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A note to HR Directors, who do not have tickets yet: HR Tech Europe London will take place 24-25th March in ExCel London. To give us a taste of the event, Nick Holley, professor and Director at the HR Excellence Centre of Henley Business School reveals key themes that will be central to HR Tech Europe keynotes and workshops

Why is HR Tech Europe 2015 a major event for HR?

HR are cobbler’s children.  The story goes that cobbler’s children have the worst shoes.  In our research when we talked about talent management and development several heads of talent  management told me that HR is the worst function at spending time on its own development…  HR Tech Europe is a major event because in one place you can find many of the leading thinkers and practitioners.  It’s a great place to stand back from the day to day and reflect.  I don’t believe coming to HR Tech Europe is just about finding solutions or best practice, but it’s also about challenging what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  It’s not about answers, but about stepping out of the ‘busy busy’ and reflecting on whether we are asking the right questions.

What are the key trends you see in HR in 2015?

1ee8acbThe future of HR isn’t about changes or trends in HR. It’s about changes in the world in which HR operates.  If HR is to have a future we need to get out of our HR centric view of the world and focus on supporting our organisations through a period of huge uncertainty.  We are going through a period of unprecedented change driven by short-term issues such as the global recession, political instability and the Eurozone crisis, but also by more fundamental shifts in demographics (the economic growth of China and Africa, the rise of an urban middle class in developing countries, an aging population in developed countries etc) and technology (big data, social, mobile etc).  We live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. These are the trends that should matter to HR not the latest fad.

You said “CEOs don’t care about HR”. How HR can find favour with CEOs?
The point I am making is they don’t care about HR as a function.  They expect you and your team to deliver the core HR processes really well, but they don’t care about these processes beyond the fact they are done.  What they really want from the function and care about is your support in enabling the business strategy; building the people and organisational capability to deliver the business strategy.  Indeed what they value most in an HR Director is the Director bit, less the HR bit. They expect you to bring your HR functional expertise, but above all they expect you to be a ‘corporate director’ like any of their other direct reports.  They expect you to contribute beyond your functional role.  They don’t want silence until a people related issue is raised.  They want you to be an active player counterbalancing the other players around ethical and long-term sustainability issues.  The challenge is how to do this as part of the team and not being seen to stand apart from it.

Most organisations have great HR strategies but fail to deliver them. What are their mistakes?
The last thing an organisation needs is an HR strategy.  This is the biggest mistake.  There is only one strategy and that is the organisational strategy.  Most HR strategies are strategies for the HR function that are full of things HR is interested in – engagement, talent etc – not the things the business is interested in – profit, competitive differentiation, enhanced customer service, etc.

The second mistake we found in our research is, as one CEO said, it’s ‘All very well having these nice discussions but if you can’t deliver that’s no good.’  Too many people get bored with delivery.  They enjoy design and aren’t interested in disciplined follow through.  This means prioritising what matters to the business and stopping doing things that bear no relationship to what the organisation actually needs as opposed to what HR thinks it needs.

This article originally appeared in French, in Exclusive RH Tuesday March 10th 2015