How HR can supercharge the potential of employees

Companies often struggle to help individuals realise meaningful organisational outcomes through learning and development

Most organisations have competing values and priorities which ultimately inhibits their ability to help maximise the potential of employees and their individual and professional potential, according to a leadership and coaching expert.

“Many businesses say they value their people as their greatest assets, yet many pivotal decisions are primarily bottom-line driven – at the end of the day, the reality is business must deliver profits, said Josie Thomson, an internationally certified master coach and speaker, trainer and seminar leader.

“The duality here is that if the people are not properly engaged, talented and resourced, these profits will not be delivered. There’s a real catch-22 here,” said Thomson, who observed that effective people potential strategies appear to take a back seat when it comes down to core organisational priorities.

Speaking ahead of the Mind & Its Potential 2015 conference, which will be held from 27–28 October 2015 in Sydney, Thomson said companies often struggle to help individuals realise meaningful organisational outcomes through learning and development (L&D).

Avoiding the L&D pitfalls
“Having been in the L&D space myself I recall my organisation spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on good quality development programs, yet people would return to work and repeat what they always did before,” she said.

“This really puzzled me – hence, my leap into the world of coaching. I think companies look for economies of scale, rather than take the quality time required to properly assess the real needs of the business and their people.”

L&D is not a “one size fits all’ strategy, said Thomson, who acknowledged that while there are core themes that must be consistent across organisations (such as safety culture and values), “individuals are individuals.”

“To bring about their best at work, organisations really do need proper analysis that elicits alignment with their business goals and their peoples’ passions and values,” said Thomson.

Rewiring for development
There are a number of steps organisations can take to help people understand and rewire their brain to be more effective at work, according to Thomson.

“Much depends on the context of the organisation,” she said.

“Every organisation is a continual stream of messages coming from people at all levels of the hierarchy. Many of these messages are unquestioned, but frankly destructive or deceptive.

“’Our clients don’t know what they’re doing.’ Or, ‘This initiative is not going to make it; we might as well ignore it.’ Or, ‘To get ahead here, you’ve got to come from a certain kind of background.’ And so on.”

The point here is that these messages are not necessarily wrong, according to Thomson, who said they sometimes may have elements of truth to them.

However, if they are accepted without question, then they can become a habitual pattern of thinking that gets in the way of realising the company’s potential – and the potential of individuals.

“The first step is to see these messages for what they are: messages. They’re not descriptions of reality,” she said.

“The next step is to reframe them: to consider what changes in those messages might be more constructive and represent reality more clearly.

“The next step is to focus attention on the messages that make the most positive difference,” she said.

The role of HR
Thomson observed that people turn to HR for guidance on some of the most stressful issues they face and the most personally relevant questions.

“How do I compare to others? How can I be sure I am treated fairly? How do I get promoted – or keep from getting laid off?” she said.

In many cases, Thomson said HR answers these questions through competencies, or descriptions of what success looks like at many levels.

In other cases, numerical rankings are assigned to people, and Thomson said research shows that these approaches can be destructive, because they send deceptive messages: “Here’s what it takes, and you don’t measure up.”

“The challenge is to find alternatives that work to counter both conscious and unconscious biases,” she said.

The Mind & Its Potential 2015 conference will be held from 27–28 October 2015 at The Concourse, Chatswood, Sydney. Inside HR readers are also eligible for a 20 per cent reader discount (use HR as registration code). For more information or to register visit the conference website: www.mindanditspotential.com.au. Image source: iStock