The HR Revolution: Why Company Culture Reigns Supreme

12 April 2017

Corporate Vision's 2017 Tech CEO of the year, Jane Sunley is a best-selling business author and founder of award-winning employee engagement specialists Purple Cubed. She is a pragmatic expert on 'The HR Revolution' and all people matters, providing actionable takeaways to help audiences achieve real results. Here, she talks about the importance of company culture and the biggest changes we're seeing in HR.

These are exciting times, where company culture reigns supreme. The rise the employer brand continues; the employee experience is as important as the customer one (starting before a candidate even joins); benefits have moved on from the peripheral; and the Ping-Pong tables and snooze-pods are making way for more robust offerings aligned with values and progression, such as mentoring from senior leaders, flexibility, and student loan assistance…

Move over policy makers

HR, who in these environs are known as People Directors and the like, are nimble. They’re all about creating an environment where people are excited to come to work. They are a business leader, thought leader and talent expert all rolled into one. They enable business by building talent capability.

Learning has undergone an epiphany; horizontal to vertical: out of the classroom (mostly and then it’s about facilitation not chalk and talk) and into just-in-time, accelerated programmes, virtual reality, continuous support, two-way dialogue, feedback and collaboration.

Leadership  is about coaching and support, trust and openness, authenticity. It’s about setting people up to succeed by ensuring clarity of purpose, providing the wherewithal and creating an environment where people can progress and contribute.

Casual is in; it’s been a while since Sir Richard Branson chopped off his tie, although it’s no longer either/or. Anything goes as long as it’s appropriate to the situation and the wearer feels good.

Creativity and innovation  rule. Take the gig economy; liberating or exploitative, it takes a different mindset to work out how to engage a transient and flexible workforce…

Digitization  is transforming the landscape of ‘the people stuff’ with its superior analytics informing strategy and feeding growth. It’s become predictive and will be prescriptive. With so many cool apps flying around it’s all about keeping grounded and focused on the outcomes, being joined up; integration and managed services.

Recognizing what people REALLY want: 'Ping-Pong table culture' is being replaced by mentoring and flexibility

Becoming people-centric is the way to go

HR Revolutionaries are business-savvy. They negotiate their budgets before they take a role. They position themselves in a triangular relationship with the CEO and CFO. They know the way to get things done; using sound business arguments to secure the necessary investment and create a commitment from the very top.

They also know that HR departments cannot be solely responsible for employee engagement and all that goes with it – it’s a team job; one in which everyone, in every organization, must play their part. Especially the all-important middle-management layer – barrier, Chinese whisperer or conduit? It really matters.

By understanding how to join up the people stuff into a clear, straightforward and deliverable plan, any organization can transform itself; with measurable and profitable results to boot. The plan can be simple; the executing is not. It’s a top priority, a business imperative. Everyone’s talking about it; few are actually delivering on it.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?

The answer is three-fold:

1. Leaders are often too busy dealing with the business of day-to-day and have failed to grasp the fact that they world is vastly different from the way it was even five years ago

2. Many are too risk averse to invest (and are in ‘stripping out’ mode - which is not the way to grow a successful and sustainable business)

3. The money people often don’t understand the ROI associated with getting this right

Hang on, isn’t this the world’s number one business issue? Put simply, people do not want to work in an organisation that is out-dated in its people practices; that hasn’t invested in tech that will help them progress and contribute; that isn’t putting the employee first. Organisations do not make the time or allow the resource needed, even though they know they should. The research speaks for itself:

(Source of above stats: Purple Cubed with networks associated with Cranfield Business School and Lancaster Management University)

It’s all about the money.

The connection between people and profit is clear though, in far too many cases, is corrupted as business battles to reach its targets. So they stick with the old ways. They deliver some initiatives and a box-ticking survey. They deliver some training or do a roadshow. They play lip service to a business topic that’s potentially the biggest game-changing opportunity they have.

Well, I predict that if it doesn’t change soon, these organisations are on the hard road into doom. Why aren’t the people analytics reported within the annual report as with other key metrics? Why is ‘people’ not top of the agenda on the board or business meeting? Why isn’t there a comprehensive and strategic plan with clear metrics and deliverables?

Although people-centricity can’t and won’t happen overnight, the journey has to start somewhere. It’s time for HR to lead this transformation and that starts with buy-in from the top.

And it’s going to take an HR Revolution to make it happen…

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