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Shifting from content experts to process experts

February 21, 2010

I’m working with a client right now, helping them develop their talent strategy and one of the shifts we’ve identified that their HR department has to make is from that of a group of content experts, to a group of process experts.  What does that mean?  In their current model, if a manager felt that employees were not meeting their sales targets, they would call up HR and ask some of these questions:

  • “Suzie Q hasn’t met her targets, I don’t think she can sell, I want to transfer her to another location”
  • “I met someone who works for a competitor and he’s great, but he’s making more money there, I’d like to make him an offer, but need to go above the current pay bands” 
  • “Put Suzie in the Sales 101 course, she needs to be re-trained”
  • “Create a new training course for us, they all need better training”
  • “I need to let go of Suzie, but don’t have any documentation on her performance” 
  • Etc

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  I would describe this as a content driven or functional model for HR.  This organization is moving to a model where the manager identifies that there is a problem, but will be accountable for developing their talent, not just passing it off to HR to “make a program” or “fix my problem”.  Sounds simple, but in practice it will be quite challenging.  These HR folks are going to transform from specialist functional workers to more versatile consultants.  Their practice will look more like this:

  • “Suzie Q hasn’t met her targets, I don’t think she can sell, I want to transfer her to another location”
  • Response – “Does Suzie know that she hasn’t met her targets? or “Has Suzie met her targets before?” questions every performance consultant would ask
  • “I met someone who works for a competitor and he’s great, but he’s making more money there, I’d like to make him an offer, but need to go above the current pay bands” 
  • Response “Let’s do our due diligence here before spending money on bringing this person in.  Let’s have a look at your staff complement first.  Did you know that we are looking at all different kinds of work models.  Not every new hire has to be a FTE.”
  • “Put Suzie in the Sales 101 course, she needs to be re-trained”
  • Response “That’s an option, but I’d like to help you figure out if this really is a training issue or not.  What makes you say that she needs re-training?”
  • “Create a new training course for us, they all need better training”
  • Response “Before doing that, I’d like to be clear on what is really going on, perhaps there’s a less costly and more effective solution, like coaching or peer support”
  • It will also mean a more consultative role with their executive team – as the HR department will need to lead them through a process to extract talent needs from strategy and introduce processes that help them figure out how to fulfill the talent needs as well.  I’m excited to be along for the journey, as I think it is a critical shift for many HR departments.

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