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Tail wagging the dog!

As a former insurance-based HRD, I’ll be entirely honest here: I got a bit fed up when a key element of people processes came under the spotlight because the regulator – at last! – discovered that human behaviour was a critical component of ensuring that businesses operate to the highest ethical and professional standards.

Having shouted into the wind (or that’s often how it felt) about the importance to the business of rigour in terms of basic aspects of HR management, the threat of a fine or other action being taken against the company suddenly meant that these issues needed more than lip service. All too often, the obligatory working group was set up and “experts“on Solvency II or the SMR regime were employed. Many of us in the engaged HR community shared a wry thought along the lines of: “Hello?! We’ve been saying for years that job descriptions should be kept up to date, that performance management and appraisals are really important and that greater transparency around reward for all employees are key to business performance… and now you listen!”

(If none of this was your experience, then well done you and your company. But I’m sure many of you recognise this frustration).

In a more rational moment, I decided to climb off my high horse and use the new impetus to further the people agenda. This meant not necessarily delivering the new or cutting edge, but usually something more “mom and apple pie” in terms of the value added by a coherent and rigorous approach focused on raising levels of performance (rather than improved rigour in documenting failures).

A trap that some find themselves in is that corporate governance structures become entirely driven by the regulatory framework – rather than by a clear-sighted view on the optimal structure for the business, followed by consideration of the extent to which it meets regulatory demands. Changes can then be made, where necessary.

When implementing changes associated with new regulation there was also, in my experience, a tendency to ignore the nuances of people management, and a somewhat one dimensional or pedestrian view taken: i.e. as long as we could demonstrate that an appraisal had been done, or that bonuses were tied to performance management to key outputs, that this was enough. This glosses over whether performance is managed, or real, and whether stretching targets have been met, in favour of showing that we had written things down. Less about winning hearts and minds and actually managing performance than old-fashioned, reactive personnel management!

Business-focused HR professionals nowadays understand the linkage between behaviours, people strategies and business success. A great deal of what we have to do is around convincing those not naturally inclined towards enlightened (proven and effective) methods of people management that they are worthwhile in order to achieve hard business objectives. These methods shouldn’t be driven solely by regulation, or be a “nice to do” when things were going well, because they are absolutely fundamental to business success.

A lot of the work we do at Executive Action is in helping HRDs operating in this space to win the argument – not by bypassing HR and talking to “real business people”, but to those charged with creating strategies and methods to drive up business performance.

It is our experience that failing executives are rarely great managers of people, and our work often leads us to support and help the HRD challenge those behaviours and move beyond the argument about compliance with the knowledge and experience to help people and groups to behave differently.

Above all, we help HRDs strive towards not allowing legal and regulatory changes to become the primary concern, but instead to ensure that the central issue is successful behavioural change and business success – that is to say, not allowing the tail to wag the dog!

John F Renz

Posted: October 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Communication, Development | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »