In The Social Organization, I predicted that psychology, sociology and anthropology would be key skills for HR in the future.
It's interesting to see these three areas highlighted as key future skills by the global innovation foundation, NESTA: "There is particularly strong emphasis on interpersonal skills. These skills include teaching, social perceptiveness and coordination, as well as related knowledge, such as psychology and anthropology. This is consistent with the literature on the growing importance of social skills in the labour market. There are good reasons to believe that interpersonal skills will continue to grow in importance — not only as organisations seek to reduce the costs of coordination but also as they negotiate the cultural context in which globalisation and the spread of digital technology are taking place."
If these human skills are going to be important for the whole workforce in the future, then there's an even bigger requirement for HR to develop them now.
The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 | Nesta - this report maps out how employment is likely to change in the future - including the implications for skills - and anticipates a number of new occupations.
The past decade has seen some significant transformations in learning and development. One major shift has been toward the use of social media and broader social approaches, such as action learning and unconferencing. This shift has taken place as part of a broader move from formal toward informal and social learning. Read my article published in Training Industry.
Just published in HRM Asia, an article about my latest research on creating value....
I've had this article on the social organisation published in the CIPD's Work journal: "It's not just about the quality of individuals, but the relationships between them."
In the article I also refer to the area I'm increasingly focused on, which extends slightly beyond the content of the book itself:
"We need to be able to navigate the complexities of these different types of group. How, for example, do we manage employee performance and reward people appropriately when they make different contributions - and have different levels of engagement and performance - within the four types of group (hierarchical functions, horizontal project teams, communities and networks)?"
If you have any thoughts or experiences on this I'd love to hear from you.
I’ve been reading some interesting new research on collaboration from membership research firm I4CP and network researcher Rob Cross - Purposeful Collaboration: The Essential Components of Collaborative Cultures.
The research refers to some of the disadvantages associated with traditional, functional ways of organizing. I agree these problems exist though I also think it’s important to realize that functional organizations (organization chart models) don’t have to be hierarchal, linear, siloed, disintegrated, focused on position and power, with knowledge hoarded for the purpose of seeking an individual reward. If you’re experiencing these problems, I’d suggest you may just need a better designed functional organization or HR architecture.
However, becoming what I4CP refer to as a high performance organization (based on self- reported multi-year customer and financial performance) will often require paying more attention to collaborative structures and behaviors, and especially to performance on teams or in networks. As Rob Cross suggests, only about 50% of top collaborative contributors in an organization tend to be deemed top performers. Further, roughly 20% of these organizational ‘stars’ don’t collaborate - "they hit their numbers (and earn kudos for it) but don't amplify the success of their colleagues".
Based upon their analysis of high vs low performance organizations, I4CP conclude that firms need to create healthy collaboration - which is focused, strategic and purposeful - by focusing on business outcomes and the customer. “The best organizations use collaboration as a means to achieve a specific mission or strategic intent, rather than an end in itself to be nice and collaborative."
Purposeful collaboration is based on trust - which is why I’m a little unsure about the cog in the machine metaphor used in the research report’s cover. Collaboration does need people to work together efficiently but getting them to do this depends on treating people as people, not as cogs.
It is also supported by culture, leadership, talent practices and work management. For example, only about a quarter of organizations design their performance management processes around collaboration. But employees, leaders and teams in high performance organizations are 5.5x more likely to be set performance goals that demonstrate or reinforce the importance of collaboration.
I4CP suggest that the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration is the lack of incentives and rewards organizations assign to it - most compensation systems are focused on individual performance, not team contributions. "Leaders are hoping for A (collaboration) while rewarding B (individual achievement). They must instead learn how to spot and reward people who do both.”
Yet the research suggests that finding ways to recognize and reward employees who regularly engage in collaborative behaviors that make their colleagues more effective can pay off in a big way. I like the case study on Patagonia where their VPHR comments: “If we hit the numbers we’ve set, everyone gets a bonus. If we don’t, no one does. We’re all working toward the same thing, and everyone is clear about what that is.” (Though note it is still important to balance individual and team reward to avoid social loafing.)
It is also interesting that the research did not find better collaboration was due to better systems and technology - "In a way, you can’t buy your way into high-performance collaboration with technology alone."
I think I4CP have produced some important new research and I am pleased to see that it generally supports my conclusions in ‘The Social Organization’ too. However, as I4CP note, these conclusions are based on research, not just their thoughts or a "popular book out there”. This gives the conclusions extra weight and make them difficult to challenge.
However I will still posit one of the major recommendations in my own book that collaboration also depends heavily on organization design. The very best next practice leadership, workplace and talent practices are much less likely to lead to effective and purposeful collaboration if we’ve organized people to work in a badly designed or the wrong type of group.
We would like to thank Robert Jeffery for his People Management review of The Social Organization:
There might not be an I in team but, as the overwhelming and ongoing focus on leadership in the business world demonstrates, work is still all about the individual. And yet, as society becomes more inter-reliant and technology connects us all more closely, that’s counterintuitive. It’s time, says notable HR blogger Jon Ingham, to focus on social capital rather than human capital.
“In many organisations,” he writes, “I find excellent work being undertaken in HR, property, IT and other disciplines, but these areas are often not talking to each other… or, even if they are, do not have a common perspective on what they are trying to achieve.” Ingham sees HR as the unlocker of organisational social capital – the idea that the less formal links between people, and the knowledge they share, are more important than the structures in place around them.
The profession, he argues, should be generating its own business outcomes, not seeing itself as a support function, and should stringently measure its social achievements. And he also knows how: by experimenting seriously with decentralisation, reducing harmful internal competition, using technology to create meaningful relationships through tools such as hacks, harnessing social data technologies and removing the vestiges of status (goodbye guaranteed parking spaces), to name just a few.
HR has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, says Ingham, to create new structures (for example, matrix or networked organisations) and he looks in depth at the likes of Morningstar and Spotify, which have tried just that.
The result is a complex, serious book brimming with ideas that challenge HR convention, such as reward structures or the concept of organisational values, with genuine panache. While the case studies could have been more surprising (and more UK-focused), the sum of the parts is an important, realistic and frequently inspirational book that implores HR to do things differently – and isn’t afraid to show it how.