Phase 3 Research Themes
Performance Logics and Recipes In An Age of Discontinuity
Where is our research going over the next couple of years? In addition to the research themes that have been examined in Phases 1 and 2, which we see as continuing priorities, we shall explore a range of new issues that we see as exerting a more dominant role on HR. We believe that for the next few years organizational performance will be driven by a number of strategic logics:
- Innovation, within business models and also across organizations, teams and individuals. The Centre is also involved in an ESRC Research Seminar Series on Organizational Innovation, People Management and Sustained Performance.
- Lean management, and the need to design organizations around these principles
- Global integration, and the building of organizational capability across multiple geographies
In meeting these performance challenges, however, we are returning to an era of discontinuity, with high levels of social and economic volatility. Innovation means that organizations need to accelerate their internal learning curve. This creates the following challenges:
- The need to combine both agility to respond to threats, but also the resilience to stay the course
- The challenge of time-to-competence draws attention to the need for organizations to exert more control over the (extended) skill formation process, and the organizational response (in terms of job design/ project exposure/ career design; identification of the technical syllabus, and assessment against this)
- Related issues around transparency of organizational actions make leadership more visible, creates a need for governance and checks and balances, but also changes the shape of leaders more breadth of experience
White Paper 1: Repositioning the L&D Function
The opening project on L&D has attracted positive support:
"What a great piece of work this is. I am looking at the strategic positioning of my team, as well as the interaction it has with Talent & resourcing. This paper provided a valuable analysis of the current trends and opportunitiesŠ It goes further [than anything I have read]... It analyses trends, mistakes, opportunities and provides a rich source of data to debate at a more strategic level. It looks at the positioning of learning in organisations and gives those Learning departments a chance to justifiably stick their chest out with pride". David Kennell Head of Organisational Capability - Nestle UK
"The idea of Constellations makes a lot of sense. There are two logics at play--the logic of strategic initiative and the logic of integrated functional development. This paper will get a big reaction!" Professor Patrick Flood, Dublin City University
Learning and Development: Seeking a Renewed Focus
This White Paper - now published and available to non-members at £50 - works with the hypothesis that Learning & Development as a function was at risk of becoming the forgotten function, possibly being superceded by Talent Management, caught up in the outsourcing/ e-enabled or transactional debate, or seen as a decentralized capability to be embedded in business divisions.
It examines the literature on the L&D function, its changing role, status and organizational positioning, and contrast the current reality with the messages from academic research on organizational, team and individual learning.
It looks at the key macro and micro drivers behind the current focus/ positioning of L&D eg. level of business model change; changes in procurement; technical e-enabled provision for quick deployment of learning, lower cost and functionality of embedded learning web 2.0 social learning; skills shortages/ gaps/ strategic workforce planning issue. It also examines the different constellations of HR functions that L&D is now being sited within.
The paper builds an evidence base as to what has been happening with the function, and given the current agenda of high levels of business change, how it should now be positioned. We have so far interviewed L&D professionals in 12 firms covering sectors including: retail banking and financial products; business and corporate banking;international financial services, manufacturing and engineering of defence services, electronic systems and air, land and maritime platforms, nuclear decommissioning, reprocessing, waste management and fuel manufacturing; strategic regulation of the nuclear industry; energy and petrochemicals; production of construction aggregates; and nutrition, health and wellness sectors.
It reveals the competing structural logics being used to integrate L&D into HR and introduces the notion of constellayions as a way of embedding the function.
White Paper 2: The New Lean Management
The second piece of work addresses the sorts of HR Capabilities that are needed in the context of an organizational focus on lean and efficient processes. The first papers on this topic are scheduled for March 2013.
The New Lean Management: Mapping The Implications for HR
The next White Paper is being written by Paul Sparrow, Martin Hird and Adrian Walker (HR Director, Honeywell) and is due by March 2013.
Traditional concerns with efficiency and effectiveness have now led to what has been called "the new lean" - attempts to create fast and frugal organisation processes that do not, however, fall into the trap of being driven just by cost cutting as seen in many previous philosophies such as business process re-engineering.
16 interviews have been conducted across 13 case studies. 5 of the case studies are in firms that have traditionally done a lot of work on lean thinking in manufacturing and engineering contexts (in automobile manufacturing; a service logistics company; a defence manufacturing and engineering organisation; an aerospace, automation and control solutions company; and a nuclear decommissioning, reprocessing and waste management site). 8 of the case studies are in firms that are now applying lean thinking in white collar contexts (in the financial services; energy and petrochemicals; civil service directorate; a national government; IT systems, services and products company; postal services; and nutrition, health and wellness sectors).
There are two separate agendas being explored in the paper:
- Lean thinking as a general business driver and performance context. We shall explore lean thinking and its recent derivatives as one of three strategic drivers that have relevance for HR agendas (the other two papers having been written on Innovation and Customer Centricity.
- Lean thinking as specifically applied to white collar work and (or indeed even to HR) and the new opportunities and questions for HR to think about with regard to a) the knowledge that it needs about lean b) where it might situate/ structure this knowledge
We are exploring how recent initiatives may be leading to changes in the ownership of the “intellectual capital” surrounding lean thinking, new core expertise, or the fragmentation of the HR role?
White Paper 3: Beyond the Organization: Delivering HR Across Multiple Partners
We are also looking at the challenge in providing seemless HR support to business arrangements that might be based on partnering (in its many guises). We are exploring these themes against the backdrop of the different types of partnering arrangements in a Scoping report being researched in collaboration with the CIPD and published in May 2013.
- How do we ensure governance, risk management and capability development across partnered business arrangements, or in business models that involve several agencies?
- What are the implications for HR functions as they move from managing the employment relationship in owned entities to a need to manage the quality of people and organizational management across partnerships?.
In the Centre’s last book, Leading HR, we argued that HR is being re-positioned as a function:
“… because of internal organization design pressures resulting from complex business models, but also as a consequence of changes in the importance of external inter-dependence and partnership... the organizational “value web” is, in almost every case, extended across traditional organizational boundaries. This interdependence is a defining characteristic of business model change. Relationships with external bodies which were previously characterised as adversarial at best are suddenly having to be redesigned under a partnership model, as long term contracts are developed with other organizations in the same value web” (Sparrow, Hird, Hesketh & Cooper, 2010)
One dimension of the skills needed within HR functions operating in these sorts of business arrangements revolves around the need for what we termed “Architectural Design skills”. These skills have to be applied beyond the host organization. We concluded that this development is creating a new onus for HR functions:
“… Rather like the new breed of industry regulators, they will find themselves overseeing all those parties and partners involved in people-related aspects of their own business model, regulating both internal and external HR systems, ensuring they perform in line with the overall goals of the organization. They will not just equate internal centres of expertise to existing HR processes, but will need to initiate external centres of excellence, think tanks and networks that can manage the proprietary HR expertise necessary for long-term performance-driving processes – such as strategic competence, innovation, consumer insight, productivity, and partnership learning” (Sparrow, Hird, Hesketh & Cooper, 2010).
A general shift in HR is occurring, based on the need to create HR Operating Models that are effective across multi-organization/ collaborative business models.
The Centre is conducting research to help HR functions understand the challenges they face in providing seemless HR support to the growing range of business arrangements based on partnering beyond the organization. Technically these are called inter-organizational systems – business ventures that are based on relationships that must be established between one or more different organizations. These require the design and delivery of HR systems across all parties involved - beyond the organization.
White Paper 4: Redefining The Contours of Fairness
Throughout 2013, in conjunction with The Work Foundation, we shall be looking at the ever more complex challenge of Fairness. Questions of fairness are becoming more complex as we consider the future of work - many issues (eg. pension provision, questions of reward, careers across different age groups, global sourcing of work, social mobility etc) have impacts across generational groups and across different internal employee segments. We have attracted funding from the CIPD to support a co-badged study between CIPHR, The Work Foundation and the CIPD on this topic. The paper is planned for October 2013. Questions to explore in this paper are:
- What does engagement look like in the context of these complex considerations?
