HR In Today’s Fluid Environment: More Like Poker Than Chess

4 November 2020 - Reading time: 5 Minutes

International HR

According to Professor Joe Perfetti from the University of Maryland, “The keyword for the 20th century was ‘speed’; the keyword for the 21st century is ‘agility’. And then COVID emerged to shake the business world up beyond our wildest imaginings. What does that does that mean for companies – and their HR teams?

Professor Perfetti’s words are more pertinant than ever, now that a global pandemic has devastated entire industries and leading executives wonder what ‘business as usual’ will look like when the smoke clears – if it will ever exist again.

One thing is for sure: businesses will have to adapt and change more quickly than ever before – and that includes their approach to HR.

A need for speed, but that’s not all

But speed alone won’t be enough, as Professor Perfetti emphasises, since the velocity and breadth of change is unprecedented. This is where the difference between ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’ come into play. He compares it to the difference between playing poker vs. chess.

In chess (complicated), all of the information is available up front. Players have strategies and plans and can predict ahead of time what their opponents can and will do. In poker (complex), on the other hand, players have to do a lot of guesswork and take decisions when only a limited amount of insight and information about the situation is available.

The future for many companies looks more like poker than chess. In order to survive and thrive in the midst of uncertainty, businesses will need to build agility into their strategies from square one.

Make a bet, take a chance – or fade away

According to Professor Perfetti, the agility of a business depends on three things:

  • speed: how fast it can move;
  • interaction: how quickly it can understand changing circumstances and environments, develop options, decide and act;
  • pivot: how well it can change direction on a dime.

Leaders of businesses today will need to get cosy with the idea of making decisions faster based on less information – balancing risk and speed in favour of action and taking incoming information into account in real time. For example, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos encourages his leaders to act when they have around 70% of the information.

5 core capabilities in an uncertain world

In order for a company to be able to pivot – or act on a decision that has been made, six key capabilities must be in place, asserts Professor Perfetti. If not, the chances of success are low. Those six capabilities are:

  • knowledge: the data or knowledge to act;
  • people: the right talent with the right capabilities at the right time;
  • technology: the tools, capabilities, analytics needed;
  • assets: machinery, facilities, etc. required;
  • culture: a results-driven mindset;
  • process: optimized flows and processes needed to produce results.

Within this context, having the right people, developing them and supporting them in their growth – the core responsibilities of the HR team – is absolutely crucial. This makes HR an important actor in the strategic success of every company today.

Professor Perfetti: “If we don’t know what the future is going to look like, it becomes critical to have a workforce that can respond quickly and outlearn the competition.” Doing so means embracing an approach to HR processes that is flexible, digitally supported, and that prioritises the employee experience across the employee lifecycle.

Read our exclusive report, ‘The Future of People and Work: HR, Fluid as Hula Hoop Shaking’, which explores European trends in 6 core HR domains based on survey responses from 3,000 companies in 11 countries.

Request the report

Find your feet with SD Worx

Speed, interaction, pivoting – it could be poker, but really, it sounds a bit like a dance. Here at SD Worx, we use a different analogy for agility in HR: hula hooping. In order to keep a hula hoop in the air, it’s necessary to have a stable foundation (offering employees stability) and the grace and flexibility (fostering a dynamic workforce) to balance while swirling as needed.

With our tools and solutions, we help businesses around the world find their feet by supporting their most valuable assets – their people – with HR and payroll solutions tailored to their needs.

In search of the perfect starting point for developing your strengths in knowledge, people, technology, assets, culture and processes?

Download our exclusive whitepaper, ‘Embracing HR for growing companies’.

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