CEO Challenges for 2012

The Conference Board recently put out its 2012 challenges for CEO’s. Top two on the list: innovation and talent. Makes complete sense to me, the world is changing rapidly as globalization keeps chugging along, and there’s a huge demographic shift underway. We know all of this already. Change is the only constant, and the source of your “mojo” if you have been in Human Resources for any time at all.

If you can’t see what’s going on externally, then how can you add any value internally? What I want to know is where is the innovation in the HR space? We are all very good at HR tactics, but not so good in this discipline at human capital strategy. And sadly, no amount of heroic HR tactics will make up for a lack of a proactive human capital strategy.

We’ve been slow on the uptake in most cases. Most organizations are still developing their talent management systems, only a few have matured to a point where it’s become fully integrated into the business. And almost all organizations consider talent management as simply the annual performance review process. So why isn’t there something new to take its place? Gary Hamel is doing a good job trying to shift the paradigm, but why aren’t more of us really trying to push the envelope of becoming value added to the business?

There are technologies that exist for us to do some incredible things. The data is there for us to leverage, but in most cases it just sits there in a latent state, or worse, it’s there in multiple systems that don’t talk to one another. In a previous life, I was with a company that had a learning management system that didn’t speak to either the performance management or talent management system.

Why and how did this huge oversight continue to plague the organization? Why didn’t someone in HR sound the alarm to strategically gain the advantages of having these smart systems help to develop strategic people solutions? Simple … because HR saw these as merely independent systems, and not as critical building blocks of an integrated talent management system. Once again “being strategic” was staring them right in the face, and they did not recognize it.

It’s time for a change of direction, focus, identity and ways to contribute. It’s time to shed the reputation that we’re the “act only when asked” HR department. As professionals, we should be looking to innovate and provide ROI on our work to our business partners. If we can’t, we will never add real value to our organization. Chase all the key performance indicators (KPIs) you want, they all come down to either making the organization money or saving the company money.

So go out and be bold, try new things, fail fast, fail cheap, and do it again until you get it right. And if your culture doesn’t support that, then you really have some decisions to make, because that is a clear sign that your culture is stuck in the middle. Stuck between expecting new strategic successes from failure to move beyond the same old tactics.

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