Playing With the Big Kids: How HR has Grown Up in the Family (Part Three)

This is the final installment of a three-part series discussing the findings of a recent HR survey of the Profit 100: Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies. The purpose of the survey was to determine what successful organizations are currently doing within the HR realm and where they see themselves heading in the future.  Read Part One and Part Two.

Part Three – Adulthood

By Lynda Zugec

Let’s suppose, as the preceding articles suggest, that HR at its infancy is about maintenance and communication as well as interpersonal collaboration and that the adolescent phase of HR concerns development and change along with an increased weighting on training design and delivery. So then what does adulthood look like?

In 2010, The Workforce Consultants conducted a survey of the organizations listed on the Profit 100: Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies. In order to be listed on the Profit 100, organizations are assessed and ranked according to criteria such as revenue, growth percentage, and profit margin. The purpose of the survey was to determine what successful organizations are currently doing within the Human Resources realm and where they see themselves heading in the future, perhaps proving some insight into adulthood.

As most can attest, adulthood differs depending on a number of factors, but is most astutely recognized as having arrived once a broader worldview and wider knowledge are displayed. It is in this that we recognize the tremendous value add from an HR that has developed “Industry and Global Awareness”, “Business Knowledge” and “Systems Thinking and Knowledge” along with a strong “Strategic Capability”.

As demonstrated by survey results, the most successful growth organizations were at the forefront of the HR field. With respect to “Industry and Global Awareness”, over 70% of successful HR departments indicated having  a “very good” or “excellent” “understanding of the current and future climate of our company”. Surely, having a pulse on one’s family within the larger framework of society would be beneficial.

 In terms of the business knowledge HR has acquired, a full 96% indicated that their “understanding of the history of the organization” was “very good” or “excellent” and 86% maintain that they have an above average “understanding of the organization’s values, mission, and vision.” Such high numbers may be a result of the newly arranged families (or organizations) comprising the Profit 100’s fastest growing. Indeed, if you are “new”, your history is more likely part of an orientation package than a legacy dating back to the early years.

Apparently as HR grows up in the family, there is also increased awareness with respect to the impact that can be impressed upon the family. Over 91% of HR departments rated their “understanding of how each section of the business interrelates” as “’very good” or “excellent” and their “ability to realize the implications of HR interventions” was also “very good” or “excellent”, the top 2 ratings, for 82% of respondents.

As would be anticipated when plunging into adulthood, HR is required to exert more effort in its “Strategic Capability”. Progress on this front is much more a continuous journey rather than a destination with even the largest and most developed HR departments consistently adding resources. Appreciable energy can be directed in this arena to propel HR further into adulthood with minor adjustments. Almost 50% of HR departments indicated that “their ability  to be involved in strategic planning activities” was average or below with similar results for “the ability to plan for workforce development.” If we review these 2 survey results in tandem, how can HR plan for development if not even informed of the direction in which the family is going? Or, perhaps more interestingly, how can the family ask HR to contribute meaningfully while being uninformed?

Growing from infancy to adulthood seems to be the logical progression of HR, but should it be? As children seek to become older, adults seek to become younger. Some younger adults seem older and some older adults seem younger. What is HR to do?

The most favourable stance is for HR to figure out “where” and “what” it needs to be “when”. As unclear guidance as this may be, HR needs to be flexible according to what the parents, or shareholders, say, as well as the kind of siblings it has. Parenthood may not be all that far away. After all is said and done, who knows when you’ll have to be prepared to take care of finance!

Lynda Zugec is the Founder/Chairman of The Workforce Consultants, an international network of specialized consultants within the area of Human Resources.

About The Workforce Consultants: The Workforce Consultants is a network of specialized consultants within the area of HR. The consultants that comprise the network are at the forefront of research and practice. Professors and graduate students at universities worldwide collaborate with industry professionals to deliver organizational HR solutions.


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