ORACLE HR BOARD REPORT

Wednesday 26 September The Savoy | London

Shaping the Future
The Oracle HR Board series was established to drive best practice and thought leadership in the profession, bringing together experts from across industry to discuss the most pressing topics facing HR and to enjoy some excellent food and drink. As the interplay of social, economic and demographic forces continues to affect UK organisations in unpredictable ways, HR has a key role to play in helping the business to anticipate, respond and adapt to rapidlychanging conditions. The theme for the evening was HR’s role in shaping the organisation’s future in a deeply uncertain world. Is traditional strategic planning the answer, or does HR need to radically change its thinking and approach to enable the organisation to succeed? That was the question posed by special guest Max McKeown, a well-known writer, consultant, guru and researcher specialising in innovation strategy, leadership and culture. Max delivered an inspiring and at times controversial talk, challenging HR Board members to rethink their role in a world defined by constant, unexpected change. The following report captures the key themes and discussion points from the evening. I hope you will find it useful and thought-provoking.

Richard Haycock HCM Sales Director, Oracle Corporation

No one knows for sure what the future holds, but many of us carry in our heads an idea of what it will be like. HR Board members felt that the future for their organisations was uncertain, but that change was inevitable – especially due to the rapid development of new mobile technologies that are transforming the nature of the workplace. One member saw a future full of “massive opportunities” , but with change happening so fast, the challenge is to identify these opportunities early and create an organisational culture that is equipped to move swiftly to capitalise on them.

In order to cope with change, organisations need to be able to recognise it, respond appropriately, and adapt quickly to accommodate it. A two-year or five-year business plan is of little help, as it’s usually predicated on the belief that business will continue more or less as usual. HR Board members also identified other shortcomings with rigid business plans; particularly the way they discourage creative thinking and rapid decision-making.

Conclusion

“ I want to understand and anticipate the future, but I feel I have no influence over it”

– HR Board Member

But just throwing away the plan may not be the solution. Organisations that have no plan end up simply reacting to what’s going on day by day. They’re unable to take a step back and see the bigger picture. They miss the big changes going on in the marketplace – from technological advances to environmental change – and fail to spot competitors and opportunities coming from new directions.

story about American retailer Target also olutionary effect Big Data is having, with the to determine which of its customers were when their child was due6. This enabled it to pectant mothers during their second trimester, with specific baby-related products.

chain Zara is a case in point. It combines alysis of its sales data with regional cilities based close to its main retail outlets. ransmitted from shops directly back to aff, who are able to see what designs, sizes re selling. Production can then be aligned to ring the retailer is not left with a surfeit of nd of a season, and is extracting maximum customers.

dy for Big Data? Anecdotal UK evidence with senior HR leaders only now getting to at it means and offers. However, that’s not to ine is at fault, as HR teams are rarely staffed ns and data analysts. But with Big Data harging customer interaction, first-mover already discovering the effect it can have on agement.

ood services company ARAMARK leverages k business renewal rates to employee els and other factors7. Senior executives use a dashboard to alert them if measures change, e opportunity to take corrective action before hips and revenues are impacted.

That’s because executives who use the past as a guide to what to do next are often blind to the change happening around them. Failing to identify and adapt to that change can be fatal for the business. Yet that’s what happens in many large organisations – particularly ones where senior management have risen through the ranks over many years, absorbing the culture and approach of previous generations of leaders.

The key to achieving that is to become the kind of enterprise that can quickly recognise and adapt to change. The ability to respond appropriately to what speaker Max McKeown calls “WTF moments” – moments where huge and unexpected change takes place in the business environment – will determine which of four categories the organisation falls into.

oard have seen Big Data having a positive

In creating that culture, traditional approaches to business planning may not help. In a typical business, planning is done in long cycles – of a year or more – and tends to be based on past performance and the planners’ previous experience. In stable economic conditions, that approach may keep the business on the right track. But in the chaotic environment that many organisations are in today, using the past to guide future planning can seriously derail the organisation.

HR Board members were asked to imagine the kind of future they would like to create for their organisation. One member doubted their ability to shape the future: “I want to understand and anticipate the future, but I feel I have no influence over it” . Another said that global political and economic forces – such as the rise of China as a superpower – have an uncontrollable influence on what happens in this country. But members agreed that they had a will and a responsibility to help the organisation be “the best it can be” .

Finally, while Big Data looks set to completely change the way organisations use their human resources, the discipline is still in the early stages of learning what it can do. HR professionals lack the skills to successfully exploit the continuing explosion in business data, and that is why our learning curve begins now.

This HR Board saw a general theme develop that has been missing from mainstream HR thought – that far from deserving a place on executive boards, we first need to earn the right.

One area of concern that met with unanimous approval was the need to change the mindset of the discipline; shifting away from being obsessed with process and procedure to being more agile and business friendly.

This fed into a second train of thought – that to add real value to our organisations, we need to become more pragmatic and commercially attuned. Above all else, we need to remember we’re primarily employed to help our organisations succeed at what they do. We’re business people first; people managers second.

Understanding the Future

Whether it’s true or not, a perception exists among business leaders that HR can sometimes be a roadblock to reacting to fresh market conditions.

Recognising and Responding to “WTF Moments”

Organisations broadly fall into one of four categories depending on their ability to move with the times.

Collapsing organisations have outlived their usefulness. Nobody needs what they offer, as better, more useful and more attractive alternatives have sprung up elsewhere. These organisations have failed to recognise and respond adequately to change in the wider environment. They are, in effect, doomed. Surviving organisations are managing to maintain relevance for now, but are probably having to work very hard to maintain the status quo, and are not responding nimbly or effectively to change in the marketplace. They are running to stand still, and what they do next will determine whether they become a collapsing organisation or a thriving one.

The role of HR should be to enable the organisation to get to a transcendent position, and stay there for as long as possible. That means creating a culture and a mindset where the entire organisation is able to recognise change, understand what needs to be done to accommodate it, and quickly adapt according to those insights. HR board members were invited to identify ways in which they could prepare the organisation for rapid change. Suggestions from around the table included:

Conclusion

• Paint a simple vision of the future: so that everyone knows where the organisation is trying to get to, and making decisions will bring it closer to that vision.

Thriving organisations are making the most of current conditions. They are relevant and in demand, and they do what they do very well. They recognise and accommodate changing conditions in order to make incremental improvements to what they do and offer. What a thriving organisation doesn’t do – and which may ultimately be its downfall – is alter the rules of the game. They make the best of the current environment, but aren’t active agents of change.

• Carrot and stick: rewarding behaviours that identify and adapt to change, and penalising those that don’t. • Watch and learn: see how completely different organisations – of different sizes or in different industries – adapt to change, and learn from their behaviour.

story about American retailer Target also olutionary effect Big Data is having, with the to determine which of its customers were when their child was due6. This enabled it to pectant mothers during their second trimester, with specific baby-related products.

chain Zara is a case in point. It combines alysis of its sales data with regional cilities based close to its main retail outlets. ransmitted from shops directly back to aff, who are able to see what designs, sizes re selling. Production can then be aligned to ring the retailer is not left with a surfeit of nd of a season, and is extracting maximum customers.

dy for Big Data? Anecdotal UK evidence with senior HR leaders only now getting to at it means and offers. However, that’s not to ine is at fault, as HR teams are rarely staffed ns and data analysts. But with Big Data harging customer interaction, first-mover already discovering the effect it can have on agement.

ood services company ARAMARK leverages k business renewal rates to employee els and other factors7. Senior executives use a dashboard to alert them if measures change, e opportunity to take corrective action before hips and revenues are impacted.

• Create time to think: people at all levels need to have the opportunity to step back from day-to-day work and think constructively about where the organisation is going.

The HR Board debated whether it’s a worthwhile ambition to become a ‘transcending’ organisation in the current economic climate, when many organisations are happy just to be ‘surviving’. There was a perception that to aim for anything higher than ‘thriving’ could involve an unacceptable amount of risk – when there’s no money to fund expensive experiments or accommodate expensive mistakes.

“ Amazon is the definition of a transcending organisation – you know you’re transcendent when your competitors simply give up. ”

– Max McKeown

oard have seen Big Data having a positive

Transcending organisations are active ‘game-changers’. They recognise change on micro and macro levels, and come up with revolutionary new ideas that break with current ways of doing things and introduce entirely new rules of engagement that create (at least for a while) prosperity and plenty. Other organisations are forced to change their own game in response, but can only do so if they recognise and understand what the transcending organisation is doing.

