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Human Resources Policies and Culture Published: Sunday, January 11, 2009 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel (Coco) Morales

To ensure the alignment with strategy, leaders and senior management must implement appropriate human resources policies. ALERT: ORGANIZATIONAL INERTIA IS FREQUENTLY EMBEDDED IN OBSOLETE HR PRACTICES, WHICH REINFORCE THE OLD CULTURE, INSTEAD OF SUPPORTING THE EMERGENCE OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE FUTURE.   Human resources policies play a critical role in shaping the organization’s culture.  The empirical (scientific) argument here is that there is a key connection between human resources policies, recruitment and selection activities, reward systems, appraisals and development ventures and practices, which in turn have a strong influence in the kind of working culture for the future.

Without the right people and the right skills and competencies set the organization cannot succeed in facing new and different challenges.  Strategic human resources management has to accommodate and facilitate competitiveness changes, and ALWAYS contribute to clarify and well-define what is needed in the way to the future.  If not, plans will not eventuate.   MANAGEMENT IS NOT ABOUT COMPLAINING IT IS ABOUT LOOKING AND WORKING WITH SOUNDABLE OPPORTUNITIES EVEN WHILE CONFRONTING SCARCITY AND UNCERTAINTIES. 

Another very important component is that of designing flexible reward system that relates corporate performance, business-unit or departmental performance and individual performance WARNING: INCENTIVES PROBLEMS OFTEN ARISE FROM THE DYNAMIC OF EMPLOYEE’S PERSONAL OBJECTIVES DIFFERING FROM THOSE OF THE BUSINESS UNIT LEVEL AND THOSE OF THE SHAREHOLDERS.  These dynamics can be reconcile.

Stern Stewart, the originator of Economic Value Added (EVA), has shared many useful concepts for integrating rewards systems with the corporate performance reality.  Needless, to say, in the world global competitive reality, the game is always that of raising high standards (An example is that of Sony Corporation progressively adopting EVA so as to improve return on invested capital).

Organizations need to incorporate and revise their performance appraisal management system (PMAS) recognizing that objectives and measures have to be shared, specific to the business and performance should be measured against. Organizations cannot work as is exceptional performance doesn’t matter! GOOD PERFORMANCE IS NOT ONLY ABOUT ACHIEVING OBJECTIVES, BUT IS ALSO ABOUT THE WAY THOSE OBJECTIVES ARE ACHIEVED.  The nine topics on the manager-leader performance checklist are: 1) Culture and mission support; 2) Fiscal and cost reduction responsibility; 3) Leadership/management style; 4) Quality assurance and client satisfaction; 5) Human resources development; 6) Planning an analysis; 7) Communications; 8) Personal and professional growth; 9) Unit-specific factors.

The development of old and new leaders and managers is an imperative, a must.  This effort has to include senior managers and promising managers that can undertake future positions.  LEAVING PEOPLE FOR A LONG TIME IN THE SAME POSITION IS A DISSERVICE TO THEM AND TO THE ORGANIZATION.  The cost of no education is always higher that the cost of quality education. 

Finally, an organization that has been in operation for many years, and that has a history, develops its own CULTURE-widely shared basic assumptions, values, beliefs and decision making practices that have a powerful influence on activities, behaviors and operations.  It includes assumptions about INNOVATION and CREATIVITY, and who in the organization can really express these, and the value of experimentation, as well an attitudes toward risk, failure and high performance.

Human resources policies have a definite impact on the culture of the organization, and since performance is determined to a huge extent by the culture and this impact can be positive or negative, strategic leaders and managers should constructively manage the emergence of the new culture.  Again, the working culture can be the problem or the solution.  Solution wise the new culture is one of agility, of solving problems, accomplishing competitive outcomes, mobilizing for breakthrough execution, realizing shared purpose, and confronting with resiliency unexpected possibilities.

In the 21st century organizations should replace old formal bureaucratic-administrative control systems with the culture-self-imposed-personal responsibility systems.  By the way, research clearly states that knowledge workers and professionals are more comfortable in such and environment.  These days and for the good, many leaders and managers are talking about cultural values (innovation, cost reduction, high standards, service, transparency and performance-execution focus).  But in many cases, however, not only the informal culture is indifferent to such values, but the formal processes and the human resources policies act as inhibitors of the very values professed by the strategy.   Before there was much talk about walk the talk, but we as behaviorist have always preferred the saying talk (words) the walk (behaviors).  Warning: Be careful with words that succeed and policies that fail.

Gladly enough, in Puerto Rico we have work with many organizations that have effectively transformed their cultures, and thus their capacity to deliver high standards results. 

Copyright 2009 QBS, Inc.

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