10 Action Steps That Will Allow HR to Effectively Manage Workforce Speed

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Sep 19, 2014

Second of two parts

Yesterday I wrote about The Need For Speed and Why It Is Critical For Business Success, and how executives are beginning to realize that the need for speed may not just be a luxury; it is probably already a critical success factor for business survival.

Today, I have a list that contains the 10 foundation steps that HR must complete if it wants to play a major role in effectively managing workforce speed.

1. Develop the business case for “workforce speed”

The first critical action step within HR is to build a compelling business case for developing programs to manage and increase speed.

The goal is to make it a business imperative because you have demonstrated that the lack of workforce speed is costing your organization millions each year. In order to get managers to pay attention to speed, they also need to be shown the impact that a lack of speed has on their own business results.

The next step of the business case is to work with the CFO’s and the COO’s office to quantify the “cost of slow” on revenue and other business goals. And as a result of that quantification, executives should almost immediately begin asking themselves if they can afford to have the single biggest business impact factor (your employees), lagging in speed capability.

A segment of the business case also needs to demonstrate the costs associated with “uneven organizational speed.”

2. Make workforce speed a strategic HR goal

The next important step is to make “workforce speed” a strategic HR goal and success measure. Both financial and HR talent resources need to be applied to this speed initiative.

HR staff with speed capabilities must be hired and trained, so that they have the capability of maintaining and increasing workforce speed.

3. Everything must move in unison

It’s impossible to maximize organizational speed when any one single business component lags behind the rest. Just like with a moving train or a centipede in a foot race, the speed of the whole is limited by the single slowest-moving component.

Ensuring that all components of an organization move at the same speed requires that you monitor speed metrics to identify bottlenecks. You can’t have the fastest organizational speed in your industry if a single process, silo, or function moves at a lower rate of speed, creating roadblocks and “speed bumps” for the faster moving elements of the organization.

You also must develop a process to rapidly share speed related best practices, opportunities, and problems. Unevenness in speed will frustrate your employees, and that frustration may cause the faster ones to slow down (it may even force fast-moving employees to leave). Don’t forget to use technology, because it provides speed and consistency across the organization.

And finally remember — each component of “interdependent” business processes must also be integrated and coordinated, so that the process time is minimized.

4. Increase hiring speed

Focus on hiring process speed, because having key positions vacant for a long period of time slows up overall organizational speed dramatically. The hiring process itself must be speeded up so that “in-demand” prospects and candidates are not lost to competitors as a result of unnecessarily slow hiring.

Make speed capability a key hiring competency that becomes part of all job postings and interview assessment criteria. And finally educate both managers and recruiters so that they know how to find speed-capable candidates, and then accurately assess their speed capabilities during the assessment process.

5. Develop the capability to complete tasks faster

A major action area where the training function can help is in aiding managers to assess the speed capability of their team members. The training/learning function must play an important role in helping employees increase their speed skills, their ability to complete tasks rapidly, and to innovate faster.

Obviously in order to do that, T&D must provide learning materials, experts, coaching, and online classes to help everyone learn speed techniques, so they can continually get faster without sacrificing quality. Develop a process for identifying any barriers to workforce speed.

6. Develop individual learning speed

Research by Google has indicated that “learning capability” is one of the top two factors in new hire success.

The learning function should seek out the fastest learners (both inside and outside of the organization) in order to capture the most effective speed learning approaches.

7. Reward speed with quality

The compensation and reward function can make a major contribution by determining accurate measures of speed. And then they can make speed a critical part of performance, reward, and promotion criteria.

8. Develop “fast” leaders

The leadership function needs to dramatically expedite leadership development, so that it produces leaders much faster.

It must also develop the speed capability of all leaders and show them how to develop and bring out that capability in their teams.

9. Speed up internal movement

An other important talent area that needs to be upgraded is internal movement.

I recommend using a process once used by Microsoft which I call “business phase matching.” The approach directs employees with advanced speed capabilities into jobs and business units where speed is critical. In the same light, if slower-moving employees can’t be fixed or replaced, they would be moved into business units and teams where speed is less important.

10. Develop speed metrics

The metrics staff can make a major contribution by developing a set of powerful real-time metrics that can be used to monitor speed throughout the workforce.

Predictive metrics must be developed so that both managers and HR are alerted prior to any major talent issue, so they are prepared to react quickly when they do occur.

Metrics should also be developed that prove the impact that HR has had on improving the overall workforce speed.

Final thoughts

Speed has long been part of most executive conversations, and it has been a major business initiative in almost all business units and functions. However, HR has been inexplicably absent when it comes to both understanding the need for speed and in providing programs that increase it.

The time has passed where HR is the only major business function that does not have a formal process for increasing speed.

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