Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Outstanding HR in volatile times

These are volatile times with most economies exhibiting patchwork characteristic traits - skewed industry growth, high in some and flatline or negative in others; financial uncertainty and cautious spend as well as investments etc. And these characteristics are here to stay for a long time, so dealing effectively with the changed economic context is a priority for leaders, as well as HR functions supporting the leaders and the organization.

There are 3 principles I have tried and tested with HR teams whilst they dealt with the internal and external organizational changes and issues. And they have worked, added value, produced some exemplary stuff.

These are, (in no order of priority):

1. Focus on and alignment with the purpose. Especially in tough times, organizations working under stress and facing frequent changes to business tend to lose sight of the "why", or, the sense of, and alignment with the purpose. And this could range from the purpose of existence of the organization to the purpose of a specific strategy. And losing sight of this purpose, to focus entirely on the "what and how" of things often causes the "connection" between the business and staff to be lost. Simon Sinek has demonstrated this through an awesome video "start with why" available on

2. The second principle has to do with living comfortably with ambiguity, a transition from the age old quest for clarity. Traditionally the management schools have loved the word clarity and several principles have been founded on the objective of seeking and providing clarity. Nothing wrong here, except the fact that in present and predictable future, there will be more chaos and ambiguity in everything around us. That's what volatile times are about. So helping people understand change, uncertainty and supporting them to live with ambiguity is more critical, as opposed to seeking clarity about everything.

3. And the 3rd principle is about Conflict. This word has zillions of connotations in both personal and professional contexts. During uncertain times and under stress situations give rise to more conflict than ever before. Outstanding leaders have an innate ability to defuse conflicts and focus on solutions, specially in turbulent times. For HR professionals this principle has a very special place as they are looked up to by organizations as the masters of conflict resolution (well .... at least I do have such an expectation).

 Uncertain and volatile times are just a different set of perspectives and businesses will learn to adapt, thrive or fade away through such times, as with other phases of economic, political or human evolution.

Relying on these 3 principles to govern and direct our actions in my opinion and experience would provide a solid foundation to anchor and deliver something outstanding, while the seas and boats rock around us.

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