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Ready for the “Double Dip”?

Is your business prepared for the double dip? Have you considered double jeopardy? Or are you seeking to capitalise on the opportunities in front of you? What does this mean?  Well, with global economies yet again at a precarious tipping point, companies are once again faced with making important decisions about people; the most expensive but also, critical part of their business.

While quality leadership remains crucial, new economies are now being driven by investment hungry knowledge workers.  This is the new reality, together with huge shortages of trained artisans and blue-collar workers, thrown into the mix.  So what decisions are you faced with in a bearish economy? Are you investing or are you driving a disinvestment strategy in people?

Competitiveness, cost savings, vital investment, growth and sustainability have become the buzzwords of the day, from water cooler chats to boardroom debates.  But should these really be new discussions? One would think that these topics are equally relevant in bearish or bullish economic times. Maybe it is the threat of double jeopardy making the current decisions in a bearish economic climate just more important? Making the wrong decisions today can benefit the competitor and set you back years – even tip future growth against you. Growth, competitiveness and sustainability are ultimately driven by people. So, what are you going to do?

This article is not intended to give you the answers. That would be rather arrogant in any event.  We all have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to fulfil our roles and to make these decisions. But it is often in times like these that you wish for better information, and while there is an abundance of information on sales, production, costs, processes and these days even about clients and competitors, do you really have the information you need about people, likely to be your biggest and most liquid asset?  You should be able to get the minimum information on how many people you employ, what they cost and what job titles they hold with great ease. But is this the information you need to make the choices on investment or disinvestment in the context of your business strategy?

Scary thought – but for many businesses this is it. This is the only reliable information on your people asset base. But lets’ stop for a moment and consider what information you really should be using to make these decisions:

  • An accurate analysis of the volume of people working at different levels and in different functional areas of your business. Let’s call this a role grid. Note – functional areas do not mean the business unit but implies people delivering on critical capabilities like Finance, Sales, IT, Engineering, Operations, Actuarial or whatever is relevant and critical for you to track.
  • Accurate positional and organisational structures and headcounts.
  • Accurate information on long term performance levels (good and bad, subjective or not) and how these relate to business performance for the year, but also tracked over what you require for the three years that follow.
  • Accurate information on competencies and skills gaps based on current reality and future long-term needs.
  • Up to date information on pay percentiles for guaranteed remuneration, incentives, benefits and bonuses not only for permanent staff but also for contract workers and temporary employees, tracked for the year and incorporating three year increases and benefit costs.
  • Accurate information of the anticipated inflow and outflow of headcount in these functional areas and business units.
  • Historic and anticipated investment costs for three years (people development, salaries, benefits, infrastructure/resources to do work etc.) for high and low performers, tracked against business plans.
  • Employment Equity statistics against a role grid and Organisation Hierarchy.
  • Succession plans and talent grids to track the bench strength and formulate retention plans for critical people capabilities, especially for the critical roles.
  • Culture, climate and value hot spots where special care is to be taken.

Exhausting, you may think – but considering that this information tells the “people story” of your business– is this not what you would need to make your investment or disinvestment decisions? How pedantic are you about those big capital investments? Considering what really brings you a competitive edge – would this not add immense value?

If you are still reading, then this in all likelihood hit a nerve. Why don’t you have all this information? Is it about technology and ERP’s (Enterprise Resource Planning Systems)? Is it about people practices? Perhaps both? Or is something else missing?

What you will notice is I have not used Human Resource Management or HR in this article.  I have only written about people and reflected on decision making about them, which will impact your current and future competitiveness, growth and sustainability.

Investing in technology is a critical step to provide you with the information you want but unfortunately technology cannot fix what is broken.  It can just make the stuff that is wrong go wrong faster with far more spectacular results. I know that hurts, but the truth often does.

The starting point is the people practices you use and the governances you uphold in the context of the business model and strategy you are driving for. Managing people is fast becoming a science and an art.  Is your organisation set up to manage people from a scientific perspective and develop leaders to paint a masterpiece?

We have always thought about managing people by merely thinking about recruitment, performance management, development, pay, incentives, benefits, staff movements, promotions and so forth. These are no more than transactions if you really think about it.  They are mere go or no-go type decisions that need a context. Most organisations actually do most of these things to various levels of success, yet most of them still do not have the information referred to earlier in this document.

So, what are we missing? What we forget is that people are employed to do work in the context of a business model, strategy, vision, mission, operating model, policy, processes and technology (automation if you wish).  In turn, they are led by accountability and authority frameworks, set in the context of desired behavioural capability and values.

In short, let’s call this the context setting for WorkCentric™ Modelling. Most organisations spend a fair amount of time on articulating transactional processes. But using this to build a wire frame in which we employ people to do the work, is hardly given any time.  Most organisations merely create job descriptions. “Yawn” …I know. But while this world has evolved, most employers have not caught on.

WorkCentric™ modelling and planning is actually not new.  But as the technology and information age took us by storm this became a lost art. Lately it has evolved into a science, driven by protocols such as DCM® (Data Centric Model) and BAM® (Business Architectural Model). These protocols are used to drive the hard wiring of work in the business. This is then linked to Standard Integrated People Practices driven by the SIPP® protocol, which becomes the “GAAP-type standard” for people management. This drives all the transactional people stuff as well as the automation and strategic contribution of your HR or Human Capital Department.

There I have said it.  Without the techniques and discipline embedded in WorkCentric™ thinking and modelling the People Practices are deployed without a context.  Forget strategic contribution and say hello to transactional confusion.

People can truly bring the magic to a business but before this can happen one should understand the magic you require. Well-articulated Workformulated and built into an appropriate hard-wired frame is the baseline and foundational starting point in making solid decisions about people regardless of if your business is in a bullish or bearish market. This should be like managing a General Ledger, Cashbook, Income Statements or Balance sheet. Simply the way it is done.


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