Leadership Matters

By Karen Stone, CHRE

This month’s publication focuses on one of the most important themes facing the business landscape today: disruption.

It’s a common refrain in business books, articles, case studies and probably even within your own organization – how can we be nimble enough to adapt to a rapidly changing and uncertain business environment? How can we stay one step ahead?

In this issue’s cover story, Dave Ulrich highlights one of the most tangible examples of what happens when you don’t keep up.

“Of the original Fortune 500 companies in North America, how many still exist today?” he asked. “Sixty. That’s an 87 per cent failure rate for the biggest companies in North America.”

So many highly successful companies have folded and failed – companies where just a few years prior, the thought would have seemed unimaginable. Adapting to a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous landscape is a challenge that takes constant adjustment, work, foresight – and the embracement of a “disruptive” mindset. And the key takeaway for us is this: HR has a central role to play in ensuring businesses are equipped with the knowledge and skill to excel in this environment.

For a truly effective HR professional, it’s not just about facilitating organizational change. It’s about being a trusted strategic business advisor, one who actively works to shape the organization’s future by providing insights and proposed solutions – to support its people and its business goals.

As Ulrich said, it’s not just about building a good culture anymore – it’s about building the right culture to support business strategy. Your people are responsible for delivering the strategy and creating the experience for each customer, client or partner your business touches. So as the stewards of talent, HR essentially is responsible for delivering that strategy and creating that experience.

Think about it: the culture you build directly translates to the experience you create for customers and business partners. In a competitive and uncertain landscape, your people – and the experience they create – are the key differentiator. And in a brave new world of constant change, the things that worked in the past are not the same things that will work in the future.

HR needs to be willing to disrupt culture, disrupt the status quo – and even disrupt the C-suite, if HR doesn’t already sit at the table. We need to participate in a new brand of HR leadership that is about being a key strategic advisor to the business. If HR professionals can become valued leaders in that respect, who knows what we might accomplish? n


Karen Stone, CHRE, is chair of the Human Resources Professionals Association.