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Competency, Enablers, HR Strategy

The Future Challenges for the HR Practitioner

Before considering what the key skills for HR practitioners in the future will be, it is essential to identify the future challenges for the HR service.

The role of HR is changing as a result of many influences. These include: globalisation resulting in increased competition; a change to service- and consultative-approach; demographic trends evidenced by falling birth rates and extended life expectancy. These trends affect the labour market and have resulted in skill shortages in specific areas. The HR practitioner needs to understand the impact of these factors on his/her organisation.

Competency, HR Strategy, Innovation, Lean Six Sigma

Beyond HR Data Analytics – Competencies HR Professionals Should Possess

Given today’s need for HR professionals to be strategic business partners, to be a ‘Voice of Conscience’ to the CEO as well as champion for the employees. Those with background in proven management methodologies and tools have a great advantage. HR Professionals who can present their business case for HR strategies and interventions with a compelling return on investment, supported by rock-solid data, will be well respected and regarded. Understanding and using HR data analytics including basic statistics to convey messages goes a long way. Making proper use of HR data may help to identify drivers for staff satisfaction, staff turnover or staff engagement.

Competency, HR Strategy, Lean Six Sigma, Workforce Planning

Excuse Me, Why Should HR Know About Six Sigma?

A friend recently spoke at an HR Conference on a competency development roadmap for Six Sigma professionals. During the break, a few participants went up to him and asked him what Six Sigma is. Only then it occurred to him that not every HR person is familiar with well known basic principles and management practices contributing to business performance and leadership development.

Competency, Enablers, HR Strategy, OD, Staff Development

Navigating Your Career Aspirations

“I would like everyone in our organisation to have his personal career plan in his hands shortly after joining us” was the message we received from Jason, the leader of a social sector organisation. As he explained, it was not easy to attract people to join his team of around 600. The lack of attraction of the jobs in his organisation in the eye of the youth, especially fresh graduates, was the driver for his request. Giving a clear career track with attractive opportunities was to help addressing this issue.

BPR, Enablers, HR Strategy, Lean Six Sigma, OD, Staff Development

What Makes A Good Leader for Change

In response to evolving conditions, you came to realise that your organisation must change. You are now ready to move into action. As the leader of the organisation, one of your first and critical decisions is to appoint the team that will lead the project. Typically, the leadership consists of project sponsor, with overall responsibility, seconded by project managers focusing on specific aspects. These people will be your change agents – the ones upon which success of your initiative will rely. What makes a good change agent then?

When assessing potential candidates, you need to ask yourself three questions: Do they have the right attitude? Do they possess the appropriate knowledge? And have they mastered necessary skills? Let’s look at each of these view points.

The Right Attitude of a Change Agent

A change agent cannot succeed without great persistence. Change is a complex and labour intensive process that arouses feelings and emotions. Angry people, frustrated team mates, conflicting priorities, unforeseen problems, or behind-the-scene resistance are typical daily challenges. A project leader or Manager cannot lead her team through these without determination and stamina.

A Change Agent must have all Attributes: Skills & Knowledge and Beliefs and Attitudes

Figure 1: Chinese Character Ren. English: Human

To avoid changes in leadership in the midst of change, the person must be fully committed to see the project through to completion. A good way to ensure that, is to appoint an ambitious and enthusiastic individual who presents potential for career advancement within the organisation. She will look at the challenges as a terrific career-development opportunity and will be highly motivated to succeed. This high potential employee will gain a broader understanding of the business, an extended network of relationships and stronger leadership skills. In terms of attitude, this is one aspect that is often overlooked.

As depicted by the Chinese word “Ren”, illustrated above (Figure 1), where the two strokes supporting each other signify that “knowledge and skills” have to be complemented by “beliefs and attitudes”. A person with relevant knowledge and skills but an inappropriate attitude will not be able to contribute as much to her company and the community. Moreover, the higher the skills and knowledge of a person, the greater damage she can do to the organisation if her attitude is flawed. The change agent must be prepared to stand up for the project, even if it means tactfully challenging powerful executives – including you! In many cases which we have seen, the implementation problems are often due to the sponsors or top management underestimating the significance of their duties. The sponsors or top management are reluctant to commit the necessary resources; sometimes sending conflicting messages about the importance of change by failing to apply enough pressure to those who resist; or by changing priority half-way through the change. The change agent must act as a Voice of Conscience.

When any mid-course changes occur it is the responsibility of the Change agent to raise the issue with the sponsors; otherwise the project will end up failing. An effective change agent we worked with has this attitude: “My primary goal is to ensure this project succeeds, no matter what. My secondary objective is to preserve my personal relationship with all senior management.” This might sound extreme, but the best change agents really are tactful and diplomatic. Sometimes, a change agent must have the Political Skills, not suggesting the one to join in the game, but better understand it. A change leader must make her own judgement and keep her own counsel; no one can do it for her.

