Critical Challenge for HR Business Partners - Talent War 2.0

Critical Challenge for HR Business Partners - Talent War 2.0

Prof. Sattar Bawany shares the critical challenge, key success factors in developing future leadership pipeline and the development of a highly engaged workforce. 

What is the most critical challenge for HR Business Partners (HRBP) in this War for Talent 2.0?

Focus on being a Strategic Partner

Although there has been some progress in recent years, there is still a lot of work to be done by HR Professionals today in Singapore to bridge the gap from a transactional function to a strategic business partner. HR leaders are facing an extended period of rapid change and transition as they seek to align more closely with the business. This comes at a time when the nature of work itself is becoming more complex, with an increasingly international, cross-generational, multi-partner and technologically-dependent design for many work activities that are critical towards achieving the organisational success.

Lack of Business and Strategic Vision

From my consulting engagements, I found that there are a significant number of HR leaders who lack business and strategic vision. This lack of vision essentially prevents the HR function in delivering effective strategic solutions to the challenges facing business leaders. These challenges include the failure to attract, develop, retain and reward suitable talent at all levels as a potential barrier to boardroom influence.

Development of Future Leadership Pipeline

The critical or biggest challenges for HR leaders, in particular HR Business Partners is to impact and influence senior leaders and board members. The development of a leadership pipeline needs to be a critical strategic initiative, as well as acquiring the relevant resources to make this happen. The HR professionals are faced with being expected to provide the essential structures, processes, tools, and points of view to make the best selection and develop the future leaders of the organisation.

This situation is of course not unique to Singapore alone. Across the globe, leadership development has been identified as a critical strategic initiative in ensuring that:

  • The right employees are retained
  • The culture of the organisation supports performance from within to gain market position
  • Managers are equipped to take on leadership roles of the future so that the organisation is viable in the long term

Organisations need to heed the advice of Jim Collins in the book "Good to great" where it is crucial for them to get the ‘Right Person on the Bus’ and ‘Wrong Person off the Bus’ and ensuring that we have the ‘Right Person in the Right Seat’.


What are the key success factors for HRBP in ensuring the development of a future leadership pipeline?

Business Execution is Key

I believe that for organizations to achieve sustainable competitive advantage, business execution is a key driver of organization success. Regrettably from my experience, in situations where talent and succession plans have been put into place, organizations have repeatedly found that these plans fall short. One of the key reasons is due to the fact that too much attention is focused on current skills and competencies of the leadership team, and not enough attention is focused on future skills and competencies that are crucial to implementation or execution of the business strategy. Development, then, is not consistently based on closing critical skill gaps required for these future leadership roles or tailored to the organisation's needs.

Future Leadership Pipeline - The 8 Key Success Factors

Key Success Factors will include those that will be able to address the issue of development of future leadership pipeline:

  1. What are the organisation’s key strategic drivers and predictors of future success?
  2. Do you know the specific competencies (knowledge and skills) that will be needed to drive the business in the next two to five years, based on the strategic plan?
  3. Do you have a managerial leadership competency model that is used in selection, performance appraisal, talent reviews, and developmental activities for the current and future leaders of the organisation?
  4. What leadership development interventions does the organization adopt to meet its future pipeline objectives?
  5. Which functions and organizational levels have a rich talent pipeline, and which have a lean talent pipeline?
  6. To what extent does the organization have a “leadership pipeline” in place to ensure a flow of qualified candidates for key positions?
  7. Which roles are mission critical to achieve the organisation strategy, and how many “Ready Now”, "Ready 2 to 3 years" and "Ready 3 to 5 years" have been identified?
  8. Do you have the resources—time, money, and commitment from those who can make the future leadership development happen?

These questions provide a basis for determining the measurement of success for the future leadership development efforts. The challenge lies in being able to facilitate meaningful dialogue with the CEOs and senior business leaders that gets beyond the aspiration-based, general success definitions.


What is the role of HR function in the development of a highly engaged workforce as a sustainable competitive advantage for organisations?

CEE Results-based Leadership Framework

In the CEE Results-based Leadership framework, HR Business Partners can certainly impact and influence senior business leaders towards the development of a highly engaged workforce. This in turn will contribute to stakeholder/customer engagement, which will eventually lead towards achieving the organisation's success.

The challenge is to have the right tools to measure HR effectiveness in achieving this task. As with many other areas of business, HR as a profession also needs to be able to measure results in terms of transaction management, as well as in terms of the positive influence on business. Utilising metrics to determine effectiveness is the beginning of a shift from perceiving HR's role as purely an administrative function, to viewing the HR team as a true strategic partner within the organisation. In other words, the critical future issue for HR will be organisational effectiveness - again, supporting HR's critical role as a strategic partner to management.

Where HR departments have traditionally focused on measuring their own effectiveness, there is an evolving recognition that they can provide organisational value by measuring the effectiveness of the entire business organisation. The shift is significant, as it represents movement from simply counting the numbers hired to determining the ROI of collective and individual hires on a long-term basis. Going beyond measuring turnover, this new approach considers 'bad' turnover and 'good' turnover along with the overall cost of replacement hires.

4 Variables to HR Business Partner Effectiveness

From consulting engagements with local, regional and global clients, there are many variables that will have an impact on the effectiveness of the role of HR Business Partners, which includes:

  1. Impact of effective leaders (with superior managerial leadership competencies) in meeting business goals/expectations
  2. The number of high potentials who plan to leave their organization in the next year
  3. The level of improvement/decline of employee engagement and productivity
  4. The extent of successful implementation of critical on boarding activities for future leaders in their First 90 Days, and their impact of achieving early wins (See related articles: Hit the Ground Running and Leadership Blind Spots)

For a listing of awesome articles and e-books by Prof. Sattar Bawany, visit Centre for Executive Education (CEE)

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