Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | October 30, 2011

HR Concepts: Today Is About Tomorrow

By Mike Deblieux, SPHR-CA

I am on a flight home from the 2011 SHRM Strategy Conference in Chicago. Three days’ worth of HR ideas, concepts, and opportunities are clamoring around in my mind waiting to be processed – none of them focused on legal compliance or precedent. So it is that I have decided to try something different with the HR Concepts column this month. I am going to offer you some food for thought; some randomly selected thought provoking ideas from notes jotted down while listening to key thought leaders over the last three days. My goal is to prod you into wanting to learn more about the strategic side of your career pursuit.

#1 Tomorrow is the Starting Point
If there was one theme that resonated over the last few days, this was it. All HR starts tomorrow. Too often we focus on yesterday, or at best, today. The world moves too fast for that. It operates in a level of complexity that refuses to accept now for more than a fleeting moment. Talent Management provides one example:

•    What competencies drive future success for your organization?
•    What technical skills are needed to produce new products, develop new services, and meet the needs of emerging markets?
•    What is the ROI on promoting from within versus hiring a super star from the outside?
•    How will rapidly emerging markets around the world affect staffing needs?

Point: Strategic HR requires a skill to fight the pull of today in favor of tomorrow and beyond.

#2 The Change of Today is Equivalent to the Industrial Revolution
Every key note speaker (Bill Conaty, former Senior VP of HR for GE, Jeffrey Garten, former Undersecretary of Commerce, Bridget Van Kralingen, General Manager, IBM North America, Don Tapscot, author of Mcrowikinomics) touched on this point in one way or another. The Arab Spring, the Net Generation, the power and potential of emerging markets, etc., etc., etc!!! All of these and more speak to a radical change in the way of business and the success of organizations in the future. Success from now on requires collaboration, not departmental silos; organizational charts must depict cross-functional relationships, not across hallways, but continents; agility and risk are foundation blocks, not wishful characteristics, and the list goes on.

Point: Strategic HR depends on fluid organizational models that adjust and adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances.

#3 Collaboration is It
Collaboration is no longer interesting. It is a fundamental organizational skill. It is a skill that passes in a nanosecond across world networks at all hours of the day.

Collaboration is messy. It is neither quiet, nor organized. It lives somewhere in between learning, discussing, debating, laughing, social networks and more. It is not about shutting down Facebook. It is about enabling, fostering, and supporting social networking among peers within and outside of the organization (check out,, and for real life examples).

Point: Strategic HR rethinks workforce communication to embellish and support the nanosecond needs of emerging corporate structures.

#4 An Absolute Focus on Talent
Speaker after speaker reinforced this point. There is no room for satisfactory. It does not work anymore. Everything from hiring to promoting to feedback must grow from an overriding strategic goal of excellence. Some of the key ideas that speakers shared included:

•    Reverse Mentors = A fifteen year old advising a CEO on the intricacies of social networking
•    Workforce Metrics = Measuring success rates by recruitment source; tracking exiting employees who may return to add future value (i.e. five short stints instead of one long one)
•    Feedback = Candid, honest developmental feedback that measures job performance, corporate values, and unique skills

This point is all about rethinking normal HR. It is about becoming a knowledgeable resource to support organizational initiatives.

Point: HR analytics, systems, policies, and practices must drive performance excellence.

#5 HR Competencies Matter
A profession is defined by a series of competencies. A professional has the knowledge, skill and ability to practice those competencies. His or her competence is demonstrated through a rigorous certification process and continuing education. SHRM is in the midst of defining a contemporary set of HR competencies. The study involves a careful examination of skills related to a variety of capabilities from gap analysis and statistical measurement to leadership and relationships with the C-suite and on to international business and emerging economies. It is a new world where professionals will be distinguished by their ability to walk, talk, and practice sophisticated HR competencies. Yet, despite this clear trend, a mere ten percent of the estimated one million HR professionals are certified to practice their profession through the Human Resource Certification Institute.

Point: Certification confirms a combination of academic study, professional experience, and a practical ability to apply accepted principles to real world organizational issues. It is not a luxury. It is a requirement in a world that demands increasingly sophisticated professional job performance.

The SHRM Strategy Conference draws approximately 500 HR professionals together to consider, discuss, and debate HR trends and strategic issues. Attendance is heavily weighted to HR certified professionals with an SPHR designation. It is a heady gathering where participants interact with each other and key thought leaders. There is a considerable focus on the future and what it has in store for human resources. While predicting the future can be a messy business, failing to look into it can spell disaster for a practicing HR professional. Assuming that the future will bring more of the past will surely take years off of a successful career. Failing to prepare through personal study, networking, and experimentation will bring that career to a sudden end.

A Personal Note
Max Wagoner passed away in September, 2011. Max was an HR professional. He was a pioneer and a colleague. Most importantly, Max was a friend to hundreds of HR professionals and practitioners. No one worked harder to study, understand and practice human resources. Max and I had many conversations, particularly during my term as PIHRA President in 2002. I could always depend on Max to be forthright and sincere in sharing his thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. He had a special gift for not needing you to agree with him, but to always assure that you would walk away with a feeling of mutual respect. Max will be greatly missed. He will be equally remembered.

Mike Deblieux, SPHR-CA, designs and presents on-site seminars and workshops for front-line workplace leaders. He provides coaching support for first-line supervisors and supports HR professionals through special projects to help their organizations achieve strategic goals. Mike writes HR Concepts to help HR professionals better understand and use fundamental HR principles. Share your feedback on this article with Mike at


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