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  • Debra Cadman

A tailored approach

Getting from ‘best practice’ to ‘right practice’

Embracing the new is how we make progress. 

Change makes us fluid and contemporary. 

Experimenting brings innovation. 

If we didn’t try new structures, systems and processes in HR, organisations would be stuck in the past, feel clunky and completely at odds with societal expectations and the way business is done. That said, what is touted as ‘best practice’ in research papers, trend reports and case studies is rarely right for every organisation. Of course, it’s obvious – everything needs to be analysed, tested and implemented (if appropriate) in context. 


With the deluge of information available out there, it can seem like there are always better, shinier, more modern ways to do absolutely every aspect of HR. And there is significant pressure to keep up. A prime recent example is the removal of performance ratings by the likes of Adobe, KPMG and Deloitte. This well-intentioned but radical move has had mixed results, with many organisations (including Deloitte) re-instating formal appraisals to form part of a new culture of regular and ongoing feedback.

What is key is an HR leaders’ capacity to assess options for the future, including best practice, and their ability to know what will work within their own business environment. There is a need for discernment, and creativity – taking what is being suggested and reshaping it to create something that will work in each unique organisation. Anyone who has ever bought a ‘one size fits all’ T-shirt will know it is shapeless and usually something of a disappointment once you’re wearing it.


It would be easy to kick the can down the road and only change the way things are done once a particular method or system has been proven by other businesses. That’s not what we advocate. But by doing nothing individual - following another company’s methods - it means you aren’t really, truly examining the needs of your people within the context of your organisation and its culture. Taking time to reflect, examine, analyse and prescribe right practice shouldn’t be seen as an indulgence but as a business necessity. Get your HR wrong and your sales and business strategy no longer matters. The HR Agenda is all about creating that space to work out what your organisation needs – the only way to bring right practice to your organisation.


Once you have the space to think, you need to take a specific HR approach to experiment and bring about innovation. What kind of HR leader are you? A ‘Partner’, ‘Reactor’ or ‘Anticipator’? We explore these leadership styles, and many more, in The HR Agenda.


DDI’s research has shown that 60% of HR professionals describe themselves as being ‘Partners’ to the business. Partnership was the goal of the Ulrich model, another example of best practice that has been widely implemented by HR functions over the past decade. This high percentage of self-proclaimed ‘Partners’ sounds great at surface level as they ‘openly exchange information with the business about current issues and collaboratively work towards mutual goals’ – but does this bring about change? Can it create right practice?


Only 22% of HR leaders now describe themselves as being ‘Reactors’ - those who ensure compliance and respond to business requests as required. Reactors keep up with an organisation, they help to keep things moving but it is, inevitably, in the same old direction.


However, DDI introduce a third, emerging mode of operating: ‘Anticipators’, who make up only 18% of the research respondents. Anticipators are highly proactive and involved in the strategic planning process. They advise leaders on the probability of their strategies succeeding based on their knowledge of the talent needed to deliver. Anticipators create an HR strategy in parallel with the business planning cycle, not as a result of it.


Being proactive and anticipatory doesn’t mean implementing every latest trend. It means being aware of the external landscape and being able to decide where there is value to be created in the future, and how best to capture that value.


So, how do you get from best practice to right practicefor your organisation?  Here are three points for consideration: 


Invest time and energy in your HR strategy and commit to it.

Use all your wisdom and internal insights, be highly focused on the business strategy and ensure that your plan is complemented by, not led by the latest trends. Decide upfront, with your fellow business leaders where making a change will make a real difference, rather than latching onto the latest fad.

Have the courage to push yourself and your team beyond best practice. Absorb as much external information as you can, and then pause. Create the conditions to think creatively about what is best and possible for your organisation. Tiny nuances in the way you do something could make a huge difference. Take the time to think through and test multiple options, rather than rushing in to jump on the bandwagon.

Share and seek out real experiences from your fellow professionals, rather than relying solely on the ‘success’ stories that are primed for industry magazine consumption. Critically assess the formal research, which rarely tells the full story. Challenge the discourse and be willing to listen to the experiences of those around you, being open to seeing where the opportunities lie.


Through taking focused chunks of time and undertaking strategic exploration, you can arrive at HR decisions fit for your organisation, providing practice that is right for your unique environment. Arriving at your own, evolving, tailored solution means you can throw out the ‘one size fits all’ for good.


[Resource: Development Dimensions International Inc]

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