HR’s Big Challenge for 2013: How Do We Help Our Organizations Succeed?

What did you learn today?

Morning Joe,” which is a show that I watch on MSNBC, always asks the most profound questions at the end of every show. Each guest talks about their learning moment for the show.

During the hiatus from work last week, I heard the question asked and thought about it in the context of what I do as a consultant, blogger, and social media enthusiast.

Given that it was the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, I looked back and thought about 2012 and what I learned.

What did you learn?

HR has been headed into an unrelenting storm. Transforming HR has been the focus for the past few years. It makes you wonder: where are we headed and when will we get there? Then again, maybe you are already there. I do know that there is no one size that fits all. Best practices, while good to be aware of, are not the silver bullet.

HR is in an enviable position at this point. Our work is being discussed in the board room; our work is being discussed by the CEO (CEO Insomnia Index).

As David Ulrich said in his book, HR Transformation: Building Human Resources From the Outside In,“Simply stated, we propose that the biggest challenge for HR professionals today is to help their respective organizations succeed.”

That, to me, is our overriding mission and that is my learning point for 2012. How do we help our organization succeed? That is the big question in all of our lives — or it should be.

We have better buckle up because the runway is clear. There are no planes ahead of us. We are positioned to take off. We have to become students of our own profession.

The organizational environment has become far more complex than ever before, both the internal complexity as well as external forces of Hurricane Sandy magnitude. This complexity has been driven by huge technological changes, layoffs, industry disruptions, economic turmoil, and more. In every walk of our professional lives, change is at the forefront.

These changes have in turn been an equal opportunity affecter. Whether in your industry, your organization or individually, change has permeated our environment. The world in which we all operate has become extremely complicated.

Do you understand the position you are in?

What are the main issues facing your organization? That should be at the top of your 2013 to-do list. HR must know what it takes to get your organization back on track, or to stay on track for that matter.

How can HR make sure that alignment between the organization, its employees, and other stakeholder groups stays aligned? As Dave Ulrich said, “How can we help your organizations succeed?”

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Today, organizations are more complex than they were 10 or 20 years ago. The factors that I see that are:

  • The economic environment (which includes the organization’s financial situation as well as the competitive and general economic environment).
  • The technological environment has disrupted our entire society. How do we play in the new environment?
  • The social/cultural environment.
  • The sustainability environment (what is your organizations strategy and how does that align with your people?).
  • The regulatory and legislative environment. New taxes, new health care laws will be felt for years to come.

This is the whirlwind that has engulfed your environment. The unrelenting pressure shows no sign of letting up. But then this is not be a pity party for HR because Marketing and IT and other departments are all both trying to navigate this within their organizations.

So as we analyze what we have learned and use those as anchor points to move forward, we must remember what I think are the four most important words in our lexicon: Read, discuss, analyze, and formulate.

Happy New Year and welcome to the new normal.

Ron Thomas

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.