HR Trends – What I Have Noticed Lately

09-07-17 Assel Aitbayeva 0 comment

As part of my regular research and update of material for my workshops and consultancy advice I come across many thoughtful and impactive articles that continue to shape HR progress. Here’s a selected few that you may find helpful.

Performance Management

Articles and examples continue to flow over the internet of the removal of end of year performance ratings and the focus on regular performance/development discussions throughout the year.

The list of multi nationals now taking this route  continues to grow (6% of  Fortune 500 companies at last count). With names including Google, Accenture, Deloite, Nestle and now GE more people are starting to take notice. With GE historically one of the bastions of “differentiation by ratings” their move to removing performance ratings is significant.

But why is this happening? After all many attempts to create quality performance and development discussions have been made in the past (unsuccessfully) so the issue is not only “not new” it is actually very old.

Essentially, removal of ratings is a response to the changing demands of newer generations in the workforce – requiring a more involved management style, more recognition, more opportunity to develop their skills etc. As organisations strive to attract and retain talent where a focus of performance/development discussions has historically been overridden by a numerical rating award then it’s removal is seen as a way of improving those discussions.

Reports from those who have removed takings are positive and I would only caution on “readiness to attempt” this ie are managers skilled enough, are links to rewards, potential assessments and/or career progress strong. If so, this more qualitative and discussion/narrative driven approach may succeed and removing ratings may be the key that unlocks that success.

HR and Employee Experience – Future of HR?

I was struck by the recent PWC article (Phakdeesahayaphong and Piamthipmanas) that envisaged HR’s future going in 3 possible directions: working closely with the business as a true partner, as the main promotor of the corporate social responsibility agenda or as transactional and almost wholly outsourced. This was allied to a recent Ben Whitter article ( that raised the potential for HR to split as organisations focused on delivering positive employee experience – via their leadership and HR specialist support with traditional HR relegated to a back seat.

What does it all mean?

Well, to quote one further study – CIPDs review of Dave Ulrich’s model (the beginnings of HR Business Partnership from the “Father of Modern HR”) – suggesting that it was not working very well (I know Dave himself has moved on from this, now all about business and relationships, but for many there is still significant value in understanding where much of today’s  thinking came from) but again if the fund mentals aren’t working, why?

Essentially, this is an issue of HR progress (or lack thereof) in the ability to deliver strategic advice and impactive services that:

  1. Help the business/organisation succeed.
  2. Meet the employee experience demands as part of that success.

Some organisations already have HR teams that do provide this (as Whitter notes and my own experience confirms) but too many have placed HRBP titles on previously administrative HR staff with the obvious lack of result.

The progress issue is also one of speed, ie organisation and employee demand has and is moving rapidly. HR can develop the capabilities and confidence needed to meet all stakeholder demands but it needs to seriously upgrade at speed if some of the dire predictions of its demise are not to come true.

HR Leadership

A Zenger and Folkman article ( caught my eye as it compared HR Leaders with leaders in other parts of the business. Their survey compared 2,187 HR leaders with a total database of some 29,026 worldwide.

Disappointingly we are slightly below the middle of the pack – Sales and Customer Service at the top, Manufacturing and Safety at the bottom.

What we are good at: Developing & Coaching others, Building Positive Relationship, Role Modelling and Functional knowledge and Experience. What we need to improve: An external rather than internal focus, ability to think and act strategically, slow response to problems.

However, on an encouraging note, where we do “get it right” i.e. develop ability in the weaker areas above, we then reach the upper quartile of all leaders surveyed.

What does this mean?

Well my perspective would be that the strengths identified come more naturally to us – we are after all ‘people’ people and we choose a career on this basis rather than other business lines.

On the weaknesses side our day to day focus historically has led to less capability on the more recently emphasised need for a wider set of skills.

I remember some years ago being (justifiably) criticized for a lack of advice on “what may be around the corner” and learnt to spend a period of each week in researching emerging trends and potential areas that would require a response.

So, we can be part of “the best” group of leaders but our impact will be determined by our ability to develop this greater range of capability.

Identifying HIPOs:

Another Zenger and Folkman article on identification of High Potential talent strikes home in this era of attracting/retaining best talent to deliver best results.

They contend that 40% of HIPOs they looked at (of a total of 1,964) were not of HIPO standard and in fact 12% were in the lower quartile of Leadership potential.

It is the identification of Leadership potential that is key here.

Essentially they argue that over emphasis on technical and professional expertise, taking the initiative and delivering results, getting things done and being a cultural fit for the organisation has led to very impactive MANAGERS then being perceived to have LEDERSHIP POTENTIAL.

Key leadership capabilities that the 40% lacked were  “Strategic vision” and “ability to motivate others”. Not that the 40% could not develop these capabilities – they can and could well be HIPO talent of the future – just that the HIPO assessment process had not identified this as necessary when they looked for those skills today.


Well, much of the above gels with my own experience – why I clearly differentiate Leadership and Management on the workshops I conduct. It also brings to mind the over emphasis in Asia generally of experience and length of service leading to progress to leadership positions of those not capable or developed for the role.

The Solution

Be clear on the capabilities needed for senior roles. Use appropriate tools to assess that capability. Pro-actively manage leadership development and prepare HIPOs identified through a variety of experiences. Ensure implementation through a balance of internal progressions and external exposure.

Joel Farnworth MAML, Chartered Fellow CIPD
Managing Partner KF&A

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