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The Future belongs to the few who are willing

I received an invitation from Inc. Magazine a few weeks ago to attend one of their events.  It was the book launch of Howard Schultz new book called “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul."

I really looked forward to this event because I was intrigued how Starbucks floundered and how it is now breaking all records in righting its ship.  The book chronicles this epic rise, fall and rebound of the company

He spoke for about an hour in a Q & A format.  I must say that he is an amazing speaker and interviewee.  He talked about his background and the rise from the “projects” to where he is now.  The common thread was the rethinking of the organization that he had built and how going forward everything had to change.

As we all know sometimes in these type events our minds begin to wander.

I thought about how not only Starbucks had lost its way but so many other companies during the past few years.  Some have rebounded, and a great majority are still tumbling along trying to get it right.  Starbucks closed 600 plus stores and laid off thousands of people.

He referred to their rebound as the “new world order”.  In other words things will never be the same with the lessons learned from that tumultuous ride.

During this period, he came across a poster that read “The future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty”. That would become the new mantra to his executive team as he returned to the role of the CEO.  Upon his return, he replaced 90% of his inherited executive team.

When the session was over, I wanted to take a look at this poster.  I googled and found the poster.  As I looked at this powerful poster, my mind wandered back to those same organizations and I wondered just how are they going to get back on track especially with the people issues of employee engagement and retention to just name a few.

There have been so many reports in the past few months, especially around the end of the year, concerning the need for HR to theoretically step up to the plate.  There has always been the frustration of being a spectator to the organization’s mission as opposed to wanting to be a participant.  We have all striven for that “position” at the proverbial table.  We have all striven to just have HR taken seriously.

Some of us have had better results than others. Are we integral to delivering the value that CEO’s need at this critical point in time?  Who are we and what do we do?

This brought me back to the poster, which I think is so apropos to the Future of HR.  “The future belongs to the few of us who are willing to get our hands dirty”

Due to the repercussions of the past few years, we have more than enough issues to deal with. One thing, however, is that this will be the line of demarcation between the old HR and the new.  HR as we knew it is over – and we all know it.

I read an interesting article the other day from McKinsey Consulting “Question for your HR Chief: Are we using our “people data” to create value.  (Disclaimer: I sit on the Executive Online Panel at McKinsey Consulting) This article documented the new approach to an area of HR that is totally new.  The role of HR Analytics that can enable HR to define the intersection of “people practices” and data to generate a talent strategy that is more aligned with the business results.

This was an advanced look at the interesting work that some companies are doing with analytics.  I have seen more than a few job openings with the title HR Analytics.  Google has also done some much talked about work through their HR analytics department.

This level of metrics is above and beyond what was used in the past. These analytics were linked to the business strategies.

His four data points based on the new HR analytics:

  1. Focus HR on Business Priorities.  PNC Financial looked into the quality of the hire of outsiders vs. internal candidates. Using analytics to analyze sales performance, they found that there was more value to the organization with the internal candidates. They also used metrics to improve their talent management programs by compiling a list of 20 business questions and hypotheses such as “What is the business impact of training investment?”
  2. Go Beyond traditional HR solutions
    HR analytics succeed when HR and business leaders work together to address the root causes of problems and to pilot new ways to solve them.  Google has been ahead of the curve and driving a lot of discussion related to metrics.  “We are looking to inform decision makers with data so they can be as objective and bias free as possible”, said Prasad Setty, head of Google’s people analytics group.
  3. Start with what you have.  PNC decided to build an HR analytics department.  In other companies, teams were partnering with marketing, finance or strategic planning.  Their thought is that persistent analysts can answer most business questions without new, sophisticated, or costly tools. The data in a lot of cases is already there; the mission is to coalesce and relate it to the relevant  business issue
  4. Make it stick. As a result of a few successes with HR analytics the work and relevance will continue.  Several companies have established a routine of having HR staff join business reviews to identify priorities for analysis.

This level of the new HR will fully demonstrate the impact of our work. By becoming a true strategic partner to the organization, we will be creating value for the enterprise.

Remember the poster; The Future belongs to the few willing to get their hands dirty.  So who does the future belong to in your organization?

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas an expert in talent management and Strategic HR initiatives.  He is the contributing author to the new book "Creative Onboarding Programs" by Doris Sims.  He is an internationally known HR/Talent Management strategist, blogger and author

He was recently named to the Top 25 HR Influencers List for 2011.  He sits on the Executive Online Panel at McKinsey Consulting.  He is member of the Human Capital Institute’s expert advisory panel on Talent Management Strategy.

His blog "StrategyFocusedHR" has been featured on the vast majority of Top HR blogrolls. 2010 was a banner year for numerous awards of this insightful blog taking a strategic look at Human resources within the organization.

2 Responses to “HR Development Seminars”

  1. […] belong to human resources group in New York called the HR Network. It is a gathering of senior level HR executives from all the top companies in New York City. More […]

  2. […] In other words, “Once upon a time.” I belong to human resources group in New York called the HR Network. It is a gathering of senior level HR executives from all the top companies in New York City. More […]

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