Is it possible to imagine a business model that could succeed without the active participation of humans? I don’t think so.
Each economy sector relies on human´s skills, one way or another. From raw materials and manufacture to services and knowledge, leaders are meant to include a solid HR strategy as part of the company plan to enable the business model implementation.
Furthermore, to design, produce, and deliver products with the quality and time needed, or to create services that could satisfy more and more demanding customers, one must ensure that employees have the knowledge and abilities needed to perform their job at their maximum potential and engagement.
Also, no matter if the company is local or global, to succeed in a competitive market, it is time to talk about-and deal with-internal equity, external competitiveness, upskilling, reskilling, hybrid or remote work, culture, D&I, leadership style, and workplace climate as part of the agenda of the company´s leadership.
In our experience in Grupo Vanti, the biggest company in distribution and commercialization of gas in Colombia, we have had to adapt our talent programs to continue supporting our business model and our leaders after two important events: an acquisition and the COVID-19 pandemic. I put forward two examples to illustrate it:
First, in 2019 Grupo Vanti was living a huge transformation while redefining its strategy and structure after been acquired. It went from being a utilities company with mild commercial efforts (since the demand was taken for granted and neither had a portfolio of products or services to diversify the income and risks), to a company that needed strong and experienced commercial teams to captivate new clients and to design and sell new products and services related to the gas sector. That change implied an increase of our team structure in more than 30% in two years and to bring talent from other sectors to intake best practices for our commercial teams. Along with redefining our attraction and recruiting strategy to cope with the increasing number of vacancies, we had to adjust our compensation policy as well as our performance management process and deliver sales clinic training programs to ensure alignment between the talent we were attracting already trained and our internal talent that needed to be upskilled.
In addition, we had to reinforce our leadership program, since one third of our company was new and we wanted each leader to know what we expect from him or her in terms of self-development, people´s professional and personal growth, and corporate culture.
Second, during the pandemic, many clients stop requesting gas appliances´ maintenance, generating a huge demand of this kind of services in 2021, which we were not able to cover in time with the employees and contractors we had. However, we acted fast.
"Only by inspiring, motivating, and unleashing the best of their team members, leaders can achieve their most ambitious goals."
Unfortunately, young people and women were the most affected by the pandemic in terms of job losses. Fortunately, we had a program to increase the number of women in our technical teams already on its way, which was the platform to create an alliance with a public technician school to certificate women in maintenance of gas appliances starting our first group of students in less than four months. With this strategy, not only we ensured the workforce needed for the increasing demand of our services, but also was possible to reinforce our commitment with the D&I and social policy, having a positive impact in several of our stakeholders and in our corporate reputation.
Now, none of this HR strategies and programs will work if senior leaders are not committed. For this reason, HR initiatives should migrate from having a role of support activity that leaders demand as needed, to be part of leaders´ non-negotiables responsibilities. Only by inspiring, motivating, and unleashing the best of their team members, leaders can achieve their most ambitious goals.
So, what is the role of HR executives in this? HR is meant to deeply understand the business model, ensure that each leader and employee does the same, comprehend their contribution to the strategy and the vision, and to promote the deep incorporation its core values. Additionally, HR must ensure that each leader knows how HR processes work during the employee life cycle and participates actively in them: how to select their team members, how compensation is assigned by the company, how to define and measure the attainment of objectives aligned with the company strategy, how to review the performance of their team members and how to give valuable feedback to them to foster their personal and professional development, to name some of them. Only after this, HR will be able to work hand in hand with business leaders to anticipate and satisfy their needs in terms of talent attraction and retention, workforce upskilling and reskilling, performance appraisals and corporate culture, and deliver programs that are customized to the specific needs of the organization and that will support the success of its strategy.
As an ending note, when I am asked how to know the degree of maturity in the HR strategy of any company, I always answer that it does not depend on how refined or advanced their HR programs are, but on how much are HR topics part of the Board of Directors, C-suite, and leaders’ agenda. In a fast-paced world where businesses are in constant transformation, no business model will flourish if HR strategy is not an active part of the leaders´ responsibilities.