The Appropriate Knowledge of a Change Agent

The project sponsor should be a seasoned change agent with a general understanding of the business. However, project managers should be subject-matter experts in their respective area of responsibility. Having someone with excellent project management skills is simply not enough. They will crash due to lack of detailed understanding of the subject area. Expertise also brings the credibility and respect much needed to succeed in their role. Simply put, you’d better understand how a business works. In particular, change agents need to understand how the business works. This entails understanding of money – where it comes from, where it goes, how it goes, and how to keep it. It also calls into play knowledge of markets and marketing, products and product development, customers, sales, selling, buying, hiring, firing, and just about anything you might think of. In addition to the relevant expertise, a change agent should also be well connected throughout the organisation. These active relationships are important in communicating effectively with stakeholders, developing coalitions, and designing a successful rollout.

The Necessary Skills

Change is not as easy as ABC, the pressure on the project leadership is always tremendous. A change agent has to be able to operate under a huge amount of instability and uncertainty. She has to manage conflicting priorities, multiple constituencies and fast-approaching deadlines. She is responsible for guiding the organisation through the numerous challenges of transition. Therefore, in order to survive, she must possess the proven ability to remain highly effective under intense pressure.

Analytical Skills

The change agent also needs outstanding Analytical Skills in addition to being very organised and disciplined, both in her thinking and actions. Guessing won’t do, insight is nice, even useful, and sometimes shines with brilliance, but it is often difficult to sell and almost impossible to defend. A rational, well-argued analysis can be ignored, but not successfully contested. Change agents must learn to take part and reassemble operations and systems in novel ways, and then determine financial and political impacts of what they have done. At the same time, a good change agent must be flexible enough to work around hurdles and handle evolving priorities. In other words, a disciplined and yet flexible approach is needed to tackle challenges.

People Skills

People Skills such as team building, interpersonal understanding and communication skills is a mandatory set of competencies of a good change agent. The change agent has to build the project team and leverage on the team members’ competencies. To succeed, she must create a strong sense of identity, purpose and joint-ownership, as well as have a high performing mindset. In other words, engage the people, use natural leadership style and influencing skills to get results. To manage resistance – a natural part of the change process – the change agent must start by understanding and acknowledging it.

She needs a lot of empathy, with good listening skills. She must be able to put herself in the shoes of people affected by the change. Resistance is most damaging when it remains unnoticed. It usually occurs when the feelings & concerns of employees are ignored or when change is forced upon them. In order to avoid resistance or the risk of hidden resistance, the change agent must learn to listen to the voice of her customers’ feelings. Whenever possible – influence the people by involving them in decisions. During the change communication is the glue that keeps the organisation moving towards the desired state. The change agent needs to be able to communicate effectively at all levels and across the functions.

What makes a Good Change Agent?

Keep in mind that change is never easy and that the failure rate is high. To maximise your chances of success, we strongly recommend you take a hard look at your candidates. If none of them closely matched your requirements, then consider alternative people. You will avoid yourself a lot of trouble down the road. Last but not least: once you find the right individuals, make sure they can dedicate 50% to 100% of their time to the initiative. Print EN Print CN Published on iSixSigma Published on HumanResources

Enablers, HR Strategy, Staff Development

Succession Planning: Is Your Organisation Ready For The Future?

Thinking ahead is a cardinal rule of business. In addition to monitoring the daily operations of your business, you need to think about the future. And, as difficult as it may be, it’s important to envision the day when you no longer will be in charge. For successful organisations faced with demanding leadership requirements in a changing and competitive business environment, a succession planning process may be the most important human resource management investment the company can make.

The New Challenge

The defining characteristic of a successful organisation is increasingly recognised as human, rather than financial, geographical or production-based. This, together with the increased competition for management talent, is presenting human resources departments with new and challenging issues.

HR teams must attract, recruit and retain knowledge and skills, not just fill jobs with generic people. They need to track knowledge and competencies even more effectively and identify where gaps arise between current and future requirements. They have to work closely with business managers to understand how business strategy translates into the skills and knowledge needed. And they must have the confidence to retain both senior management and other employees.

A critical HR activity will be to develop a culture of continuous learning and growth for both individuals and the company as a whole. This is where a company-wide succession planning process will become an essential organisational asset. This process, which may or may not need to be supported by a computerised succession planning information system, can provide benefits that go beyond the traditional reason for succession planning, which has always been to assure the continuity of leadership at the top.

What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is often described as “career planning at the top”, an extension of the principles and procedures that the company uses to merge the career aspirations of individual managers with organisational goals and management needs. Both career planning and succession planning are (or should be) “developmentally oriented”, that is focused on the long-term development of managers for future positions, as well as specific activities such as training, education and job-development.

