Three ways HR can ensure the business is set up for success

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Kiddy & Partners

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The last two years have been a period of unprecedented disruption to our professional and personal lives. There’s no doubt about it, the world has changed.  Covid-19 has caused a seismic shift in how we all work, and it’s likely we’ll never return to pre-Covid workplace normality.

Do you have the right leaders for 2022 and beyond?

A 2021 Gartner poll shows that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. The new normal is here to stay, and in order to move forward, organisations and their leaders need to pause and reflect to examine what has changed in terms of leadership and talent, and therefore how to adapt to forge a strong future.

Many HR Directors attending our virtual roundtables throughout lockdown 1.0 remarked on the different demands this ‘new normal’ places on leaders.  For instance, widespread remote working proved problematic for leaders with a command-and-control style, whereas those who developed a value-based approach to leadership thrived. The key question is: The world has changed, have your leaders?

HR have a critical role in getting businesses back on track, and supporting leaders to develop the strengths needed to engage and motivate virtual and hybrid teams.  Many HR leaders right now are undertaking an urgent review of their critical talent populations to determine: Do we have the right leaders, with the right capabilities, to take our business where it needs to go now?   

Our data indicates that, even before the first lockdown, almost a third of organisations were unsure that their leaders have the skills required to achieve their current business strategy.  Now that most business strategies have had to be torn up and reformulated, that level of uncertainty is at an all-time high.  Given that effective leadership will be a key differentiator between the organisations that survive Covid-19 and those that don’t, it’s HR’s responsibility to provide certainty around this. But how? We advise organisations to approach this by following some simple steps: 

We advise organisations to approach this by following some simple steps:

1. Define  

What will it take to achieve your business strategy, in human capital terms?  Aside from leaders, are you clear on which roles are critical to future success in this new operating environment, against your revised business strategy? Are you clear on the leadership and critical talent capabilities - both mindsets and skillsets - needed to succeed in your changing operating environment? 

  • This will require you to look at your internal and external environments in parallel, to determine how the external environment and your organisation’s strategic, operational and organisational responses to it will challenge your leaders in the future. 
  • You then need to identify the mindsets and skillsets needed for leaders to adapt and succeed, developing a framework that combines the specifics of your business with the leadership strategies required for success within that context. Then embed this into both your formal HR processes, and informal practices throughout the organisation. 

2. Assess  

  • To what extent do these capabilities currently exist within the business? How confident are you? If they don’t currently exist, is the potential there?
  • In practice, managers’ assessments of line reports’ capability, performance and potential are problematic. Judgements of an individual’s potential are often confused with assessments of current or past performance; it’s assumed that great performance in a current role will automatically lead to success in a future role, although this is not necessarily the case. Business Psychologists’ training in assessment methods is rigorous in relation to reducing bias and enhancing reliability and validity. 
  • We recommend using a range of assessment methods, but critically in terms of assessing potential, a business simulation. Benchmarked simulations create a learning and assessment environment that replicates the leadership challenges that individuals are likely to experience in future, in your business. These stretch-level simulations allow you to create the challenges of a future role, and in doing so, provide an indication of an individual’s future capacity, avoiding conflation with current job performance.

3. Accelerate

  • Armed with this data, you can ensure that development is targeted at closing any gaps and on strengthening succession planning; no time or money is wasted in developing leaders or critical talent in areas that won’t make a difference to the bottom line.

  • In an unpredictable and rapidly changing environment, the development of leaders and other critical talent needs to be agile, individualised and in-context.  Specifically, development needs to be highly applied (hands-on) and emphasise ‘learning as doing’ as much as possible, to reduce downtime and minimise the learning-doing transfer gap.  It needs to be highly personalised, to give leaders absolute clarity on ‘what do I need to do differently in my role?’

With effective leadership increasingly being the differentiating factor between business success and failure, HR leaders must provide confidence and clarity around the leadership and critical talent requirements for their business.  In doing this, not only can you minimise risk, disruption and wasted opportunity costs in appointing or promoting the wrong person, but also strengthen business performance by accelerating development of the necessary capabilities to take the business forward, through what will inevitably be choppy waters.

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