The HR Revolution

Jane Sunley, best-selling business author and Founder of Purple Cubed

Company culture reigns supreme. The rise and rise of the employer brand continues. The employee experience is as important as the customer one, starting before a candidate even joins. Benefits have moved on from the peripheral; the Ping-Pong tables and snooze-pods have made way for more robust offerings, which are aligned with values and progression such as mentoring from senior leaders, flexibility and student loan assistance.


HR, who in these environs are known as People Directors and the like, are nimble. They’re all about creating an environment where people are excited to come to work. They are a business leader, thought leader and talent expert all rolled into one. They enable business by building talent capability.

Learning has undergone an epiphany; horizontal to vertical: out of the classroom (mostly and then it’s about facilitation not chalk and talk) and into just-in-time, accelerated programmes, video, virtual reality, continuous support, two-way dialogue, feedback and collaboration.

Leadership is about coaching and support, trust and openness, authenticity. It’s about setting people up to succeed by ensuring clarity of purpose, providing the wherewithal and creating an environment where people can progress and contribute.

Casual is in; it’s been a while since Sir Richard Branson chopped off his tie, although it’s no longer either or. Anything goes as long as it’s appropriate to the situation and the wearer feels good.

Creativity and innovation rule. Take the gig economy; liberating or exploitative, it takes a different mind-set to work out how to engage a transient and flexible workforce…

Digitisation is transforming the landscape of ‘the people stuff’ with its superior analytics informing strategy and feeding growth. It’s become predictive and will be prescriptive. With so many cool apps flying around it’s all about keeping grounded and focused on the outcomes, being joined up; integration and managed services.


HR Revolutionaries are business-savvy. They negotiate their budgets before they take a role. They position themselves in a triangular relationship with the CEO and CFO. They know the way to get things done; using sound business arguments to secure the necessary investment and create commitment from the very top.

They also know that HR departments cannot be solely responsible for employee engagement and all that goes with it – it’s a team job; one in which everyone, in every organisation has to play their part. Especially the all-important middlemanagement layer – barrier, Chinese whisperer or conduit? It really makes a difference.

By understanding how to join up the people stuff into a clear, straightforward and deliverable plan, any organisation can transform itself; with measurable and profitable results to boot. The plan can be simple; the executing is not. I’d argue that it’s top priority, a business imperative. Everyone’s talking about it; few are actually delivering on it.


The connection between people and profit is clear though, in far too many cases, is corrupted as business battles to reach its targets. So they stick with the old ways. They deliver a few initiatives and a box-ticking survey. They deliver some training or do a roadshow. They play lip service to a business topic that’s potentially the biggest game-changing opportunity they have.

Well, I predict that if it doesn’t change soon, these organisations are on the hard road into doom. Why aren’t the people analytics reported within the annual report as with other key metrics? Why is ‘people’ not top of the agenda on the board or business meeting? Why isn’t there a comprehensive and strategic plan with clear metrics and deliverables?

The answer is three-fold:

  1. Leaders are often too busy dealing with day to day business. The world is vastly different from the way it was even five years ago and many lack the expertise, resource and time to bring about necessary change
  2. The increasingly competitive marketplace has made businesses too risk averse to invest (and many are in ‘stripping out’ mode – which is not the way to grow a successful and sustainable business)  
  3. The budget controllers don’t fully recognise the ROI associated with getting this right (if that’s someone you know, listen to this podcast) Hang on, isn’t this the world’s number one business issue? Put simply, people do not want to work in an organisation that is out-dated in its people practices; that hasn’t invested in tech that will help them progress and contribute; that isn’t putting the employee first. Organisations do not make the time or allow the resource needed, even though they know they should.

The research speaks for itself:

• 100% of business leaders say you need a people plan

• 98% say developing people is vital

• 90% are convinced that people create competitive advantage


• 86% admit to not having a consistent plan

• 85% say managing people development that supports business growth is a challenge

• 70% state time and finance as barriers


Although people-centricity can’t and won’t happen overnight, the journey has to start somewhere. It’s time for HR to lead this transformation and that starts with buy-in from the top.

And it’s going to take an HR Revolution to make it happen…

2017-05-04T08:30:13+00:00 May 4th, 2017|