How HR can add competitive advantage in 3 key steps

Collaboration with business leaders, leadership and high potential development are three key areas where Australian organisations need improvement when it comes to aligning talent to support business growth and improving competitive advantage, according to global consulting firm Right Management.

The current business climate is one of constant change, and HR leaders need to work collaboratively with business leaders to ensure they are hiring for the right roles and the right skills that are critical to the business strategy now as well as in five, ten and twenty years, said Rosemarie Dentesano, Right Management’s regional practice leader for talent management in Australia and New Zealand.

“To do this, leaders should look at how they can improve their talent supply; whether it be through looking outside the available talent pool to new geographies that might hold untapped talent, or at potential areas where current talent can be developed or ‘up-skilled’ to fill future gaps,” she said.

Collaboration with business leaders is the first most important step in this, and Dentesano said HR professionals need to work alongside business leaders to develop pragmatic, actionable plans and initiatives that will get business buy-in to deliver against the organisation’s strategy.

“By offering development strategies catering to individual needs, organisation’s can ensure they build a workforce capable of delivering and meeting the overall business strategy”

“Without knowledge into the overall direction of a business and where business leader see growth opportunities, HR professionals will fail to deliver on talent strategies that support business goals,” she said.

Leadership is a key second step, and Dentesano observed that many organisations grapple with a fast-paced business climate in which change is the only constant.

“Good leadership is at the heart of good talent strategies. Organisations must focus on leadership development strategies that deliver bespoke training, equipping the next generation of managers with the skills necessary to thrive in an evolving business landscape,” she said.

By offering development strategies catering to individual needs, organisation’s can ensure they build a workforce capable of delivering and meeting the overall business strategy.”

High potential development is the third key step to growth, and Dentesano noted that as the baby boomer generation is moving towards retirement, leadership positions are opening up to younger and less experienced team members.

Many have high potential, but not the luxury of experience to attain “lift-off” as quickly as more senior counterparts might have, she said.

“To move the generation of leaders forward, it’s imperative organisations set leaders up for success by investing in their development, understanding and alignment to the broader business strategy.”

The role of HR leaders
HR leaders must position themselves as talent architects by developing and implement strategic workforce plans and making sure the talent strategy aligns to the business strategy, Dentesano said.

“To do this, HR leaders need to consider whether the organisation’s got the right work models, people practices and talent sources to deliver a strategic advantage over competitors and to drive the business forward,” she said.

“Many organisations are using people practices which rely on outdated assumptions and which don’t harness the latest knowledge in attracting, developing and retaining key talent.

“To meet and support growth opportunities, HR leaders need to assess what roles and skills are critical to the broader business strategy, how they can improve their talent supply and what long and short term investment strategies are required to meet talent development needs.”

It is also vital that organisations ask “how” when it comes to work models: “How do we manage the talent ecosystem within the organisation to drive productivity, how might work be structured differently, how do we manage a diverse and virtual workforce and how do we inject flexibility and agility into the workforce mix?” Dentesano asked.

“This knowledge should be at the core of any strategic workforce plan and influence decisions that impact upon this.”

Demonstrating HR’s value
One major challenge for HR leaders is demonstrating the value and outcomes of a particular talent management initiative, and Dentesano said HR leaders must be sure they can “demonstrate the impact of their work, show return on investment (ROI) and be agile and unafraid to reset talent initiatives when required.

“It’s critical HR professionals plan ahead, to know exactly what they want to measure so they can set targets and measure consistently to demonstrate progress and talent ‘wins’ – or modify plans along the way if positive results aren’t being delivered.”

There are several ways to measure ROI, however, she said each should be consistent and individualised. Metrics may include: decreases in recruitment and on-boarding costs, increased productivity from staff, improved quality of strategy plans, better results from employee engagement surveys, decreased unplanned absenteeism or an increase in internally filled roles.