However, because succession planning typically focuses on a few key leadership positions that are considered critical, and because these positions often have different requirements than other management jobs, succession planning usually requires a separate or additional set of “position requirements”. The skills and talents required to lead key function, business units or the organisation as a whole are not necessarily the same as those needed at intermediate or specialised management levels. For example, the job descriptions of data procession managers seldom call for a understanding of global economics or competitive marketing strategies.

Does Your Organisation Need Succession Planning?

Consider the following questions:

  • Is turnover in key positions high?
  • Are employees trained after they have been promoted?
  • Do you consistently fill positions with external replacements?
  • Does staff feel that advancement is based on personal or subjective criteria rather than them being best qualified?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to think seriously about implementing succession planning

Defining The Process

Effective succession planning and leadership development has to be based on clear understanding of the business strategy. This in turn determines the kind of people you need for effective leadership both now and in the future.

A Typical Succession Planning Process

Figure 1: A Typical Succession Planning Process

These requirements must then be mapped against information about individual employees. In addition to biographical detail, technical and professional skills, you should look at track core competencies – fundamental human skills and attitudes – and knowledge. This will be particularly powerful if you can also identify which competencies are required for current and future positions.

Figure 2 below illustrates the Succession Management Process developed for Aon Singapore and Asia.

The process distinctly illustrates three important components. Position Requirements are one of the three components that define a succession planning process and may require extensive data that is applicable only to key positions in the organisation. In the case of Aon, the key positions and position holders are recorded in a database, named RED book.

Like most organisations, Aon use competency models to assess employees (Figure 2) by using a set of criteria to identify internal candidates who match a position but may not have been nominated as a successor. Once candidates have been identified, information is recorded in the database, named BLUE Book. The potential successors will be assessed using the Competency Profiler tool to augment the competency with executive profiles, educational background, performance ratings, and other relevant information to assist in determining who to include in the succession pool.

Typical Succession Planning Steps

Figure 2: Typical Succession Planning Steps

“People Data” are the second component of succession planning. This step is usually more extensive than career planning because upper-level positions are more critical to business success and more should be known about managers who may ascend to these positions. For example, a career planning system might incorporate performance appraisal data that rates a manager’s performance on a scale of one to five. Data on potential company leaders should be more extensive and detailed, explaining the reasons for the rating and providing an overall context for the appraisal.

The third component in defining succession planning is Development Activities. They link people and their qualifications with the requirements of key positions. Developmental activities are also likely to include different, and sometimes unique, types of information and activities beyond those in a career planning process. For example, a career plan targeted at domestic marketing positions may not need to include education or experience with foreign governments or offshore production. However, a CEO candidate or Regional  Marketing vice president would need this experience and/or knowledge.

Benefits of Succession Planning

An effective succession plan enables a company to identify and prepare the right people for the right positions at the right time and to identify, secure and grow a company’s knowledge base. In addition to building and securing company’s knowledge base, succession planning helps organisations to:

  • engage senior management in a disciplined review of leadership talent
  • ensure effective development plans are in place for key executives
  • align management development, selection and reward with business requirements
  • assure continuity of experience and leadership
  • avoid premature or belated promotion
  • retain and motivate management and key contributors
  • ensure training budgets are spent effectively

Critical Success Factors

  • The succession planning process must be supported by top management
  • Line managers need to understand the benefits of succession planning
  • Start small – focus on your most important people and positions first and establish a clearly defined  process before addressing a wider population
  • Take into account both the current and future strategic direction of management  and organisational structures and culture
  • Focus on development opportunities with the greatest impact for the business – cross-functional /cross sector assignments, mentoring, etc
  • Aim to develop leadership team – not just functional skills in isolation
  • Link organisational values and cultures to employee development
  • Ensure the consistent data standards are used across the organisation whenever possible
  • Choose a specialised succession planning software solution to manage the process.


Enablers, HR Strategy, OD, Service, Staff Development, YOG

Recruiting the Right Mindset

There are several invaluable lessons learnt during the different phases of YOG. A significant task has been the recruitment, preparation and motivation of more than five hundred staff and of more than twenty thousand volunteers within a timeframe of less than two years.

It is not new that recruiting people means evaluating, finding skills and experience that make up the eligibility – the aptitude – on the one hand and the suitability – the attitude – on the other hand. However, it is commonly much easier to evaluate the former in detail whilst neglecting the latter.

HR Strategy, OD, Service, Workforce Planning

My Opinion: It’s About the Process

Discussing workforce planning with an HR professional of a government entity in Singapore we explained our approach that starts from customer and strategy, goes via processes and concludes in workforce needs, in short. The answer I got from my client was “Why do you look into operations in order to do workforce planning. We want to do this without dealing too much with processes.”

I was surprised to get this reaction from an HR professional.

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