From creating multidisciplinary teams to developing simple processes, AHRI’s NSW members recently listened to a talk on the future of HR, given by Rhonda Brighton-Hall (FCPHR), executive general manager of organisation development at Commonwealth Bank.
Also an AHRI board member and a former Telstra Business Women’s Awards winner, Brighton-Hall offered her perspective on several future trends. While she admitted that those mentioned were not new ideas – most having been discussed for many years now – she said that it’s time the profession starts implementing them.
Brighton-Hall believes a solid HR capability model has the potential to transform the way HR practitioners perform their day-to-day jobs. While Orica first introduced the idea of HR capability in 1987 few businesses actually have a model.
She explained that the HR capability model was first built to help practitioners define what they need to do to conduct complex HR practices and then go on and teach it, share it and measure it.
“We walk around telling everyone else to do [HR capability] but we can’t be bothered doing it for ourselves,” said Brighton-Hall.
“I’m a huge believer that HR is a capability-led function. If you have very good capability, you’ll have very good HR. And if you don’t have good capability, it doesn’t matter what dream or strategy you have, you cannot execute it.”
Line leaders doing HR work
Brighton-Hall proclaimed that if HR practitioners were able to hand over their work to line leaders they would then have the opportunity to work on future strategies for the business.
Unfortunately, she acknowledges, simple administration tasks, such as talent management systems, have become more difficult over time until they become so complicated it’s near impossible for a handover to take place.
“We made grids and boxes for talent. The likes of which no one could imagine what they did. How many thousands of people were put into a grid and never moved again until next year, when we put them into a different grid?” she said.
“If it’s intuitive and simple, you can work with it; if it’s fairly robust when you get it wrong, you can have a few goes at it, and you’re confident to use it, then I think you can pass that work onto line leaders because it’s valuable.”
Brighton-Hall also pointed out that HR cannot offer line leaders ‘rubbishy admin processes’, but give them facilitation guides for coaching how to set up and orientate their team. Line leaders would then be more likely to take on HR work if they were given advice on how to find their best talent, nurture them and help them reach their potential, leaving HR practitioners with the opportunity to work on more strategic projects.
Cross-functional participation in HR
While HR practitioners may encourage the creation of multidisciplinary teams across sectors in organisations, and within HR teams, this is not usually the actual norm, Brighton-Hall pronounced. For example, in her case, the people in her teams are often from a major IT company, banks or professional services company.
“If you really wanted a multidisciplinary team, where’s your manufacturing engineer; the person who can really make process work? Where’s your customer experience expert? Where’s your marketing person who can create a communications plan that people are highly engaged in?” she said. “That becomes a multidisciplinary HR team that’s really got the full customer understanding; in the same way that we’d build a normal sales or customer team.”
The HR sector would benefit from adopting better-integrated systems, Brighton-Hall said.
“We talk about systems thinking, but even our recruitment process doesn’t talk to our talent management process. Our talent management process doesn’t talk to our learning process,” she explained.
“What we need is integrated systems thinking that actually works; where we can move data around and not ask people to constantly re-enter it – it’s such a simple thing.”
The biggest threat to HR
According to Brighton-Hall, HR practitioners are their own worst enemy – they need to step up, stop hesitating and believe in making a difference to businesses and its people.
“I think the greatest threat to HR is a lack of courage,” she said. While many businesses understand that people are critically important, HR practitioners need to own that space and create effective strategies that encourage employee retention and happiness.
“I think we spend a lot of time talking about what we’re going to do when we get to the table, not get to the table and do it.”