Looking Beyond From the Eye of the Storm

WHENEVER THINGS GET BAD THE FIRST REACTION OF MOST COMPANIES IS TO CUT BACK, lay people of, cross their fingers and weather the storm. As leaders we have all been there before and it is the first port of call to initiate the age old short term fixes like across the board cuts, tightening the corporate proverbial belt and restructuring to survive the down turn.

It is a natural reaction to try and protect the organization from external threats, but while the threats of the current crisis are apparent few will be planning ahead to take advantage of the opportunities the crisis does and will present. Those who plan and execute a future proof strategy now will come out on the other side, stronger and in a position to avail the opportunities the corrected market has to and will offer.

For those of us who opt for the knee-jerk approach, short term reactionist thinking will lead us to ignore where valuable knowledge , skills and experience resides within the organization – such organizations shall find themselves poorly placed to tackle problems that arise, survive the recession, and maximize the opportunity once the economy improves.

In such times it is imperative for HR to have a persuasive voice on the board to ensure the board takes a truly strategic view of human resourcing in context to their operational needs and success. This means the board should be able to pinpoint where and how the organization derives and delivers value, identify the knowledge, skills and abilities required by the optimal number of people to deliver on the corporate vision. A black box approach to HR will not give you any of the above, it may well bring immediate savings but at a cost that your organization will regret once the storm has passed.

Mapping the organization’s activities, dependencies against its people competencies delivers a more accurate guide for redundancy or restructuring decisions amongst the many other benefits of taking a quantitative competence lead approach to your soft assets.

This approach highlights any excessive staffing levels better than thinking in purely departmental terms or arbitrary percentage reductions across all functions. This exercise can pinpoint who must be retained, whether they remain in their current role or are redeployed to another role that matches their skills and knowledge. This approach is significantly more time- and cost-effective than recruiting new starters post recovery who will require investment in training and time for them to acquire company knowledge and established internal relationships to become effective.

Each time a talented, experienced employee leaves your organization valuable skills and knowledge walk out the door with him/her, their experience within your organization that gave them their expertise is difficult to capture. Without it, the organization will only have to re-learn the lessons that had previously been mastered over time. Naturally, organizations with a thought through HR strategy are best prepared – if HR leaders within your organization had not considered this before, they should do so now as a matter of urgency.

For those of you unfamiliar with the competency-based HR management model, it is an approach to determine the optimum combination of skills, knowledge and behaviors required for each position in your organization. This approach creates an opportunity to optimize your human resources, the result of which is a strengthened human resources practices, improved organizational effectiveness, better job satisfaction, increased productivity, effective succession planning, workforce forecasting and streamlined costs. It involves a transition from the traditional way of managing human resources based on what people have (e.g. qualifications) to what people can do (capability and performance).

Now more than ever organizations need strategy execution prowess to weather the current storm and to prosper in the world thereafter. HR must take the lead and clearly demonstrate the contribution HR can make and earn their rightful place at the board.

About the Author: Kubair Shirazee is the founder & CEO of ikonami and you can find him at

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