• Set expectations: make it clear what’s expected from everyone in the organisation in terms of recognising and responding to change. • Encourage curiosity: leaders and employees who are curious about why things work (or don’t work) are better able to embrace and even drive change.

Finally, while Big Data looks set to completely change the way organisations use their human resources, the discipline is still in the early stages of learning what it can do. HR professionals lack the skills to successfully exploit the continuing explosion in business data, and that is why our learning curve begins now.

This HR Board saw a general theme develop that has been missing from mainstream HR thought – that far from deserving a place on executive boards, we first need to earn the right.

One area of concern that met with unanimous approval was the need to change the mindset of the discipline; shifting away from being obsessed with process and procedure to being more agile and business friendly.

This fed into a second train of thought – that to add real value to our organisations, we need to become more pragmatic and commercially attuned. Above all else, we need to remember we’re primarily employed to help our organisations succeed at what they do. We’re business people first; people managers second.

Four Types of Organisation

The Role of HR

Whether it’s true or not, a perception exists among business leaders that HR can sometimes be a roadblock to reacting to fresh market conditions.

One area of concern that met with unanimous approval was the need to change the mindset of the discipline; shifting away from being obsessed with process and procedure to being more agile and business friendly.

HR Board members agreed that employee engagement was critical to the ability to recognise and respond to change. Employees who are not engaged will not have the desire, motivation or curiosity to understand the change going on around them and harness it to make positive decisions for the organisation. But engagement is a tricky thing to define and measure. One member said they had created a model to identify different types of employee engagement, and map those engagement types to individual job roles. Recognising different styles of engagement is critical, because if only one style is encouraged, it means that people can find themselves slapped down or penalised for behaviour that is actually very beneficial for the organisation.

At the end of the evening’s discussion, Max McKeown was asked for his advice on how HR directors can shape the best future for their organisations. These were his top five tips: 1. Create time to think – and to think better.

2.  Start at the top and train senior executives in how to ask the right questions in order to make good decisions quickly. They can then cascade that skill down through the organisation.

3.  Don’t focus on big transformations – they take too long. Instead, look to make lots of tiny changes that together have a ‘pivot’ effect. 4.  Make curiosity an important part of the organisation’s culture – freeing people to explore and test new ideas.

Several examples served to highlight this point. One is that ‘ambition’ is often treated as a positive attribute, recognised and rewarded at the hiring stage and beyond. But ambitious people may not stay with the organisation for long, if they see better opportunities elsewhere.

story about American retailer Target also olutionary effect Big Data is having, with the to determine which of its customers were when their child was due6. This enabled it to pectant mothers during their second trimester, with specific baby-related products.

chain Zara is a case in point. It combines alysis of its sales data with regional cilities based close to its main retail outlets. ransmitted from shops directly back to aff, who are able to see what designs, sizes re selling. Production can then be aligned to ring the retailer is not left with a surfeit of nd of a season, and is extracting maximum customers.

dy for Big Data? Anecdotal UK evidence with senior HR leaders only now getting to at it means and offers. However, that’s not to ine is at fault, as HR teams are rarely staffed ns and data analysts. But with Big Data harging customer interaction, first-mover already discovering the effect it can have on agement.

ood services company ARAMARK leverages k business renewal rates to employee els and other factors7. Senior executives use a dashboard to alert them if measures change, e opportunity to take corrective action before hips and revenues are impacted.

“ Conservative organisations are happy enough to be surviving at the moment. ”

– HR Board Member

The speaker cited the example of a bin collector he had interviewed, who loved his job because it meant he could work the hours that he liked and be drunk at work if he wanted. Those might be perceived as negative attributes, but the bin collector was completely dedicated to his work.

oard have seen Big Data having a positive

Similarly, few organisations actively encourage grumpy loners who don’t seem to care about the business, but those people may be geniuses who will have a big idea that can take the organisation forward. And curiosity is a positive way to drive change – Google’s 20% time was cited as a way to encourage curiosity that sometimes results in valuable new products and business models – but can be penalised in an organisation that is very results-driven.

5.  Introduce simple frameworks – with clear expectations and rules of engagement, and a simple vision of the future that everyone can work towards.

