Helping employees reframe beliefs and connect with organisational goals
By CAROLINE ONG
Every 31st of the month, some of my friends would be tossing out a challenge – whether we should be heading to Baskin Robbins to take advantage of its different flavours as it usually has promotions on the 31st of the month.
This is because Baskin Robbins is known for its “31 flavours” slogan, even though today, it has more than 1,000 ice-cream flavours. This seems to be a well-known slogan for ice-cream loving children (and adults too), which may serve as a good measure of its branding.
How is that branding brought to life, internally so that the employees would be just as motivated to focus on delivering the “magical moments” that the company promises to its customers?
And who (or which department) would be responsible to ensure that each employee would be geared up to work on this same organisation goal, fully utilising their knowledge, skills, abilities?
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Some would say it is the responsibility of the immediate supervisor or manager. Or one could say that it is the senior leadership team. Others would claim that it is the employees themselves. In most organisations, human resources (HR) are usually the folks ultimately responsible for all employee issues, including performance and motivational issues.
After all, HR is usually driving recruitment, development, deployment, performance management and motivation of the employees.
It is usually entrusted as a custodian of embedding key behaviours and in building a “community” in an organisation.
In recent times, there are discussions and attempts to “devolve HR”, which is to enable the line managers to take on more HR responsibilities. Let us take a quick look at some visible advantages and disadvantages.
Some immediate advantages of this devolvement is an increase in the speed of decision-making regarding people matters and ownership of employees by the line. Additionally, it is always true that it is the immediate manager who has the largest influence on employee engagement, thus enhancing communication and relevance to individuals.
On the other hand, there needs to be considerations of line managers’ investment of time in people matters, including recurring, year-long activities such as recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training employees.
There may also be legalities, especially related to performance management and compensation which line managers may find difficult to understand and execute.
The bigger problem lies in the consistency, abilities and willingness of different department line managers to take a step back, to understand and drive organisational, strategic goals through its handling of people matters.
For strategic matters, there cannot be different approaches which are dependent on specific department or line managers. Research shows that humans usually perform more effectively when there is some amount of stability and certainty. Clearly, there is actual implementation challenges to devolve HR although the intent may noble.
Bottom Line: HR and the business need to be more integrated. HR needs to provide guidance from the strategic people management matters while the line managers operationalise people matters.
HR leaders make a huge business impact when they are able to drive people strategy by collaborating with the line managers on organisational blueprints, plans, policies and processes that guide leadership development, succession planning, strategic human capital workforce planning, performance management and compensation.
HR’s role is critical in reframing beliefs and gluing organisational goals. HR is also accountable to drive intentional rituals to engineer certain key behaviours and culture change.
On the other extreme end, HR will need to support, train and enable the line managers on operational HR matters including interviewing, diagnosing and increasing employee morale, having constructive performance conversations and developing their people.
By enabling the line managers while managing the strategic pieces, an analogy that comes to mind is that HR is like an architect for a house, while the individual functional managers are the interior designers for each space and room.
To be able to build and furnish a home that fits the owner’s current and future needs, both the architect and the interior designers need to collaborate and be inter-dependent to create the home.
Similarly, this symbiotic relationship between HR and business leaders is what creates “communities of love” in an organisation that collaborate, share and work together as a high performance team.
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The synergy created propels the organisation forward internally and externally. Joint collaborative HR and line managers’ support of talent management and development programmes is powerful as it strengthens the talent messaging, bench strength and pipeline creating both internal and employee brand congruence and value towards achieving the organisation’s purpose.
Let me leave you with one of the quotes from Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook during the recent 2017 Harvard graduating speech:
The struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities come down to this – your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.
In organisations – this means a single sense of the organisation’s purposes, goals and values.
So, let us ask ourselves this question – how do we as HR practitioners enable employees to experience this single sense of our organisation’s purpose, goals and values?
And if you are part of the senior leadership team or a line manager – ask this question: What steps are you taking to collaborate with HR?
HR leaders can only succeed when they work together with the line to “build this community” as Zuckerberg described.
A final question to HR leaders: Are you working diligently with your line leaders to build this community? If you are not, now is the time.
Caroline Ong is a senior director at Leaderonomics, leading its consulting practice and learning functions. She has spent numerous years in the HR space and dreams of enabling Malaysian HR leaders to become world-class. Prior to Leaderonomics, she was leading a consulting practice in a global consulting organisation. To engage with her or connect with her on how she and her team can support your HR function, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org