- How should we think of, and manage, what is perceived to be fair in the modern employment relationship?
- What models can we find to think about, and help define, what is considered fair in these complex situations?
- What guidance does this suggest for creating coherent and believed-in HR strategies.
White Paper 5: HR Analytics and Business Influence:
In the second half of 2013 we shall look at developmens concerning HR Analytics. Organizations now have the technical capability to bring together - and create integrated tools across - powerful sources of data. This development, often referred to as "Big Data Analytics" or "Employee Insight" has become popular within human capital management circles. The data that are beoing combined range from analyses of customers and their needs, subjective employee attitude data, objective data contained in HR Information Systems, business unit performance dashboards using financial, customer, and quality metrics, and longer-term strategic outcomes linked to brand or risk management. Increasingly such analytics can be targeted to create much deeper insight into employees, customers and performance. The challenges, however, are immense and go far beyond the immediate technical and IT investments that become necessary, or management and cultural concerns:
- What sort of analytical systems need to be developed to link people and performance data into meaningful management tools?
- How can such data be mainstreamed and embedded inside organizations?
- What are the new hybrid professions, functions and networks that are being created to understand and disseminate the resulting data insights?
- What must be done to deal with the traditional line management blocks that often exist inside organizations, and that detract from doing useful things from any HR insight?
White Paper 6: Future-proofing Engagement
There has been much debate about the nature of employee engagement. Organizations are building complex service models that bring together a range performance factors, such as internal service quality, customer expectations, organizational image or brand, perceived product or service quality, external service value, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and customer advocacy. Understanding key elements of this debate and the link between engagement and organizational performance is important.
There are several measurment models being pursued and the nature, dimensionality and measurement of employee engagement is still contested. Academics debate basic principles about engagement Is it primarily a psychological reaction to job design and role, readily switched on or off? Is engagement the opposite of burnout? Is engagement akin to an attitude (having the three components of cognition, affect and behaviour and therefore similar to the concept of job satisfaction) or is it a state of motivation (i.e. a heightened state of goal directed behaviour such as in ‘vigour’)?
Whilst accepting that engagement is difficult to differentiate from other constructs, and is multi-faceted, conventional practice nonetheless argues that employee engagement acts as the fulcrum upon which much subsequent organisational performance depends, and as such there is considerable utility in managing it.
White Paper 7: Transparency of Governance and its Impact on Leadership:
- What kind of behaviours will be engineered under these pressures for transparency - we may see a degree of blandness or positive leadership models that are held to account?
- Will this translate into high performing top teams - at the top of organizations we very rarely see teams, as senior leaders are sourced through their prior independence?
- Can we deal with the challenges of getting executive teams more connected with the operational leadership below them?
As a concept sustainable leadership is bringing together many ideas - the need for a changing value set in the definition of leadership capability, ideas about long-term versus short term performance management, ideas about corporate social responsibility, and more sustainable business strategies.
As part of this theme the Centre continues its interest in strategic talent management.
- What is really implied by sustainable leadership?
- Can it be managed?
- Does it have positive performance effects?
- How can better links be forged between talent systems and leadership models?
Another key processes to examine is that of globalization as it impacts people management, and how organizations attempt to globalize key proceeses within the HR function.
This work will cover study of the architecture required to cope with the impact of globalization on HR functions, global resourcing options, global services delivery, known currently as outsourcing, and the impact of HR policies and processes across national cultures.
- How is the centralization-localization dilemma being handled in the provision of talent on a global basis?
- What other activities (such as employer branding, strategic workforce planning) are being brought together with the traditional management of international mobility?
- How are global HR structures being changed to manage this?