Time for HR to come in form the cold

Started by David Griffiths on
21 Feb 2013 at 12:32

Organisations need to manage the boundaries of their operations if they are to coordinate their knowledge resources and, in doing so, become more dynamic, agile and adaptive.

This boundary management means engagement with human resources (take a look at my latest keynote upload for more on this).  Try extracting people from knowledge-driven systems, such as today’s organisations, it just can’t happen.  People decide on, or are guided towards, their level of interaction with the system.  They are the firewall that decides what knowledge is made available, what is used, shared, develop, acquired and stored.  If we can agree that Human Agency is a major consideration for organisations when considering dynamic, agile and adaptive capability then it also goes that we should expect expert support in the development/management of these resources within the system.  This is where Human Resource professionals come in.

The-problem is that they are burdened by the weight of legacy HR work (terms and conditions/conflict resolution) that tends to treat an organisation’s human resources as warm carbon units (objects), when they should see people as agents that enable the often illusive costly to copy competitive advantage.

Whether they realise it or not, today’s organisations are dependent on an effective HR cycle and this means an effective HR team.  This requires a cultural shift, not only on the part of senior management teams within organisations, but in the mindset of HR practitioners.  Both need to see HR as a value creating/adding function that patrols/pushes/pulls at the boundary of the organisation.  Organisations need an active and strong HR function if they are to make sense of, and respond to, the ever more complex environment in which they transact.

The problem is that HR as a profession is being far too slow to react.  The profession is out in the cold and is not generally demonstrating the knowledge understanding, especially in the interrelated areas of complexity, dynamic, agile and adaptive, required to bring about a change of mindset, perhaps even trust, required to take on the responsibility of boundary management.  If we can accept that people are a vital, costly to copy, resource then we have to accept the HR cycle as a core construct within any system designed to coordinate an organisation’s knowledge resources.

Look at the various Business Intelligence reports over the last six years or so, from people like Deloitte through to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the message is the same, regardless of sector or location.  organisations crave problem-solvers, net-workers, collaborators and good communicators – some might say that those competency requirements are interlinked.  Ask those same organisations what they are doing to ‘manage’ their needs?  From our research you should expect that over 75% of these organisations are failing to engage with HR mechanisms as a way to regulate their environment.  Surely, this has to be a mistake.

I have a challenge to both senior management teams and HR professionals alike, take HR practitioners out of the system, game the scenario, what does it look like?  Another challenge, how many HR professionals can say that they truly understand the needs of their organisations?

I come back to the reason for this post.  Any time I have suggested HR as a partner for Knowledge Management or the development of an dynamic/agile/adaptive workforce I meet with resistance.  KM is not seen as a viable solution because too many HR practitioners are weighed down by legacy HR work.  It is time to come in from the cold.  It is time to adapt.  It is time to change.

I’ll set out more of my thoughts on the HR Cycle as part of a wider system for the coordination/management of knowledge resources in my next post…

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