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For a multi-divisional, global company, such as Tekni-Plex, Inc., technology is critical for sharing best practices across business units and geographies. It allows us to engage and connect employees on different continents to optimize investments into culture, training, innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement, etc. so that both individual and corporate goals are met. One way to organize the issues facing HR today and how technology can be an asset is to take a “Five Cs” (capability, capacity, culture, change and compliance) approach.
Capability. HR plays a key role in facilitating a clear understanding of which capabilities are critical to executing business strategies. Here is a simple two-part question we like to ask of our line leaders during talent reviews and strategic planning sessions: What do we need to be good at in order to support your stated goals, and of those, where are there currently gaps? The answers to these questions may suggest a variety of responses to either building or buying necessary capabilities including: establishing a new function that does not currently exist, hiring to a different set of competencies, investing in particular training content, or investing in technology that performs a certain function.
Capacity. HR also plays a key role in planning where, when and how many resources will be required and then implementing tactics to either build or buy those resources in time to meet the needs. Certain positions are relatively easy to fill while others require a fair amount of lead-time. Furthermore, some businesses experience significant cycles that necessitate a thoughtful labor model to accommodate fluctuations while still attracting top talent. By analyzing internal turnover trends, productivity data, anticipated retirements, and external employment market trends we can proactively predict and mitigate potential talent shortages.
"Don’t underestimate your ability to act as a “connector” between functions and initiatives by virtue of your role working across multiple teams"
Culture/Communications. HR is the steward of culture in any organization. A brilliant business strategy will not generate the desired results unless the corporate culture is designed to support it. HR should be ensuring leadership’s ownership of the aspirational culture and then designing all touchpoints with prospective and current associates to reinforce that culture. More specifically, HR ensures that we interview, select, train, celebrate, and reward those specific behaviors, competencies, and achievements that are consistent with our desired culture.
Change Management. As customers, competitors, and business strategies evolve, the people and processes inside organizations must transform as well. The pace of change and the level of disruption created can vary greatly with the effectiveness of the HR team as change managers. One of our most important contributions to change management can be the identification and deployment of internal opinion leaders who can credibly model and influence others to adopt desired change. In addition, by deploying technology and communications to link business outcomes with individual behaviors, we can help to motivate others to embrace change.
Compliance. While maintaining compliance may not be a value-creation strategy, failure to do so can derail any organization’s best efforts, and potentially squander precious investment dollars to litigation and penalties.
Technology in support of the 5 C’s
At Tekni-Plex, we’ve been able to bolster capability and capacity building with technology by investing in an applicant tracking system and pairing it with our human resources information system data to perform predictive analytics. In turn, this informs our budget and workforce planning processes.
Culture and change management are also enabled by technology. For example, we’ve begun to pilot a mobile-enabled pulse survey to solicit real-time feedback from our associates on select topics versus waiting months for results from a lengthy annual survey. We have reinforced our culture and extended our employment brand by using our internal network of employees on social media. Technology is also enabling our efforts to share and recognize individuals and accomplishments that are truly representative of our desired culture and the types of change we want the broader population to embrace.
Finally, technology for workforce analytics has enabled us to take much of the manual work out of remaining compliant. As shepherds in the building of organizational capability and capacity, stewards of culture, advocates of change and guardians of compliance, HR has a key role in the selection and deployment of all of these technology platforms.
Hands on Approach
My background is diverse, having worked across many industries and organizational settings, with a heavy emphasis on companies undergoing significant growth and change (M&A, geographic expansion, new leadership, new products or services). I have cultivated a unique mix of experiences working with both entrepreneurial and more established companies as a corporate executive, a business founder and an external consultant.
Throughout all of these experiences and environments, one thing has been consistent. HR needs to be very conversant about the business, and visible with people at all levels. You need to go out with sales people to visit customers. Go to industry shows and conferences to understand competitors and adjacent markets. Walk the floors and have impromptu “drive-by meetings” to learn more about what people are doing and thinking. Don’t underestimate your ability to act as a “connector” between functions and initiatives by virtue of your role working across multiple teams.
In fact, sometimes HR is uniquely unbiased and therefore we are most able to observe a breakdown in process or amplify an otherwise unheard issue or opportunity. Getting out of your office is the best way to learn the business, build trusted relationships, and make real time observations that will improve employee effectiveness.