Professor Mary Teagarden interviewed by EURO magazin
FROM ADMINISTRATION TO PARTNERSHIP
(EURO, 11. února 2008)
EURO: How has the role of corporate HR been changing in recent year?
In the last decade or so, we have seen an evolution of Corporate HR from a “Personnel Administration” focus where the emphasis was on compliance with employment regulations, benefits administration, industrial relations and other transactional activities toward one best characterized as a “Strategic Partner” where HR professionals have responsibility for business results and for enabling business leaders throughout the organization to meet their business result demands. Personnel Administration and Strategic Partner represent two ends of a continuum. Most companies fall somewhere between these two anchors with companies that compete on knowledge, high tech companies like Cisco and Intel, leading the movement toward Strategic Partner.
The HR professional has also followed a similar evolution from a specialist role in one of the transactional functional areas, like benefits administration, toward a more generalist role where there is deep understanding of the businesses of the company and key success drivers.
The nature of which HR functions are kept inside the company and which are outsourced to specialist companies has also changed as corporate HR has evolved. In the “Personnel Administration” good old days, some functions, like expatriate relocation for example, were outsourced. However most functions were kept inside the company and replicated in regions around the world where the company operated. In the more contemporary “Strategic Partner” HR organizations today, most of the transactional work like salary and benefits administration, employee attraction, screening and hiring and some training and development are outsourced to specialist organizations with deep expertise in these areas. Payroll and benefits processing is done by specialist companies like ADP. Employee relocation and expatriate training is done by firms like ERC. Recruiting firms like monster.com facilitate online recruiting and there are also very specialized executive recruiting firms like Boyden.
EURO: How is HR affected by the process of aging of the population in developed countries and continuing globalization?
The scope of HR activities and challenges has enlarged due to the aging (graying) of the workforce in industrialized companies. This has lead to the development of new approaches to work like the use of job sharing, where two people cover one job or telecommuting, where a person works form home via telecommunications technology. This has also led to an increased use of offshoring—or taking work to where there is a more abundant supply of workers. In these new work contexts there is considerable pressure on the contemporary HR professional to maintain commitment among these older workers.
Globalization is putting pressure on HR to be able to work in networked organizations that cross cultural boundaries. HR is now responsible for developing global mindsets and global skill sets and for advising business leaders who operate in a wide variety around the world where employment practices and law vary, industrial relations may or may not matter and where labor may or may not be abundant.
EURO: How will the corporate HR develop in the future?
As companies become more and more integrated into the global economy, HR will have to develop enhanced skill sets to enable success in this context. As we move toward a true knowledge economy, HR will have to become masters of talent management. Companies will have to accelerate their evolution toward true strategic partnership.
EURO: What are the major problems HR has to deal with nowadays?
The response to this question depends on where the company is located. Globally, PWC identifies three of the top HR problems that companies face including the enhancement of organizational effectiveness; leadership development; and change management. However in Asia they find that leadership development is less important and succession planning is more important.
One common theme that I encounter in my work around the world is rooted in our evolution to the knowledge economy: how does a company manage talent? Specifically, how do they attract the best minds, engage those minds and retain those minds to achieve the largest “mindshare”? A second theme that I am seeing is how companies align corporate responsibility and talent management. Those who figure this out are able to attract superior talent.
EURO: How can employees be motivated and what kind of motivation do you consider the most effective?
There are many ways to motive. We often think about money as a motivator. However, money is not top among the best ways to motivate employees. In my research and that of many others we see that training and development, clear line of sight regarding growth and career development, and interesting, challenging work with great co-workers are far more powerful motivators. In other words, motivation requires that the company does its best to be a great place to work. Given the current global war for talent companies must shift the focus in HR to that of strategic partner and move from a “market share” objective to a “mind share” objective.