The National HR Conference (NHRC), the premier people event in South Asia, is just around the corner. This time they have picked an opportune theme entitled ‘HR Ecosystem for Competitiveness’. My intention is to explore the fascinating scenario of the HR Ecosystem and to have a glimpse through the ten Gs.
Figure 1: HR Ecosystem through ten Gs Source: Dharmasiri (2016)
Ecosystems in a nutshell
Ecosystems are so essential to nature. The typical biology textbooks call it a community of living organisms. They provide the basis for survival and sustainability. This article explores the nature and features of an ecosystem in relation to Human Resource Management (HRM). It also attempts to link the HR ecosystem for competitiveness, in four levels, namely ground, group, general and global. Expanding the seven-G framework of HRM in an institutional context to cover industrial to international perspectives, a novel ten-G approach is proposed.
HRM in focus
It is worthwhile recalling the way we defined HRM for Sri Lanka. Based on the brainstorming conducted as a team and feedback obtained from professionals and professors, the following definition emerged: “A strategic and integrated approach in acquisition, development and engagement of talent, using relevant tools, with proper policies, practices and processes in creating a conducive climate towards achieving organisational excellence and societal wellbeing (IPM, 2014).”
What we meant by strategic is working towards achieving the overall goals and specific objectives of the organisation. It is essentially aligning with broad organisational priorities. It highlights the strategic significance of HRM and the holistic role it should play.
Talent refers to three Cs going in line with Prof. Dave Ulrich (2009), namely, competence, commitment and contribution. We consciously included the term Conducive Climate in our HRM definition, meaning a supportive environment within an organisation. The end result of all HR endeavours, the way we see, is having twin aspects - Organizational Excellence and Societal Wellbeing.
HR Ecosystem through the ten Gs
It is indeed fascinating to see how HRM operates at various levels within an institution as well as outside an institution
I propose an HR ecosystem as a combination of ten Gs, namely, Goal, Get, Give, Grow, Glue, Glow, Guard, Grapple, Grip and Gratify. They are related mainly to four levels, from micro to macro. I would identify them as Ground, Group, General and Global. Let’s go through the details with examples.
I propose this as the institutional or organisational context. It could be private or public. The first seven Gs are very much in existence here.
1. Goal: This occupies centre stage in setting the direction of the entire organisation. It revolves around the strategic intent, comprising vision, mission or aspiration whatever the terminology may be. Aligning the grooming of people with the goals of the organisation should be the right approach. There are numerous occasions where people are unclear about their top goals and priorities.
Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) appears prominently in this context. SHRM is an approach that defines how an organisation’s goals will be achieved through people by means of HR strategies and integrated HR policies and practices.
2. Get: This is all about getting the right people in. The hiring challenge looms large for organisations in diverse environments, mainly owing to a talent gap. I would call it an R-R gap, the gap between required talent and raw talent. The market is replete with raw talent, especially with school-leavers. Are they geared for a demanding job in a target-driven environment? Sadly, the answer is no. We teach complex subject matter but not how to gain confidence. Job-orientation in the academic courses has been recognised as important only of late.
In practical terms, updated job descriptions and job specifications should be available for each position and these should be used in the selection process. Also, selecting the appropriate test in predicting future performance for the specific job is important. Managers should be trained in effective hiring, with special emphasis on interviewing skills.
3. Grow: This refers to the need to build people. Training and development go hand-in-hand. The simple difference is that the former is for the present and the latter is for the future. In essence, training is to do something. Development is to be someone. Both are intertwined in such a way that training leads to development.
Choices in training and development are captured here. The identification of training and development needs is of the utmost importance in this regard. Having clarity on program participants, presenters, designers, coverage, delivery methods and expected behavioural changes are some of the vital associated components.
4. Give: ‘If you give peanuts, you get monkeys’, goes the old saying. What you give the person who came in by way of reward and recognition is of the utmost importance in the context of competition. Your competitor can grab your best talent by giving more.
One may observe that some Sri Lankan organisations have well-structured reward and recognition schemes. What is needed more could be strengthening of the behavioural aspects, such as verbal appreciation of exceptional performance.
