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February 2015

The Productivity Paradox: Why Business has a Role to Play in Reshaping the Global Economy

Productivity Paradox iStock_000009122616SmallImproving productivity is a key objective for most organisations. After all it is the flip side of greater efficiency. Or is it?

You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the cutlery box to appreciate the extent to which technology has changed and is changing the way we live and do business. We are, however, paying a massive price for this. Unfortunately we are not yet fully recognising this and so are not only doing nothing to reduce this price, but actively exacerbating the problems that are building up as a result.  

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The Core of Employee Engagement

I have been giving a lot of thought to a PowerPoint presentation created by Simon Larcombe called “Employee Engagement in a Nutshell” that I came across recently. (Do check it out if you haven’t already seen it.)  I was particularly struck by the diagram on the second slide, but couldn’t help wondering if, in a way, it didn’t also illustrate how we over-complicate the whole subject? Let me explain why.

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What is HR anyway?

This week I attended a seminar entitled “HR Strategy and the Role of the HR Business Partner.” I was really looking forward to it and hoped to get a clearer insight into what an HR Business Partner was and what they did. What a disappointment!  

My key takeaways from the evening were:-

  • There was no clear identification of what the role entailed; it varies from organisation to organisation.
  • Results where business partners had been introduced were mixed and generally the business response seemed to be unenthusiastic. There even seemed to be some doubt as to whether the concept would last.
  • Even the case studies illustrated that significant communication problems persisted.    

The elephant in the room was gap between “business” expectations of HR and how they saw the role and how HR saw their own role. This was specifically identified and yet no effort was made to address it or to identify how or what was being done to close the gap. Surely that has to be a primary function of HR partners? Perhaps, therefore, it was hardly surprising that the discussion revolved around generalities. The speakers talked about “strategies”, “measurements” and “the need to understand the business”, without giving any tangible examples of what they meant or how they were really adding value.

Consequently my lasting impression from the evening was that, “Nobody, including HR themselves, actually knows what HR is or what it stands for.” All HR professionals think what they do is important. Yet they seem to be incapable of proving it. If they did that gap would not exist. It is entirely of their own making.

To say this is ironic is the understatement of the year. But the irony is magnificently magnified by the fact that it is so unnecessary: the role of HR should be obvious to everyone. Let me explain why.

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Customer Experience: Are You Setting Up for Failure?

I guess it’s true: you are never too old to learn. This past week I learned about the Customer Experience Index (CXi); used to benchmark customer experience. Maybe I am behind the times and you already know about it and even have it as a key performance indicator (KPI). If so, have you given proper consideration? If you haven’t you may well be setting yourself up for failure.  

Don’t get me wrong. Providing a good customer experience is, or should be, the single most important goal of any business. After all, if you don’t keep your customers happy you won’t have customers for long. And that means you won’t have a business for long, either! Thus customer experience should be the central axis of your entire business strategy. But, if it isn’t and you have Customer Experience as a KPI you are very likely setting yourself up for failure.

Naturally you will almost inevitably insist that your customer is central to your business strategy. I would, however, ask you to challenge yourself on that. For, if you do not look at every strategic and tactical decision you make without considering how it will affect your customer, you are deluding yourself.

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