Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

When expertise becomes an enemy of quality service 18 – taking an overarching strategic approach to this

Posted in career development, HR and personnel, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 10, 2017

This is my eighteenth installment to a series on expertise, and on what an employee or manager needs to bring along with it, if it is to offer real value and either to themselves or to the business they work for (see my supplemental postings section at the end of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 69 and following, for Parts 1-17.)

I have been at least relatively systematically addressing a range of issues, contexts, circumstances and scenarios in the first seventeen installments to this series, that all hold at least a few underlying points of commonality. One of the most important of them, and certainly from the perspective of this 18th installment to that, is that I have been variously approaching the issues and challenges of:

• Finding, bringing in and retaining people with real skills and who could offer real value to a business, and in ways that let them live up to their full potential,
• While simultaneously maintaining a workplace where all employees and at all levels of the table of organization know that they are being treated fairly, that they have an equal opportunity to succeed and to grow professionally, and where they have an equal chance at advancement and with that only dependent upon their work performance and ability.

There is of necessity a dynamic balance, inherent in this dichotomy. And that becomes particularly relevant and I add apparent when a Human Resources and Personnel department sets and follows its policy and practices:

• For the way that they work with and support more routine-skills and experience employees,
• And in how it works with and accommodates special skills and experience ones:
• Employees who are essential as far as their skills and experience are categorically needed but who are not as individually indispensible or irreplaceable, and employees who are essential and who might in fact be essentially irreplaceable, at least within critically essential timeframes where they are critically necessary.

I admittedly somewhat cryptically stated at the end of Part 17, that I would continue on from its line of discussion (there considering personnel training and related issues, vis-à-vis personnel-related information security and business alignment at that level), to consider:

• “The issues that I have been raising here in this series,” from an overall business strategy and business development perspective, as businesses face both evolutionary and more predictable change, and disruptive and unpredictable change.

I have at least attempted to address the issues and circumstances raised throughout this series in a manner that is compatible with a more explicit inclusion of ongoing change. But I have largely delved into the more specific issues and circumstances addressed in this series and certainly up to here, from a more fixed in time and here-and-now snapshot perspective. My goal for this posting is to very explicitly consider change contexts and particularly where a once effective and even best practice approach can become outdated and even dysfunctionally problematical.

I in effect began addressing that in Part 17 when I cited as an all too familiar type of working example: how senior managers and leaders of Human Resources and Personnel departments fell into a trap in their understanding of what types of compensation and related personnel information actually have to be safely held in-house and as strictly confidential and proprietary, and what types and levels of this can be shared, and even by individual employees through online social media, and through websites such as glassdoor. And I compared the more draconian, hold all such information as if top secret approach as taken by older-style businesses, and even just regarding the willing sharing of an employee’s own compensation, or of entirely general demographic level information on this, to Roman Emperor Caligula’s attempt to frighten Poseidon into backing off the tide when he wanted to hold a picnic on the beach! Draconian there as a label of impact, proved itself as a matter of basic policy to be more appropriate a term for the effect of older policy and practice on those businesses themselves and on their own underlying interests, than it did to wayward employees – and certainly where the goal was to bring in and keep the best.

New dividing lines had to be arrived at in distinguishing between what types and levels of personnel information have to be kept confidential and what in practice actually does not. And this new understanding and new policy and practice that would develop from it, had to be both supported from and enforced from the top of these departments, and from more senior executive management as well, in operationally distinguishing between what has to be kept entirely in-house and in only certain allowed areas there, and what can become more open and publically known – where complete confidentiality has become impossible in a world so interconnected through the interactive online and social media context that we all now live in.

That represents one working example of how change in a business’ context – here the emergence of an interactively online social media community that crosses traditional boundaries, can compel a need for change and even fundamental change in a business itself, and certainly for anything related to personnel policy or expectations. Considering this from a larger perspective that includes both a business itself and its competitive context. This boundary crossing has called for a fundamental rethinking of traditional business-to-business contexts too, and the potential for sharing sensitive information with business rivals as they seek out the same best employees that your business does. And it also and at least as actively means boundary crossing between hiring and potentially hiring businesses, and the community of workforce participants who seek or who might seek to find new employment opportunity, and who both need and actively seek out as much information as possible as to what any particular, individual company can offer and both normatively and as best terms from a new hire’s perspective.

Think of this in terms of a hiring business and a potential new hire job candidate playing cards: high stakes poker perhaps, and the players on the company side finding themselves with some of their cards showing that they used to be able to keep hidden – but where all such businesses have now come to face that same challenge so this has not necessarily created special advantage for any of them. It has just shifted the overall balance of potential advantage that they all face. This type of shift in what a business faces and in what it has to expect can create compelling need for it to change its policy and practices and from the top down and from the bottom up (from the experience of individual job hiring campaigns in that.) And this type of scenario and ones that are functionally like it can arise through:

• The emergence of sudden and disruptive change,
• Or slow and evolutionary change – and particularly in this case when an increasingly disconnected status quo, “tried and true” understanding and policy is simply maintained as is, until something bad arises from its continued use.

The second of those possibilities is not all that likely to arise when simply hiring for routine positions and certainly when there are more prospective job candidates out there actively looking for those types of positions than there are such positions to fill. This is going to arise and even painfully so when the need is pressingly intense to bring in and hire – or to retain a special skills, high priority employee and where hiring and retention are anything but a buyer’s market for the business.

I identify this posting in its title tagline as one that addresses “taking an overarching strategic approach to this.” Strategy by its very nature takes a longer timeframe and a wider context perspective than do day-to-day tactical implementation, or the “this is how we do things” linear momentum of routine business practice as it of necessity templatizes tactical solutions and resolutions into routine, standardized accepted business process and practice. Ultimately, when I write of change here, and in a more meaningful context that just that of exception handling: when I write of more fundamental and long-term change in what would and would not go into tactical level practice and implementation and on a routine basis, I write of underlying, or if you will overarching strategy. And once again, this brings me back to the more senior managers and leaders of a business, and of that business as a whole and of its key functional areas. And this brings me back to the lower implementation levels where any strategic decisions: any change or any carefully considered continuation of policy or practice would be reality checked. The issues that I address here cannot ever be considered fully established; change happens and have to be responded to and proactively where possible, and certainly if a business seeks to develop and create a competitive advantage for itself through how it maintains its personnel and its key staffing.

I am going to conclude both this posting and this series with that point, though I am certain to return to issues and questions raised in these eighteen installments in future postings and series too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 (with this included as a supplemental posting there) and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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