Small fish, big pond! Is that our destiny?


Sometimes I’m asked in my role whether I think a global workforce is a thing of the future. Increasingly, my answer is that it’s not something that’s coming. It’s here now on our doorstep and it’s moving into the living room right before our eyes. On that question, I’m more convinced than ever that the future doesn’t start tomorrow, it begins today.

I accept that if there’s one thing we know about the future it’s that it will be different from the present and the past. But we probably also know in our hearts, if not our heads, that we need to take charge of our destiny or someone else will. So when I think of where the HR institute is likely to play out its future, I see the global stage as where we need to be if we want to ensure continuing relevance.

Whether we like it or not, the reality that is emerging is one in which the professional rules of engagement have changed and are continuing to shift in near seismic proportions. Apart from the increasing use of robotics and the immediate promise of big developments in artificial intelligence, there are progressively more complex international security developments that are showing themselves in shifting relationships, some of them merely tense but others plainly volatile, in places such as the Middle East, Europe, Japan, China and the US. These have also been facilitated by the ease of global movement and communications, which have in turn further amplified their complexity, and they inevitably affect what happens in workplaces and workforces.

As individuals, we are little fish who will need to broaden both the depth and the breadth of our capabilities and competencies, so we accustom ourselves to play comfortably in a bigger and more problematic pond, and with the agility required to move swiftly and with sureness of foot.

The core capabilities that business will seek from HR leaders will surely include a more robust and astute grounding in general business practice along with a lively organisational curiosity, qualities that will drive the development of supportive and innovative people planning that underpins productivity and profitability.

For professional associations such as AHRI and our counterparts in the UK, the US and other places, the future will be about identifying where we can boost legitimate and tangible value to the careers of HR professionals in an age where technology has created easy access to a wide range of information and networks.

The work AHRI has been doing around a new Model of Excellence is one way we have been seeking to do this. It confirms the core skills, knowledge and practices that HR professionals need to perform their jobs, but takes those to another level by embedding a set of essential behaviours.

It will be within this layering of the new AHRI model that we will truly start to see the difference between good HR practice and irrelevant HR practices – and the capacity of today’s practitioners to prepare themselves to play in the big pond. The model will be profiled in HRMonthly next month, along with a discussion paper to keep the conversation going.

As the only HR association in Australia, AHRI is conscious of our own need to play in the global arena. For us, that means developing and demonstrating qualities such as the capacity to exercise influence, being future-oriented in what we offer to members, and actively working in partnership with our like-minded global counterparts.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the November 2014 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Small fish, big pond! Is that our destiny?’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.

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Small fish, big pond! Is that our destiny?


Sometimes I’m asked in my role whether I think a global workforce is a thing of the future. Increasingly, my answer is that it’s not something that’s coming. It’s here now on our doorstep and it’s moving into the living room right before our eyes. On that question, I’m more convinced than ever that the future doesn’t start tomorrow, it begins today.

I accept that if there’s one thing we know about the future it’s that it will be different from the present and the past. But we probably also know in our hearts, if not our heads, that we need to take charge of our destiny or someone else will. So when I think of where the HR institute is likely to play out its future, I see the global stage as where we need to be if we want to ensure continuing relevance.

Whether we like it or not, the reality that is emerging is one in which the professional rules of engagement have changed and are continuing to shift in near seismic proportions. Apart from the increasing use of robotics and the immediate promise of big developments in artificial intelligence, there are progressively more complex international security developments that are showing themselves in shifting relationships, some of them merely tense but others plainly volatile, in places such as the Middle East, Europe, Japan, China and the US. These have also been facilitated by the ease of global movement and communications, which have in turn further amplified their complexity, and they inevitably affect what happens in workplaces and workforces.

As individuals, we are little fish who will need to broaden both the depth and the breadth of our capabilities and competencies, so we accustom ourselves to play comfortably in a bigger and more problematic pond, and with the agility required to move swiftly and with sureness of foot.

The core capabilities that business will seek from HR leaders will surely include a more robust and astute grounding in general business practice along with a lively organisational curiosity, qualities that will drive the development of supportive and innovative people planning that underpins productivity and profitability.

For professional associations such as AHRI and our counterparts in the UK, the US and other places, the future will be about identifying where we can boost legitimate and tangible value to the careers of HR professionals in an age where technology has created easy access to a wide range of information and networks.

The work AHRI has been doing around a new Model of Excellence is one way we have been seeking to do this. It confirms the core skills, knowledge and practices that HR professionals need to perform their jobs, but takes those to another level by embedding a set of essential behaviours.

It will be within this layering of the new AHRI model that we will truly start to see the difference between good HR practice and irrelevant HR practices – and the capacity of today’s practitioners to prepare themselves to play in the big pond. The model will be profiled in HRMonthly next month, along with a discussion paper to keep the conversation going.

As the only HR association in Australia, AHRI is conscious of our own need to play in the global arena. For us, that means developing and demonstrating qualities such as the capacity to exercise influence, being future-oriented in what we offer to members, and actively working in partnership with our like-minded global counterparts.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the November 2014 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Small fish, big pond! Is that our destiny?’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.

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