Keep it simple: the key to building capability


Now running her own consultancy firm, Rilla Moore LFAHRI has spent 40 years working in HR – more than 20 working in senior HR roles – and says that the profession should continue fighting to become more relevant and strategic.

Q. What do you think challenges HR professionals on a daily basis?

HR is an exciting and wonderful profession because the unexpected occurs almost every day. It’s a people profession and people are endlessly interesting and frequently unpredictable. They are also demanding.

It’s difficult to predict a lot of the daily challenges of an HR professional. The really good HR people have to keep 10 balls in the air at one time. If they only focus on one thing they won’t be successful.

Usually, you’re trying to build the capability of your own function while you’re building the capability of the business, but this does bring variety and allows you to work across an entire organisation.

In terms of our profession in general, I often read that HR still talks about wanting to be a business partner – well, why wouldn’t they want to be part of the business?

To be credible, HR must be a part of the business and, to do that and to be accepted, they need to have a deep understanding of the business, as well as the people.

We also talk a lot about having a ‘seat at the table’. I was reading an HR magazine recently and a well known and highly capable HR director said that we shouldn’t be talking about it any more because we already have one. But we don’t.

Last time I saw the statistics, in more than 20 per cent of the ASX top 100 companies, HR did not report to the CEO, so weren’t in that top team. Yet companies continue to say that people are their most important asset.

So it’s about how we position ourselves by ensuring that organisations put appropriate value on what the HR function does.

Q. Is there a technique that you think works particularly well when it comes to managing talent?

You’ve got to keep it simple. That means no jargon and no complex systems; don’t use models that people can’t remember. It’s the dialogue about people and understanding their capability outside of the silos they may work in.

If you look at talent programs today, you’ll see many organisations use a nine-box grid. I have found that four is all that’s needed. It’s not even about the box, it’s about people’s current capability, future potential and organisational fit.

I think it’s interesting that, in most survey results, career development and opportunity are more important than money. All we need to do is talk to people about their career aspirations and what they need to do to achieve them – it’s not hard.

The things that have the most value to a person often don’t cost anything. For example, informal feedback from the boss, the head of a department or both can be worth a lot to an individual.

Another area many HR functions focus on is producing effective people metrics.   This is critical if we want to be accepted as business people. I think we are getting better at providing metrics but often do so with no context.

For example, you could say that the organisation had employee turnover of 15 per cent, but this is utterly meaningless without context. Is this the industry norm? Is this due to external factors? Is it a problem? Is it increasing or decreasing?

HR often thinks they are there to support management. But they’re also there to support the ‘little people’. And I mean that in the best sense of the word. How can someone eight levels removed from the CEO possibly be heard? It’s most often HR that must go in to bat for them.

Q. Finally, what is your experience of gender equality in Australia?

I have been a champion of diversity for the past 40 years. When it comes to women in virtually every field, it’s a fact that they are paid considerably less. And they are not only paid less but also poorly represented in senior positions in both the public and private sectors.

Indeed, Australia is falling back in our OECD gender rankings and I find that incredibly sad.

Look out for the August issue of HRMonthly, out the first week of the month, for another interview with a leader of the profession. This month Phil Minns from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet shares his views on diversity.

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Keep it simple: the key to building capability


Now running her own consultancy firm, Rilla Moore LFAHRI has spent 40 years working in HR – more than 20 working in senior HR roles – and says that the profession should continue fighting to become more relevant and strategic.

Q. What do you think challenges HR professionals on a daily basis?

HR is an exciting and wonderful profession because the unexpected occurs almost every day. It’s a people profession and people are endlessly interesting and frequently unpredictable. They are also demanding.

It’s difficult to predict a lot of the daily challenges of an HR professional. The really good HR people have to keep 10 balls in the air at one time. If they only focus on one thing they won’t be successful.

Usually, you’re trying to build the capability of your own function while you’re building the capability of the business, but this does bring variety and allows you to work across an entire organisation.

In terms of our profession in general, I often read that HR still talks about wanting to be a business partner – well, why wouldn’t they want to be part of the business?

To be credible, HR must be a part of the business and, to do that and to be accepted, they need to have a deep understanding of the business, as well as the people.

We also talk a lot about having a ‘seat at the table’. I was reading an HR magazine recently and a well known and highly capable HR director said that we shouldn’t be talking about it any more because we already have one. But we don’t.

Last time I saw the statistics, in more than 20 per cent of the ASX top 100 companies, HR did not report to the CEO, so weren’t in that top team. Yet companies continue to say that people are their most important asset.

So it’s about how we position ourselves by ensuring that organisations put appropriate value on what the HR function does.

Q. Is there a technique that you think works particularly well when it comes to managing talent?

You’ve got to keep it simple. That means no jargon and no complex systems; don’t use models that people can’t remember. It’s the dialogue about people and understanding their capability outside of the silos they may work in.

If you look at talent programs today, you’ll see many organisations use a nine-box grid. I have found that four is all that’s needed. It’s not even about the box, it’s about people’s current capability, future potential and organisational fit.

I think it’s interesting that, in most survey results, career development and opportunity are more important than money. All we need to do is talk to people about their career aspirations and what they need to do to achieve them – it’s not hard.

The things that have the most value to a person often don’t cost anything. For example, informal feedback from the boss, the head of a department or both can be worth a lot to an individual.

Another area many HR functions focus on is producing effective people metrics.   This is critical if we want to be accepted as business people. I think we are getting better at providing metrics but often do so with no context.

For example, you could say that the organisation had employee turnover of 15 per cent, but this is utterly meaningless without context. Is this the industry norm? Is this due to external factors? Is it a problem? Is it increasing or decreasing?

HR often thinks they are there to support management. But they’re also there to support the ‘little people’. And I mean that in the best sense of the word. How can someone eight levels removed from the CEO possibly be heard? It’s most often HR that must go in to bat for them.

Q. Finally, what is your experience of gender equality in Australia?

I have been a champion of diversity for the past 40 years. When it comes to women in virtually every field, it’s a fact that they are paid considerably less. And they are not only paid less but also poorly represented in senior positions in both the public and private sectors.

Indeed, Australia is falling back in our OECD gender rankings and I find that incredibly sad.

Look out for the August issue of HRMonthly, out the first week of the month, for another interview with a leader of the profession. This month Phil Minns from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet shares his views on diversity.

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