Leadership Matters
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By Phil Wilson, CHRP, SHRP


Talent management and leadership. HR analytics. Culture and engagement.

Are these things keeping you up at night? You’re not alone.


In a business environment faced with economic uncertainty, globalization, demographic shifts, a faster pace of business, plus talent shortages in key areas, they’re top of mind among many North American HR executives. They’re also, as I learned recently at a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) conference in the UK, top priorities among European chief human resources officers (CHROs).

In Creating People Advantage 2013, a joint report by the Boston Consulting Group and the European Association of People Management, which was presented at the conference, out of 10 broad HR topics facing European HR executives (including recruiting, labour training, performance management, diversity, etc.) the three that ranked highest in future importance – and lowest in current capability – were talent management and leadership; engagement, behaviour and culture management; and HR analytics: strategic workforce planning and analytics.

The data was collected from a survey of 2,304 HR executives in 34 European countries across a broad range of industries. The report also included data from 37 in-depth interviews from HR execs at large multinationals.

The report also discussed how highly capable organizations achieved successes across all 10 HR topics.


Here’s a synopsis of their strategies and tactics for the top 3 topics:


Talent management and leadership


Activities used to identify high potential employees and develop them for more senior roles with greater responsibility – including senior leadership positions. Lessons learned from highly capable organizations include:
• Establishing transparent, efficient and enterprise-wise talent identification processes.
• Strategically planning talent and leadership needs on a long-term (>5 years) basis and by business unit, expertise and location.
• Systematically developing talent through the right opportunities and programs.
• Developing and consistently applying leadership criteria in selection, promotion and rewards.

Like a garden, nurturing along your next cohort of senior leaders is a long-term process.

HR analytics: strategic workforce planning and reporting

This was defined as activities used to forecast workforce supply and demand and to track and report HR and workforce KPIs. The best organizations:
• Define a clear process for measuring HR and workforce KPIs.
• Implement a demand model linked to driving forces such as business strategy, productivity and technology.
• Establish a systematic and regular process to update analyses and plans.

Engagement, behaviour and culture management


Includes the degree to which organizations can establish norms and behaviours for employees, engage and retain them and instill a sense that their contributions are meaningful. The best organizations:

• Invest significantly in company culture.
• Measure behavioural change and associated result improvement.
• Establish a management cascade process to define actions for improving engagement.
Of these three, talent management and leadership were ranked highest in importance – and with good reason. Like North America, most European nations are aging rapidly, with greying senior leaders due for retirement within a decade. Organizations need to select, groom and prepare the next generation of high potentials to take the reins. However, as the report points out, this takes time – typically 10-plus years – and ranks the lowest in terms of return on effort invested.


, from strategically planning talent and leadership needs over a decade or more across business unit, location and expertise, to selecting and developing talent and ensuring they get the experience they need to lead.


Most importantly, CHROs know they must understand the global business environment. They need to connect the values, vision and brand focusing on the key priorities of talent management, HR analytics, culture and engagement. Organizations understand that their competitive value and differentiation are realized through their people. In my opinion, the CHRO’s future role will only continue to grow in the executive suite as a result.


Phil Wilson, CHRP, SHRP, is a chair of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

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