This fed into a second train of thought – that to add real value to our organisations, we need to become more pragmatic and commercially attuned. Above all else, we need to remember we’re primarily employed to help our organisations succeed at what they do. We’re business people first; people managers second.

Whether it’s true or not, a perception exists among business leaders that HR can sometimes be a roadblock to reacting to fresh market conditions.

Five Ways to Shape the Future

Finally, while Big Data looks set to completely change the way organisations use their human resources, the discipline is still in the early stages of learning what it can do. HR professionals lack the skills to successfully exploit the continuing explosion in business data, and that is why our learning curve begins now.

This HR Board saw a general theme develop that has been missing from mainstream HR thought – that far from deserving a place on executive boards, we first need to earn the right.

The Importance of Engagement

Conclusion

HR Board members agreed that the faltering economy has created a widespread aversion to risk-taking, even (or especially) among businesses that previously embraced risk. Decision-making is ultra-cautious and takes a long time. One member said that an investment bank he had worked at, the organisation took nine months to model a forex strategy. There is a distinct fear of bold decisions, with many senior executives preferring to make decisions by committee in order to protect themselves from the ramifications of making the wrong call.

But how do you know which ideas are good ones? And how do you make a good idea into a fantastic idea? To be successful – to become transcending – organisations need to be able to select the best ideas and develop them into game-changing innovations. That means not just having the mechanisms in place to gather, suggest, review and evaluate ideas, but processes and mechanisms for working on them, developing them, testing them and refining them all at the rapid pace of modern business – until they work.

Conclusion

“ People don’t want to fail right now. Failing fast is difficult – there isn’t the money to cover it. ” – HR Board Member

One member recalled that it had recently been fashionable to encourage failure, based on the notion that individuals and organisations can learn valuable lessons from getting things wrong. That seemed naïve in the current climate, however. “People don’t want to fail right now. Failing fast is difficult – there isn’t the money to cover it. ”

One of the key roles of HR is to create a culture in which the free exchange and review of ideas is possible at every level within the organisation. The best ideas may not come from the top, but from the shop-floor: people who are daily contact with customers and have direct experience of how their wants, needs and behaviours are changing. First Direct, for example, has led the way in creating new services – such as SMS banking – by collecting customer complaints and turning them into products.

story about American retailer Target also olutionary effect Big Data is having, with the to determine which of its customers were when their child was due6. This enabled it to pectant mothers during their second trimester, with specific baby-related products.

chain Zara is a case in point. It combines alysis of its sales data with regional cilities based close to its main retail outlets. ransmitted from shops directly back to aff, who are able to see what designs, sizes re selling. Production can then be aligned to ring the retailer is not left with a surfeit of nd of a season, and is extracting maximum customers.

dy for Big Data? Anecdotal UK evidence with senior HR leaders only now getting to at it means and offers. However, that’s not to ine is at fault, as HR teams are rarely staffed ns and data analysts. But with Big Data harging customer interaction, first-mover already discovering the effect it can have on agement.

Another concern is that people are frightened to share their ideas in case they’re laughed at or ignored. Here there is a very clear case for HR to help create and nurture an organisational culture in which all ideas are valued, and where there are clear rewards for putting them forward.

oard have seen Big Data having a positive

After much discussion, the Board broadly agreed that a strategy of learning from mistakes could still be viable if the organisation pursued lots of avenues and ideas simultaneously. Pinning every hope and aspiration on one idea was a recipe for disaster if that idea failed. The days of betting the farm are over (at least temporarily), but that doesn’t mean that organisations shouldn’t experiment with new ideas and take certain risks in numerous smaller ways.

ood services company ARAMARK leverages k business renewal rates to employee els and other factors7. Senior executives use a dashboard to alert them if measures change, e opportunity to take corrective action before hips and revenues are impacted.

But for that approach to work, there must be mechanisms for filtering ideas rapidly upwards through the organisation to a level where they can be accepted or rejected. This may be an argument for putting social media tools to work as a way to share and comment on ideas, although one HR Board member said their organisation had yet to get to grips with social media, and was struggling to understand how it could best be used as an internal collaboration tool.

Finally, while Big Data looks set to completely change the way organisations use their human resources, the discipline is still in the early stages of learning what it can do. HR professionals lack the skills to successfully exploit the continuing explosion in business data, and that is why our learning curve begins now.

