Stacy Sollenberger, Partner with ISHR Group, recently completed a benchmarking study focused on HR Talent Development. Over the course of the next 3 weeks, we will share the results of this study. This week, March 7, will focus on what Stacy uncovered in terms of the current environment affecting HR. Next week, March 14, will talk about the differentiators for HR talent today, and in our third week, March 21, we will close with a look at HR development best practices.

I. Introduction

II. The Environment Affecting HR (March 7)

III. Differentiators for HR Talent (March 14)

IV. HR Development Best Practices (March 21)

V. Summary

I. Introduction

ISHR Group recently conducted a benchmarking study to identify best practices and trends in developing HR talent. This study was initiated as part of a project to design career development pathways for a client’s HR organization. We spoke with over 20 leaders whose backgrounds represented more than 40 organizations in academia, large and small corporations, and private equity. Many of you, our valued clients, participated in this study and we are thrilled to share our findings. It is interesting to note that the timing of our discussions coincided with the July-August issue of the Harvard Business Review questioning the role of HR – a topic that seems to be repurposed every few years by the HBR. Given the title of the issue, “It’s Time To Blow Up HR and Build Something New,” you can only imagine our discussions were both thought-provoking and cathartic. While the core insights of our findings are not new, the details may surprise you, as they did our team and our client. For example, the ability to leverage analytics and technology is not new, however, it has moved up in its importance as not only a differentiator, but also as a potential derailer if lacking due to its criticality in many areas impacting HR’s influence. We hope you find the results of the study validating to you and your organization’s contributions and/or that you glean some inspiration that incites new actions toward your own contributions.

II. The Environment Affecting HR

Our first set of inquiries focused on the landscape and trends affecting the HR function. We wanted to know what business, political, global, and societal trends are impacting how and what we do in HR. We identified four trends, and their tangible impacts, on how we do business.

  1. Technology: The continued development and availability of technology impacts the pace at which we receive information, the speed at which we react, and the capabilities of our businesses. We heard that technology has helped the function “lean out,” as one HR leader explained, “through COEs and automation of many of the tactical HR basics like staffing, recruiting, and compensation & benefits.” This enables HR generalists to focus on the growth of their businesses and to make more strategic contributions. However, one caution we heard is that HR will need to stay ahead of the curve by continually examining the impacts of “leaning out” through continued outsourcing and automation as it presents unique legal challenges which HR needs to own and monitor. As you will see, this theme permeates many of our findings.
  1. Pace of Change: We have all felt the accelerated pace and cadence of change affecting our businesses. The next generation seems to be most comfortable with this pace, even driving it. Fueled not only by technology, but also by the expectations of the speed of information exchange, continual change is imminent, and brings with it greater ambiguity and less predictability. Those businesses and individuals who are more comfortable with the unknown, can adapt quickly, and even influence the direction of change, will have a distinct advantage. As such, we heard the importance of competencies such as agility, adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to navigate through this increased ambiguity as key differentiators in an environment of fast-paced and constant change.
  1. Social Responsibility: Beyond limiting our “carbon footprint,” social responsibility includes the concept of “paying it forward” and consciously caring about our communities on a local and a global level. The presumption of social responsibility is an expectation for Millennials (representing birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) and Gen-Zs (representing birth years ranging from the early 1990s to the mid 2000s) inclusive of choosing where they work, the projects they seek, and from whom they buy products and services. There are significant benefits to employers who tap into this desire of their talent. Studies show that Millennials and Gen-Zs are more engaged, more productive, and more loyal when they have opportunities to participate in socially responsible activities at their places of work. HR organizations need to be prepared to incorporate recruitment, organization planning, and retention strategies aligned with these expectations.
  1. War On Talent: Many of you said that what you “found interesting” to read about when the “”war on talent” notion first debuted in the 1990s is, in fact, now a reality. It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain top talent. We heard that “as the economy continues to improve and baby boomers retire at increasing rates, attracting and retaining key talent will become even more challenging.” The impact on HR is that we have to leverage more effective ways to recruit and retain talent. It is one of the key contributions for which our stakeholders will hold us accountable and measure our value. As one HR leader emphasized, “Considering it is one of the top business priorities, HR leaders must take ownership and accountability to be talent experts to have any credibility.”

Remember, check back with here on LinkedIn next week, March 14, for the second part of Stacy’s benchmarking report. You can learn more at ISHR Group.

(Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href=’’>ongap / 123RF Stock Photo</a>)