5. Glue: I would associate the feature ‘binding’ with glue. This refers to the range of choices in retaining talent. Having developed the knowledge and skills of high performers of any organisation, seeing them leave is the last thing an organisation would want. Encouraging evidence can be found in many leading organisations in Sri Lanka. Yet, the reality remains that when overseas opportunities are galore with unmatchable financial offers, employees tend to seek better prospects. As I have seen in many organisations, effectively engaging the employees with a clear purpose can be a sure-cure in arresting the rot.
6. Glow: This is the subtlest of all. It can appear in several forms. As one such form, choices in promoting the employees can be captured. When a career ladder is available for them to climb, and when the organisation is genuinely providing support and encouragement, the chances of them contributing better in a more committed manner is high. Establishing criteria for new jobs, allowing volunteers to take up challenging tasks, evaluating candidates’ potential and supporting new jobholders are some of the key actions in this regard.
7. Guard: Guarding is all about employee protection through a proper policy framework. It may include controls as well as clearance for creative action. A widely shared and wilfully-practiced set of corporate values also falls into this perspective. A weak guarding may result in employees having uncertainty and ambiguity with regard to their direction, resulting in lower involvement and contribution.
The above seven Gs are interrelated and in existence in institutions. Let’s move one step further. When many such institutions in an industry have seven Gs, there are much greater prospects for HRM to prosper.
I use the term ‘Group’ to identify many institutions in an industry. Several apparel manufacturers having seven Gs of HRM in the apparel industry is such an example. The eighth G, Grapple, is required here,
8. Grapple: It is the reality of competition among various institutions to grab the best talent. It also highlights the way to handle possible conflicts or collaborations between different institutions with regard to HRM. Among the competing organisations, how HRM practices can be shared and supported is worth exploring. In essence, Grapple refers to the challenges of facing competition among the firms and how HRM should respond to such challenges.
In the diagram of the HR Ecosystem, several institutions having seven Gs of HRM are represented with the eighth G as an institutional HRM response to the industry. This in fact can be further extended to more than one industry as well.
This is where all industries with many institutions meet. It is essentially the broad national level where country-wide HRM policies and practices become significant. This is where twin influences occur with regard to industries and thereby the institutions within. I would like to call them gearing factors and governing elements.
Gearing Factors are the typical PESTEEL factors that gear or influence the steering of an industry or the institutions within it. PESTEEL stands for political, economic, social, technical, environmental, ethical and legal factors. They affect an industry in general and an institution in particular. What is the implication to HRM? It is a case of having a grip on the gearing factors in making HRM policies. I propose this aspect as the ninth G, Grip.
9. Grip: In essence, it is the collective and committed HRM response to the gearing factors. Let’s say a policy decision of allowing knowledge workers from a neighbouring country is taken. There is a need for HR professionals to discuss, decide and do the needful in such an event. That is to take a firm ‘Grip’ in responding to the influencing factor. It is a significant step in staying competitive as a nation.
Apart from the gearing factors, governing forces need our attention.
Governing forces are the stakeholders having diverse expectations. They include government, labour unions, HR professional bodies, HR research units, etc. What is required from HRM is the tenth G, which is to Gratify.
10. Gratify: This essentially refers to stakeholder satisfaction. HRM has a macro role here. HR professionals have to connect, cooperate and collaborate with multiple institutions, communities and organisations at the national level. These moves provide the key drivers for being more competitive as a nation.
Having discussed ground, group and general levels what is left is the global level.
The global level is where national competitiveness matters most. For us to be more competitive as a nation at the global level, HRM should produce global talent from Sri Lanka.
HR professionals have a critical role in ensuring that the seven Gs are present at the ground level, the eighth G exists at the group level and the remaining Gs exist at the general level. The current indications such as the Global Competitiveness Index reveal a significant area for improvement in this respect. It is the culmination of all Gs that HRM has to offer in order for the country to be more competitive globally.
What we have attempted to do is have a glimpse at the HR Ecosystem through a ten-G approach. Each G is critical in ensuring the contribution of HRM for competitiveness at all levels. The role HR professionals have to play is getting increasingly important with inherently complex challenges. That is why HR professionals need confidence and competence in order to complete this uphill task.