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

Kiddy & Partners

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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 looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll ever return to pre-COVID workplace normality.

The new normal is here to stay; whether through choice (just 13% of working parents want to go back to pre-pandemic ways of working ) or through force (with ongoing local lockdowns and a second wave approaching), we need to adapt and critically, so do our business leaders.  

New demands for leaders

Many HR Directors attending our virtual roundtables throughout lockdown remarked on the different demands this ‘new normal’ places on leaders.  For instance, widespread remote working has proved problematic for leaders with a command-and-control style, whereas those who developed a value-based approach to leadership have thrived. The broader social context has also shifted, with the shocking death of George Floyd and broader Black Lives Matter movement drawing much-needed attention to the fact that racism still exists and is affecting people throughout our organisations.  As we discussed in our recent webinar, if you’re looking to make a real difference to diversity and inclusion within your organisation, you need to change how people lead.  Diversity and inclusion can’t be an initiative, it needs to become intrinsic to how people lead. 

The world has changed, have your leaders?

HR have a critical role in getting businesses back on track. Virtually all 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 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? 

How can HR ensure the business is set up for success?

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 the development of the necessary capabilities to take the business forward, through what will inevitably be choppy waters. 

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