One person thinks one way. Another person thinks the other way. When rubbed together, heat is the result. Sometimes the heat could melt a house to its foundation. Sometimes it is the right amount of heat to sustain life. Sometimes it burns purposively to end one thing hence something else can grow in its place.
This is why I like a good debate. I like to debate and I like to watch others debate. It is interesting when it is genuine. It is even more interesting when the debate strives for something new. To do so, it requires the right amount of heat.
Panel discussions are much like debates. Debates are connotatively associated with arguing; panel discussions are associated with calm conversations. However, they are really the same; they both create a fire.
This love for debate lead me to the two panel discussions at the 2011 HR Technology Conference. The Talent Mangement panel which I've witnessed three years in a row always delivers. Jason Overbook as a moderator along with Lacy Kiser, VP, HR & Administration, Shaw Power Group; Elizabeth King, VP, Global HR Solutions & Services, Starbucks; Kevin McDonald, VP, HR Operations and BPO, E.W. Scripps; and Jackie Scanlon, VP, Global Talent Management & OE, Campbell’s Soup presented compelling and powerful statements on the state of HR, Talent Management and the role of technology.
The discussion itself, despite the various backgrounds, did not resemble a debate. It resembled an alliance, one side of a debating team. The other side they were debating was not a physical presence. Instead, the other side was all of the issues that leave us befuddled. The economy, technological strategies, definitions of talent management, vendor service, HR and its laziness were the alliance of the other side.
Unfortunately, the other side was not physically there to explain itself. Typical when the other side is ethereal and intangible.
Take for example the economy. How do you wrangle with having a limited budget and the accompanied worrying feeling of losing your talent? Or what about technology that fails at intuitiveness for the user? Or what about vendors who assure you the deliverables but continue to slip away from standards?
Needless to say Jason’s side faced an uphill battle dealing with these issues.
Some of their answers come down to smart HR:
- Formulating a technology strategy focusing on the needs-gap.
- Listening to your employees at all levels
- Handling the change management after project implementation
- Measuring your success
- Let storytelling do a great deal of work for you.
Thus, the answer is within ourselves and having a firm understanding of what successful HR is. As McDonald stated, “HR is not what your business is about,” noting your business assets are elsewhere in the organization. To lead successfully, HR needs to “make the small wins” over time and “not worry about the big enchilada” or ultimate score.
The other panel I saw was in alignment with my purpose for attending this year’s conference: to explore analytics. Moderated by the energetic and assertive, Al Adamsen, the panel discussion, “Critical Role of Workforce Planning and Analytics in Talent Management, was perfect for the beginning learner. Cutting to the chase, Adamson explained WP&A is the activity around the science of the discipline of HR. For effectiveness, we need to package it and tell a story. That information, in turn, needs to go to the top. Thus, it requires understanding in order to articulate and explain.
Referencing the excellent book by Chip & Dan Heath, “Switch” Adamsen states analytics drive the change. To explain this, the panel’s objectives were to educate, inspire and clarify. Moreover, WP&A does not make HR more efficient. WP&A improves performance, improves work experience, and reduces risk. Talent management fixes problems. But WP&A systematically tells the story of the data allowing the door to open to fix the problems.
Setting the stage for the panel, Adamsen stressed the use of WP&A was incredibly important to get right. In lieu of the economy, we need the science of HR to have a better process of inducing insight with an optimal quantity of information.
Adamsen’s call to action inspires some excellent points from the panel (Howard Hambleton, COO, Flexi Compras; Brian Kelly, Partner, Mercer; Kathy Mandato, SVP HR, NBC Broadcast; Dave Sutherland, Senior Director, Workforce Planning, CH2M HILL):
- Listen to the business—so you can adapt---and solve their solutions
- At WP&A’s core, it’s about change management and risk management
- HR owns the process and facilitates WP&A
- Don’t buy technology immediately
- Use demographics you already know about your population
- Better benefit choices and training selections can be made from the report results
- Reports from WP&A do not need to be complex
- It will take you beyond, “I think.” It will take you to “I know.”
Even though I was hoping for a more fiery debate where dissent reigns, I have to acknowledge that not all fires burn the foundation to the ground. Some fires burns purposively to end one thing hence something else can grow in its place. The latter requires more discipline to stay focused, much like Adamsen’s view of WP&A.
Nevertheless, I walked away from Day One feeling that fire in my gut, the notion of being an agent for change, and striking while the iron is hot. And that is the way I like it.
Onto Day Two...