Article: HR: CEOs' Most Definite Agenda


HR: CEOs' Most Definite Agenda

In this era, CHROs and senior HR leaders have become transformation agents - A People Matters and IBM Round Table
HR: CEOs' Most Definite Agenda

HR is now the CEOs single most definite agenda for creating sustainable economic value ahead of customer relationships and product innovation


When organizations start using social platforms for business purposes, productivity goes up, according to the findings of a McKinsey Global Institute July 2012 report


People have always been the foundation of any organization. However, even though businesses have taken the extra step and applied data analytics to understand their customers, the same has not been done for the workforce. This despite 71 per cent of CEOs rating human capital as their most important source of sustained economic value, according to the IBM 2012 CEO Study, which surveyed 1,700 CEOs across 60 territories.

If companies want to succeed in the present economic conditions, they need to empower their workforce. The need of the hour is to leverage the organization’s collective intelligence by creating a culture and an ecosystem where business strategy is disseminated and shared in a social and collaborative manner and employees are aligned, engaged and constantly contributing.

The second People Matters and IBM Round Table on “Optimizing Talent to Drive High Performance and Superior Business Value” in Gurgaon focused on how businesses can reinvent work in the middle of such radical change. The first edition of the round table was held in Mumbai.

According to Anmol Nautiyal, Director, IBM Smarter Workforce, future enterprises will be very different from those in the past. “We are at the cusp between the last two decades and the next two decades. The last two decades has been around how organizations were designed and structured around back-end optimization. The next two decades is all about bringing the value to the front-end by creating interactivity and digitization.The implication on the design of an organization has changed from hierarchy to social and collective intelligence, leading to faster decision-making. In this new social intelligence era, CHROs and senior HR leaders have become the transformation agents.”Clodagh O'Reilly, Head of Assessment & Leadership Consulting EMEA, Kenexa, an IBM company, shared, “HR has been trying to get a seat at the top table as a business partner for years. We’ve arrived. HR is now the CEOs’ single most definite agenda for creating sustainable economic value ahead of customer relationships and product innovation.”

Reinventing work -- A smarter workforce

As people determine the success or failure of companies, organizations are strategically thinking about their workforces, creating meaningful work experiences that engage and stimulate them to grow. With different workforce demographics, changing economic uncertainties and limited talent, companies are jostling to be ahead of the competition. The one key differentiator that can propel companies to bigger success is talent. But, recruiting the right talent alone is not enough. Retention, development and engagement are equally important. Workforce analytics can help there. Workforce analytics are integrated capabilities — processes and technologies for systematically collecting and interpreting data— that help to measure and improve workforce performance. They not only help companies to put the right people in the right place but also predict the training and development opportunities necessary to engage and empower them to perform at their highest levels.

So what is a smarter workforce? According to IBM, the concept is based on three pillars: Instrumentation for scalable and efficient deployment, integration of the workforce agenda with business objectives (relevant to the business context and its eco-system), and intelligence, making informed decisions based on insight. It is relevant to the entire employee lifecycle, starting with how you attract, source, select and onboard the workforce.

The access to instrumentation has affected our businesses for a long time, progressively since the industrial revolution. Now it is also affecting our people’s ways of working, with social platforms, cloud computing, and the like. A big theme in instrumentation is social work. When organizations start using social platforms for business purposes, productivity goes up, according to the findings of a McKinsey Global Institute July 2012 report “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies”. Explaining the reason behind the rise in productivity, Clodagh said, “This is because organizations are changing. The pace of change is so fast that people have to act independently and with the best intentions. Leaders have to clearly communicate shared values and then trust them. The thing about social is that it speeds the pace of collaboration, allowing for shared learning and the retention of organizational knowledge in a manner that is not unconstrained by hierarchies. That’s how it creates an organizational advantage,” Clodagh said.

Prasad Kurian, Associate VP-Organization Development and HRBP- Coca-Cola & Alternative Beverages at Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages shares that social platforms allow employees to voice their opinions. “Social is a great tool that can drive the so-called bottom of culture change. Since social is primarily about connecting people and their opinions, it can definitely give a voice to those employees who may not have a voice or an opportunity to be heard looking at the hierarchical set-up of the organization,” he said.

People Science Ð The 3C Model

About 63 per cent of organizations say they see material advantage in using Big Data, according to an IBM study on analytics. However, data available on people is often unstructured and subjective. IBM’s approach to collecting performance data on individuals categorizes the information available as concerning their ‘capacity’ (their innate preferences, talents and abilities) or their ‘capability’ (the learned skills, knowledge and behavior they apply at work). Capacity data is usually collected using psychometric tools designed by workforce scientists whereas capability data can be gathered by line managers.

What makes people successful high performers in your organization will be based on a combination of capacity and capability factors. What it will take to retain high performers varies from one organization to another, but analyzing past engagement and attrition data can provide insights on what might work for yours. For example, one large organization found that high performers were most likely to be retained if they were given a clear development plan for the 12-24 months ahead, even more so than if they were given higher wages. They most valued knowing what their future looks like in the organization. Another thing that needs to be kept in mind is that besides a person’s capacity and capability, a third C is also important – Culture fit. No matter how good an employee is, if s/he can’t integrate into the organization’s culture, they will be less likely to demonstrate complete dedication to the organization and its objectives. This was vouched for by Soumen Chatterjee, Global Leader, L&D, HCL Technologies, who said, “We’ve created a platform where employees across the globe are able to connect on multiple topics around competencies like the 3Cs (Culture, Capability and Capacity). Based on the responses, we realized that we were touching upon things that were not relevant to today’s generation. It is not an easy space to be in because the biggest cultural challenge is that the responses challenge your own thinking process and that’s something not a lot of business leaders easily adapt to.”

But there are problems to using this data, according to Kurian. “The fundamental challenge in using human capital analytics is that it is impossible to do a control experiment. So, we can pick holes in the inferences that we are drawing from the data. But, we can use these inferences as a starting point for more informed decision making. The additional challenge is that we need good quality historical or longitudinal data and most organizations haven’t started that journey long enough,” Kurian said.


Not long ago, simply paying the salary was enough. The organization prevailed over the person. That moved to a point where people could actually do work that was satisfying rather than just paying the bills or supporting the family; now we’ve got to the point where people want to have an identity from their work. They realize that what they do defines them. Their CV has become their brand. They change the rule dramatically by deciding who they want to work for or will not work for.

In this context, the HR team has a new agenda: It will be about what is going to be attractive for the right people and not getting everyone through the door. It will be about getting the right person to represent the brand in the future.

“The new way of empowered decision-making using data as a critical facilitator is just going to be upon us. It’s very important for business leaders and HR leaders to understand that this is a culture tidal wave that is coming. The new entrants to the workforce are all thinking this way. They are very discerning and demanding about being able to make decisions in their jobs. So the traditional hierarchical model is going to rapidly move to more empowering models. So it is important that the HR leaders recognize this change and drive it internally so that when the tide is upon us organizations will be ready for it.” David Lobo, Head-Human Resources, GE India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, said.

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Topics: C-Suite, Strategic HR, #PMRoundtables

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