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Thinking & Acting Differently: A CHRO Perspective on Driving Greater Business Results

19 Aug 2015
Nina Ramsey

In the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management and Director for the Center for Human Resources at Wharton, offers his perspective that many businesses are still following “the talent-management playbook written in the 1950s” and calls upon HR professionals to fundamentally change how they approach their roles and how they engage with the business.It comes as no surprise that his article, “Why We Love to Hate HR…and What HR Can Do About It,” has already generated a lot of debate among HR and business professionals, especially in social channels and around the boardroom. Generating debate and offering an alternative perspective on how organizations approach their talent strategies is not something new for Cappelli. In 2008, he published Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty, where he introduced the concept of applying principles of supply chain management to talent management in order to more effectively meet the dynamic talent needs of an organization. One of the goals of his talent supply chain concept was to “deal with uncertainty by being more responsive and adaptable.”2

Cappelli, along with his colleagues, such as John Boudreau, would hopefully be pleased to know that a growing number of HR professionals have been listening and applying the unique view and wisdom of scholars for several years. Because Kelly serves the global HR community, we have had the privilege of partnering with many HR thought leaders who are offering value-driven solutions to their organizations. We experience clients who are driving the talent agenda for their companies. We are having conversations with many who desire to achieve and have made marked success establishing strategic workforce plans aligned with the corporate strategy. They are providing talent through an integrated talent supply chain and utilizing diagnostics to help align competing business priorities.

The talent supply chain concept is one that my company both understands and supports, and as a result has invested millions of dollars over the last few years turning talent supply chain management principles into working practice – not only for our own company, but more importantly, for our clients. This investment includes the acquisition and development of talent to consult with our clients, partnering with leading academic and professional institutions to enhance the framework, building out a workforce analytics platform that crosses the FTE/non-FTE divide, as well as a diagnostic tool that helps align competing business drivers (e.g., cost, quality, risk, speed) for talent that exist within a company’s four walls. It is exciting to see the adoption of this framework and the advancements clients have made with their own talent strategies, including:

  • Collaborating with a global automotive manufacturer to further advance their workforce planning capabilities to incorporate internal and external employees, as well as offer performance reviews and merit increases to external workers.
  • Engaging with one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies to identify and synthesize talent priorities across eight different business units to develop an enterprise talent approach.
  • Working with a global pharmaceutical organization to implement a new workforce governance model that integrates their external workforce roadmap with their talent acquisition roadmap for internal talent to increase the speed of planning and execution.

In addition to applying talent supply chain concepts to our own internal company systems, I agree with Cappelli’s perspective that there are some traditional processes, such as performance management, that must be significantly re-engineered or eliminated. Back in 2008, we led an initiative to re-engineer our performance management process, resulting in the elimination of traditional performance scoring and the overall cumbersome process. What resulted is a more forward-facing dialogue between manager and employee focusing on alignment with business goals. This internal process change has led to lower turnover than our industry average and high marks on our engagement scores from employees reporting that their direct leader inspires them to do their best work. This change has also reduced the complexity of an HR process for the business. It has also resulted in more authentic conversations between managers and employees. My team and I have had the opportunity to share our success with this endeavor by consulting with close to 100 companies to help with their performance management transformation. I share this example to point out that there are organizations and leaders that have embraced Cappelli’s viewpoints on transforming the HR organization. While there is still much work to be done, I feel it is important to celebrate our successes along the way as talent architects and practitioners, all with the goal of improving our organization’s return. Let’s help the Cappellis of the world know that action is being taken and that we are working every day to transform the HR profession for the betterment of the business by acting and thinking differently.

1 HBR, “Why We Love to Hate HR…and What HR Can Do About It” Peter Cappelli, July –August 2015

2 http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/talent-on-demand-applying-supply-chain-management-to-people/ 

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