Jocelyn Bérard, M.Ps. MBA is the Vice President of International Leadership and Business Solutions (Vice-président Leadership et Solutions d’Affaires — Internationale) at Global Knowledge Canada
A provocative title? Perhaps, but it is, in fact, what a very large number of corporate leaders might be saying. In the grips of increasingly challenging and complex business realities, managers from every area of business — sales, production, finance, marketing, information technologies, operations — don’t often have the luxury of worrying about HR problems such as talent management, selection, and compensation. No, the realities of business today insist that managers first consider the challenges they face in running their operations. HR must be in control of talent management issues, but if HR wants to gain the attention of the rest of the business, it has to be aligned with the challenges that really keep managers awake at night.
In his book The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman speaks of international competition, global operations, and the growing and necessary diversity of the workforce as providing an abundance of possibilities. It’s relatively easy to agree on the global and conceptual level, but day-to-day, things aren’t always rosy for managers. Consider the challenges faced by companies importing and distributing toys manufactured in China at the height of the holiday season only to learn too late that a disparity in regulations regarding lead paint created major problems. There are new economic superpowers bursting onto the world stage that represent significant opportunities as well as threats. So there are seemingly endless business realities that can draw a manager’s focus away from HR issues.
Human resources departments are not sheltered from these business realities. On the contrary, they must grasp, understand, and, above all, align with them, as well as with the needs generated among managers. In IBM’s study How Human Resources Keeps Its Seat at the Table, the authors give four priorities for growing human resources organizations:
- Understanding the impact of both globalization and changing workforce demographics on the supply of talent
- Determining the drivers of employee retention and developing strategies for retaining top performers
- Engaging with the corporate strategy process to determine the need for critical skills and capabilities
- Balancing the supply and demand for talent on a dynamic basis within and across business units
The result is the need to deeply understand the external forces that shape a company’s strategy (i.e., globalization and demographic changes) and the need for alignment of HR practices to support and promote that strategy.