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Breaking News

HR is about Performance. Is that breaking news? In itself, it isn’t. But it’s good not to lose track of that old adage. Like so many professions, HR has seen many fads passing by. But one thing remains: HR focuses on performance of businesses and people.
What has changed is the context in which businesses operate. There have been a lot of changes that influence people in business. Society is evolving and so do economic and labor markets. This leads to changing people expectations and practices.

Performance is about Value

But I believe that also the view on performance is changing. First of all we should not focus so much on the execution aspect of performance, but more on the value of it. Creating value is much more inspiring than doing things. If people know why they are doing things, they will do it with more engagement. That is the theory.
Organisations create value for multiple stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, society, partners, suppliers, … If we want a sustainable performance or value creation, we need to make sure that stakeholders in the organisation’s ecosystem experience that value. And of course the expectations are mutually dependent. Organisations create employment. They pay taxes. They create share holder value and provide meaningful work. Organizations deliver products and services to customers that help them to do whatever they want to do.

What Can HR Do?

Performance, in the sense of creating value for multiple stakeholders, should be at the forefront of the focus of HR. And the way to do this is to focus on the context. HR is the architect of context that fosters performance. Here are a couple of building blocks for that:

  • designing organisations that facilitate performance. This includes aspects such as culture etc.
  • hiring people who bring different attitudes and skills that support the capacity the company needs to create value towards its multiple stakeholders.
  • developing leaders who focus on value creation.
  • humanizing business processes so that people are willing and able to do what it takes to create value and meet targets.
  • embedding engagement and performance management in a way that is supportive and not burdening.
  • steering strategy through meaningful data on performance …

So in this sense, HR is about strategy execution. How many HR professionals get up every day and think about strategy execution and value creation?

The problem

The problem is that HR gets sucked into a swamp of regulatory and administrative chores. Therefore many HR professionals do not have the time to focus on strategy execution. Many of them do not focus on  value. And that’s a problem.

Don’t get carried away

A focus on performance without focussing on value for all stakeholders is harmful. We all know companies that become caricatures because performance is the only thing they look at. These companies develop often ruthless cultures that have a limited view on our challenges. And these might be successful as well. But their practices are not sustainable for some of its stakeholders. HR can introduce a human aspect to strategy execution. And that’s not (only) because it’s the right thing to do. But it’s because it’s the sustainable way to do business and meet the targets organisations set in the long run.
See also these posts : 

Performance Management revisited

The Performance Appraisals Problem is half-solved


David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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