Professor William Scott-Jackson Oxford Strategic Consulting
HR professionals need to prove they understand business to be taken seriously Business leaders in the GCC believe that people are the most important factor in achieving strategic success and that the effective management of those people will add significantly to the bottom line. Human resource management is therefore a critical
board-level issue and there should be an effective HR VP or director on the board. So why isn’t that always the case? Our research shows that Gulf leaders believe people and talent are key to their future strategic success. But they also tend to think that the management of people and talent is too important to be left to HR professionals. Only 25 per cent rate their own HR functions as excellent. HR professionalism in the GCC is still relatively low, with only 10 per
cent being members of any HR professional body. The thinking is that the strategic management of people and talent is the job of senior line managers. HR leaders in the region who have been invited to join the board generally have business experience and are HR-savvy. Forty per cent of our sample had not had any HRrelated training or education – one of the most influential was originally in IT, and another was in marketing. A long career in HR is currently not the only route to a strategic HR role, but that will change over time.
Amy Baxendale Senior employer solutions manager, CIPD Middle East
The idea of a board seat in itself is far less important than the influence you exert inside an organisation I would never advocate HR giving up the idea of being on the board. But as the profession has matured, we have come to realise that the idea of a board seat in itself is far less important than the influence we are able to exert inside an organisation. The most effective and inspirational HR professionals are those who have won credibility through their actions, and are able to connect what they do to clear
business outcomes. This is about having the courage to challenge – about saying something of real importance rather than just expecting to be listened to. This has never been more important in Middle East organisations. At a time when belts are being tightened across the region, it’s HR’s job to optimise the return on people investment and make the case for a long-term view. There is also the question of what actually constitutes the board. Many HR directors may have a seat on the executive board but
not be part of the executive team making key decisions. I’ve seen HR professionals on the board who don’t challenge or sound credible, but I’ve also seen many outside a formal board role who understand strategy and broader business contexts, and can connect a people strategy to the business by deploying their specific HR experience. They didn’t reach that point by being overly concerned about a seat at the table – they did it through having curiosity and delivering results.
People Management Middle East
The CIPD magazine for the Middle East