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Thought leaders from a quintet of cutting-edge workforce departments recently sat down with the editors of HRO Today to share their views on the past decade in human resources. Their insights on the emergent culture of measurement and the state of the world’s economy are not to be missed.
By Dirk Olin
HRO TODAY: From your perspective, how has the practice of HR changed in the past 10 years?
Sharon Taylor: In the past, when HR proposed something, it was often suspect simply because it came from HR. Thankfully, those days are long gone. The imperative now is to build a business case for HR programs, frequently by computing a return-on-investment to see what makes sense. That means demonstrating both efficiency and optimization of system delivery—which is necessary whether you’re talking about solutions that are in-sourced, outsourced, or co-sourced.
Roger Gaston: Two big changes come to mind. One, HR has become a business partner, working with line managers to solve problems—learning what makes the business work, in terms of both people and profits. If you don’t understand the business itself, you’re not going to be a good HR professional. Second is the whole arena of talent. At the end of the day, that’s going to be what differentiates your business from competitors’. With the changes over the past few decades and the turmoil of recent years, you’ve got to have the right people. If you don’t, you’re not going to make it in bad times or good times. Today, talent is my number one focus. There’s nothing more important than making sure you have the right people in the right positions.
Beyond those redefinitions, HR’s relationship to the board has changed. And this touches on the talent push. A few years back, when resources weren’t as tight, and you were in a position to invest in talent and build, you had more opportunities to recruit by bringing in several candidates and then zeroing in on the best. Now, the world has flattened and moved resources offshore. The need to be right is much more acute. Globalization has broadened the spectrum of the talent picture. Productivity, performance, cultures, leadership philosophies—they can differ markedly. Learning how to navigate all that has become much bigger over the past several years.
At a personal level, I went from a public company to a private company. And I think that is best summarized in a few words: faster, smarter, more productive, fewer resources.
HRO TODAY: Some people might think exactly the opposite—that a privately held shop would have a longer term vision.
Gaston: I know it. And it might. But the thing is that big change is harder in public companies. Why? Shareholders are rarely receptive to the kinds of allocation of capital or severe downsizing, because of effects on share price. In a private company, you can have an active board that is not dispersed by inclusiveness. You can have two people to talk to, rather than someone who represents hundreds or thousands of shareholders. And that board cares most about talent, about the future skills that need to be planned for.
So the increments of change are much larger in a private company because they are typically compressed into a shorter period of time—you have an imperative to make a defined change quickly, as opposed to quarter-to-quarter small change.
And for that, you need leaders who have the capacity to manage change and transformation. Because the oversight accelerates everything you do exponentially, you need the right kind of people to handle that, and that leads to management changes along the way. You have to roll up your sleeves, get costs out, and make hard decisions about downsizing. Next comes the transformation, growth, new product, competitor analysis in each market, and development of programs and systemic responses.
I want to go back to the 10-year question for a minute. Because we can’t forget that globalization has been huge. And that’s combined with a realization by practitioners and company leaders of what HR can do, what it has to do, the significant role it plays because the management of the business and its people are inextricably linked.
NorthgateArinso is the new owner of Convergys’ human resources management (HRM) business for $85 million in cash at closing and $15 million in cash over three years.
Both providers believe this transaction represents a unique opportunity for Convergys’ HRM clients and employees to become part of a larger global entity with a strong record of accomplishment in the HR services business. NorthgateArinso will offer employment to the approximately 2,300 employees of Convergys’ HRM line of business
An economic climate impossible to ignore and strategies to overcome it were on the agenda during NY HR Week.
By Debbie Bolla
In a year of economic turmoil, the annual pilgrimage of the HRO community to New York City for HRO World last month had thousands of attendees focused on the business climate and the contribution that HR can make. The seventh annual event, the two-day HRO World saw some of its usual fanfare diminished by the somber economic times and lower attendance as a result
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