simple point of all – measurable business needs have to drive HR and L&D – not the other way around.
The evidence to date is very clear – every survey of HR and L&D from around the globe will reveal remarkable consistency in approach, process and activity – not differentiation. How can that be when there are literally thousands of different organisations, in different markets and at different stages in their life cycle? All of them have their own unique problems and issues but what they get from HR and L&D are standardised answers. Whereas the evidence-based manager asks what does the business really need? What business need led to the hiring of people like Eric G, who seem to be difficult to satisfy? How might the business suffer if a ‘lesser mortal’ were to be employed instead (and may already have been passed over)? On the scant information offered by this article it appears many American corporations are still much more preoccupied with and obsessed by CV’s than they are with results and tangible value.