This HR Board saw a general theme develop that has been missing from mainstream HR thought – that far from deserving a place on executive boards, we first need to earn the right.

One area of concern that met with unanimous approval was the need to change the mindset of the discipline; shifting away from being obsessed with process and procedure to being more agile and business friendly.

This fed into a second train of thought – that to add real value to our organisations, we need to become more pragmatic and commercially attuned. Above all else, we need to remember we’re primarily employed to help our organisations succeed at what they do. We’re business people first; people managers second.

Risky Decisions in a Down Economy

Picking the Right Ideas

Whether it’s true or not, a perception exists among business leaders that HR can sometimes be a roadblock to reacting to fresh market conditions.

chain Zara is a case in point. It combines alysis of its sales data with regional cilities based close to its main retail outlets. ransmitted from shops directly back to aff, who are able to see what designs, sizes re selling. Production can then be aligned to ring the retailer is not left with a surfeit of nd of a season, and is extracting maximum customers. This HR Board saw a general theme develop that has been missing from mainstream HR thought – that far from deserving a place on executive boards, we first need to earn the right.
Once ideas have been put to executives that can sign them off, there must be mechanisms for reviewing and testing the ideas and deciding – quickly – which ones to put into production and which ones to ignore. There again, HR has a role to play in training executives to review and select ideas without fear of reprisals for ‘making the wrong call’, and to develop the ideas they feel will most benefit the organisation. This may call for new kinds of management training. One HR Board member said their CEO had requested a new kind of management workshop, one which focused not on ticking boxes or achieving outcomes but on encouraging people to think more radically and boldly about the business. The organisation was now focusing a lot more on giving people ‘space to think’ – not by giving them time off, but by organising sessions in which people are encouraged to think about – for example – how cutting edge technological advances could affect the business.

dy for Big Data? Anecdotal UK evidence with senior HR leaders only now getting to at it means and offers. However, that’s not to ine is at fault, as HR teams are rarely staffed ns and data analysts. But with Big Data harging customer interaction, first-mover already discovering the effect it can have on agement.
ABOUT THE ORACLE HR BOARD
Oracle established the HR Board series to drive best practice and thought leadership in the HR profession. Regular Board meetings are attended by HR leaders from organisations including:

oard have seen Big Data having a positive

Copyright © 2012, Oracle. All rights reserved. Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Finally, while Big Data looks set to completely change the way organisations use their human resources, the discipline is still in the early stages of learning what it can do. HR professionals lack the skills to successfully exploit the continuing explosion in business data, and that is why our learning curve begins now.

There are further HR Boards planned for 2013. If you are interested in attending and contributing to HR Board thought leadership, please contact Sue Good, Business Development Manager, on +44 (0)7810 830629 or susan.good@oracle.com.

ood services company ARAMARK leverages k business renewal rates to employee els and other factors7. Senior executives use a dashboard to alert them if measures change, e opportunity to take corrective action before hips and revenues are impacted.

Ultimately, it is new ideas that will drive the business forward. Organisations that rest on their laurels, or that believe a run of good luck will last forever, will quickly find themselves sidelined or eclipsed by a more forward-thinking competitor.

story about American retailer Target also olutionary effect Big Data is having, with the to determine which of its customers were when their child was due6. This enabled it to pectant mothers during their second trimester, with specific baby-related products. Whether it’s true or not, a perception exists among business leaders that HR can sometimes be a roadblock to reacting to fresh market conditions.

The key to success is to keep raising standards, keep finding new ways to do things, and keep finding new and useful things to offer. HR has a key role to play in creating a culture in which constantly raising standards – both in response to change and as a catalyst of change – is an organisational imperative.

One area of concern that met with unanimous approval was the need to change the mindset of the discipline; shifting away from being obsessed with process and procedure to being more agile and business friendly.

AstraZeneca BSkyB Diageo Home Office Logica Nationwide Next Royal Bank of Scotland Sainsbury’s Santander Standard Life Virgin Group William Hill

FUTURE HR BOARDS

This fed into a second train of thought – that to add real value to our organisations, we need to become more pragmatic and commercially attuned. Above all else, we need to remember we’re primarily employed to help our organisations succeed at what they do. We’re business people first; people managers second.

Conclusion

Conclusion

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