I am always being told by leaders of HR, and for what it is worth, other management professions, about the “unique” challenges of their companies, their geographies, and their industries. I think it is great to celebrate our uniqueness as long as we recognize the striking similarities of our challenges.
We hosted the HRO Today Forum EMEA from November 6th to 8th in Barcelona, Spain. The event was graced with the presence of more than 50 HR directors (CHROs in American parlance) and about an equal number of heads of talent acquisition. Attendees came from dozens of countries across Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and a few from Africa. The most distant attendee by flight time was the CHRO for the largest consumer retailer in Kenya. The flight from Nairobi was more than 12 hours.
For three days, we were immersed in far ranging discussions. While the conference is held in “business English,” side conversations were held in a dozen languages and the business English was marked by many different accents. Everyone spoke English very well with the possible exception of the Americans whose native language is called “business slang.”
A number of the sessions were our shared problem-solving “Think Tank” formats. A striking convergence began to be evident and it appears at every conference. There was far more commonality in the problems and the solutions being attempted than one would expect given how most people think their problems are “unique.” All of HR is coping with a global talent shortage, remote work policies, multi-generational workforce issues, educational deficiencies in available talent, upskilling programs, wage inflation, diversity and inclusion, and the list goes on and on and on.
The truth is that perhaps we should all acknowledge our problems are not unique and do a better job collaborating on developing shared strategies. Perhaps there should be more partnerships on influencing legislation and lobbying. Perhaps companies in the same communities can launch shared academies for upskilling and fund internal training that is targeted and job specific.
The more time I spent listening to the issues and challenges of your brethren on other continents, the more convinced I was that the problems in North America, LATAM, EMEA, or APAC are not unique. The most common problem was not anything on my list above, but the fact that everyone seeks to solve them alone within the walls of their own organizations.
Maybe the concept of shared services needs to be extended to more partner-driven shared solutions. HRO Today promotes communities through our CHRO Today Executive Network (C-TEN) and HRO Today Association to convene and discuss the problems, but we also need to examine how we can help companies to partner and generate communal solutions. I believe we should make that conversation of shared solutions a thematic question at the HRO Today Forum, North America in Dallas, TX from May 1st to 3rd 2024.
Can HR companies partner with local firms—and even potentially competing firms for talent—to try to solve workforce-related issues? I do not know, but I do know that beyond moral support, there is more the community can do to address these common issues—and the common goals are strikingly similar.
It is a thought process and a conversation that HR leaders need to have.
Elliot S. Clark