Business thinkers who changed the world

“Do our HR efforts really enhance the flow of the business?”  It is the one question all HR Managers and business leaders should ask themselves.

I stumbled upon this question earlier this summer in a Harvard Business Review blog post by J. Craig Mundy and it has inspired me to dig deeper into the great minds of the entrepreneurs and business leaders who have changed the world.

One would think that HR should have come a long way on the strategic hierarchy of business. However, when a client of mine asked me to call a project we were working on “recruitment-something” instead of “HR-something” to avoid the fuzziness of HR, I realized that we still have a long way to go. Why is that so?

Even though a lot of attention has been given to Human Resource Management as a tool to build and develop the companies of the 21th century, HR departments and HR Managers still have low influence when it comes to strategic decisions and executives wonder why the HR departments even exist. This is surprising considering the growing need for companies to use their talents to gain competitive advantage in today’s knowledge economy.

The reason, as Mundy puts it, is that it is all done backwards. HR Managers see themselves as being in the core of the organization and that the other line managers should meet the demands put forward by the HR departments. When, in fact, the focus of HR should be to make the lives of the other people in the organization as smooth and friction free as possible. “Do you simply manage talent, or do you provide talent solutions that reduce friction and enhance the flow of the business?”

As has been mentioned in previous blogs, start with the company strategy and focus your HR efforts on what actually creates value for your business.

Those who do often manage to develop companies that consequently change the world. Consider Apple, Google or IKEA; their HR strategies are designed to ensure their own success. Not just HR for the sake of it.

So what are their secrets? My starting point is that there are no secrets at all. Investigating the great thinkers of our time will probably show us that it is all fairly simple. However, the idea is not to copy these entrepreneurs and companies straight off but to take inspiration from their ability to build the organization around a profitable business idea. That they manage to create a culture that ensures success rather than hinders it.

Next week I will kick start this series with a fruitful company that truly changed the way in which we see customer experience and marketing – Apple and the leadership of Steve Jobs.

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