Why Aren’t You Driving the People Strategy?

As captain of the organization, your role is to make bets on strategy as well as bigger bets on the people to carry out that strategy. This is the understood dynamic, but the problem is with the reality of the people/strategy matrix.

On paper, that all makes sense. To grow a company you need a strategy; to realize it, you need the people. So here’s the question: Where is HR in this dynamic formula?

If, as so many companies are prone to say, “People are our greatest asset,” then the assumption would seem to be that HR is the guider of that asset. Taking it a step further, knowing that this is what’s needed for organizational success, why are HR executives (or the CHROs) not invited into the inner sanctum? What is the price of admission? Finance, marketing, IT all surely have a ticket, but in a lot of companies HR is on the outside looking in.

People are a CEO concern

According to the current Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends and PWC CEO Survey, human capital is in the top tier of CEO concerns.

Then why is the CHRO not one of the CEO’s most trusted advisors? It’s kind of like having a specific medical problem and turning to the family doctor. Normally in those circumstances your family doctor will refer you to a specialist who deals with your disorder every day — a specialist steeped in the knowledge of your ailment.

So if human capital/talent is the major determinate in reaching organizational goals, then the role of your top HR executive should be as the main trusted advisor to the CEO. And being the main trusted advisor does not mean having to go through the CFO or CAO. It means reporting directly to the CEO.

People drive the strategy

Talent has taken on such an importance in organizational life today. “A” talent will be the differentiator of great organizations in the future. Innovation is driven by talent and not the other way around.

The lifeblood of successful organizations is great talent. For organizations to be winners in their market, there must be a high level of talent at all levels of the organization.

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Talent attracts talent

When I worked at Martha Stewart as VP of HR during its infancy, we had an extraordinary level of talent within the organization. Recipes, design ideas, magazine stories, etc. were all created by an amazing group of talented individuals. Sure, Martha had the final say, but those ideas came through the stable of talent that we assembled. Our great people attracted other great people.

The offshoot of having top talent is that when your organization becomes known as a place that nurtures and cares about talent, prospective employees are clamoring to get in. And out of that treasure trove of resumes will be game changers who could drive the disruptive innovation that all companies are thirsting for. Bringing in or nurturing top talent and creating a culture that thrives on challenges will always produce innovative ideas. Talent will be the key to the kingdom.

HR is the expert

The CHRO’s domain of expertise is people, culture and the dynamics for building optimized workforces. We have distinctive knowledge and insight about the importance of an organization’s human capital, and how to situate that capital in a way that allows for the success of the organization’s strategy.

The human capital/talent dynamic is not only a critical business function in itself, but it is also directly connected with innovation, operational excellence and other challenges within the organization. People-driven strategies will create value for years to come, enabling your company to create a garden of talent within the confines of your own office that will yield a bountiful harvest over the long term.

But you have to let the gardener into the garden.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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