Building a Winning HR Team

I gave a talk on Building a Winning HR Team at the Human Management and Talent Forum last week.  There were approximately 150 HR professionals in attendance.  When I was first invited to participate in this event, I thought about compelling topics and issues and how I might add to the discussion.

I have been recruiting in China (and around Asia) for a while.  In the course of my work, I have recruited and hired HR professionals for my business organization and recruiting team.  I have also met with HR leaders and practitioners at seminars and networking events.  Our role in HR is to help strengthen and building talent strategies to support our business.

What often intrigues me is what are we, professionals in HR, are doing to develop our own HR organization.

I speak with talent managers and organizational development experts and they agree with me, we don’t spend nearly enough resources on developing our own HR teams.  Their jobs and priorities are spent with line managers and organization leaders.  HR directors hire external consultants for leadership and management training.

I was sourcing for an external consultant to deliver customized training for my staffing team a few weeks ago.  The consultants gave me a blank stare when I asked about their experience with developing programs for internal HR.  When was your most recent in-house training for HR teams?  HR don’t engage us for HR training, they hire us for line manager training.  Oh!

How can we win against the war for talent if we don’t have a strong army of HR professionals?

HR a Top Issue for China CEOs

Year after year, human resources constraints are paramount issues facing CEOs in China.  The American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai has been conducting its annual China Business Climate Survey Report for over a decade.  Without fail, each year, the issues of human resources constraints rank in the top 3 concerns for companies conducting business in China.

In 2005, McKinsey Global Institute issued a report on the growing issues related shortages of talent availability and quality of the Chinese workforce.  The issues have not t abated seven years later.

Current Trends for China HR

Some major topics concerning companies doing business in China include:

  • No Longer Low Cost – The global financial crisis have had major impact on the future direction of corporations with large manufacturing base in China.  China is no longer low wage manufacturing base to the world.  Employee costs have been creeping up where the minimum wage levels are doubling.
  • Manufacturing or Consumption – While margins have narrowed, local companies are keeping up competition against foreign multinationals.  Chinese companies have gained the know-how in developing products targeted for a distinctly Chinese consumer.  Global brands are finding themselves facing stiff competition for a growing middle-class.
  • Changing Workforce Demographics – The face of the Chinese workforce is changing.  The Chinese government is contemplating about increasing the retirement age from the current 55 years of age.  The post 80’s generations are now coming into an age where they confronted with making large purchases, a house.  They are also faced with spending for retirement, not their own, but that of their parents.  The next generation, the 90’s generation is now entering the workforce.  While the China economy is slowing down, employing skilled workers have not abated.  All these factors continue to driving a different management system for managers in China.

The Future of China HR

There is a place for HR policies and guidelines.  The legal environment for human resources management in China is complex and filled with grey areas.  HR professional can do so much more in a country such as China, where talent shortage looms and talent development is in high demand.

  • Creating Opportunities– I recently met with an outsourcing vendor to one of our business units.  During the meeting, the outsourcing vendor director informed us that while the business partnership was great, they struggled with our company’s  internal policies which prevented “their people” from interacting with “our people.”  I recognized that our policies were put in place to protect company business confidential information.  However, there has to be a better way to increase the overall efficiency of the business partnership for greater impact.The future of HR requires us to relook at our policies in response to changing business environment.   A more business focused HR (not just HR business partner) can create a more impactful relationship with our business leaders.
  • Being Present in the Absence– Many firms in Asia Pacific are relocating their APAC headquarters to China.  Whereas, HR leaders in the recent past have regional responsibilities for managing China, the new trend is China HR leaders taking on new responsibilities to manage Greater China (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan).  Chinese MNCs are growing into regional and international players.  China-based HR heads are expanding their teams into APAC and internationally.This idea of managing in the absence is neither about virtual teams nor remote management.  It is a new approach to leadership and management.  Business and HR leaders have to grow into multinational leaders and managing effectively in a local context.  Local staff need to skills and expertise to communicate and work with bosses who are bases in different geographical locations.
  • War for Talent – The capability of an organization to win the war for talent begins with a strong HR team.  If an organization does not have a strong army of talent, including HR, it would be difficult to innovate and compete in the market place.  HR is no longer a service provider.  The profession is working as a strategic business partner with line management and heads of business organizations.  As a strategic business partner HR need to be able to create business opportunities, not just delivering HR services and programs.

In order to fulfill our professional mission of being a strategic business partner HR leaders needs to focus resources on building an army of strong HR talent, in additional to training the line management.

Final Thought

My talk was to encourage and inspire HR professionals to take immediate action to focus on internal development of our HR teams.  The profession requires it.  Our HR staff expects it.  It’s time to move our HR teams to a high level of play.

Review the slide deck for additional information presented at the HR forum.


Slideshow – Press Play to View


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *