HR and Leadership Alignment - Creating Synergy

In fact, if I were to draw an analogy between the Leadership and HR, I would akin them to Sachin Tendulkar & Saurav Ganguly i.e., one of the greatest of the partnerships of the cricket world.


HR is a profession difficult to define as it has a very wide canvas that encompasses almost all facets of an organization. In fact it is embedded in the structure of organization becoming inherent to business strategy and planning. Topping the list of challenges for this function is Alignment with Leadership. HR alignment is all about integrating decisions about people with decisions about the results that top leadership is trying to accomplish. Historically, HR has often been positioned as the architect of workplace whose job is to create functional, safe and aesthetic economic structures. I, however, would like to differ here. While HR’s role in creating the structure and laying the foundation is important, it does not end there, the HR must be omnipresent, omniscient & dynamic and it must always be in sync with the overall business ecosystem.

In fact, if I were to draw an analogy between the Leadership and HR, I would akin them to Sachin Tendulkar & Saurav Ganguly i.e., one of the greatest of the partnerships of the cricket world. It is important to realize here that synergy created by such partnership is what wins matches. Such complementing partnership is what we should aim between HR and the Leadership, which will ultimately help us conquer the bigger goals!

The core principle of Human Resource alignment is that the organizational effectiveness begins with alignment of an organization’s Human Resources with its Leadership and Business objectives. This includes aligning all aspects related to employee talent and performance. To put it simply, an organization's ultimate success is a direct function of HR Alignment. While alignment already occurred in most other key administrative functions, HR as late as the last decade was viewed as an administrative function. The main reason that HR was not aligned with the strategy of an organization was it didn’t hold a seat at the strategic planning table back then.

The time however is changing now as HR is getting its due representation on the strategic table. More and more organizations have started including HR representatives in the organizational planning process and integrate human resources management goals, objectives, and strategies into organization’s strategic plans. What is even better is the fact that we are finally moving towards building that great partnership between HR and Business. As per the latest findings from the CIPD-2016, HR and the wider business are generally aligned on most of the important issues.

The HR and Leadership alignment basically revolves around three important pillars-

a) Assess the Alignment: Analyze and assess the criticality of areas of misalignment and identify improvement opportunities;

b) Architect the Alignment: Implement the alignment through various pillars of HR like succession planning, learning and development, performance measures and rewards;

c) Build the Alignment: Create systems, processes and more importantly a culture that can sustain the alignment process.

Let me illustrate these pillars with example of my current organization Uflex.

Uflex started its operations more than three decades back and today is a truly multinational flexible packaging giant with a global footprint and manufacturing facilities in five countries: US, Poland, Egypt, Mexico & Dubai, besides multiple locations in India. With our global presence increasing, we knew we had to work on creating a greater synergy between the function and the business leaders who till now focused on execution and had mastered the art.

We started assessing the critical areas for alignment the moment we embarked on the journey of HR transformation and we became conscious of the fact that we cannot work in a traditional, classical way of putting HR tools and techniques in place in a sequential manner. We knew that to architect the alignment we had to be bespoke & work as per requirements and acceptance of our business leaders.

We started off with the way performance was being managed and then went on to introduce a slew of initiatives across job analytics, talent acquisition, employee experience, learning initiatives and rewards. All along we put a specific focus on constantly aligning our work with businesses, putting the competencies as the core of all our processes and showcasing the impact on businesses.

Few of the ways in which the function at Uflex has been aligning to Top Leadership are:-

a) Partnering with premium organizations for various Interventions that aimed at creating intent to change, undertake and deliver a shared vision, moved from functional or geographical leadership to business leadership.

b) Visioning Workshops: to create a shared vision for business, understand interdependency within organization system and created a road map for each department along with goals.

c) Leadership Outbound Programs: focus area here was based on business & leadership challenges, specific managerial competencies & behaviors.

d) Next-Gen Managerial Programs: woven around people & result oriented competencies which focused on building effective teams, people development, drive for result and taking ownership.

e) We also went ahead and realigned our top leadership team; wherein the leader who has led one of the critical businesses of the company for years has been given a bigger role wherein s/he will be mentoring the business leaders not only in that particular business but in allied businesses as well.

f) With ASEPTO - our state-of –the-art-aseptic liquid packaging material manufacturing plant commissioned at Sanand, we had to work closely with the business to understand the specific technical competencies that were required for such a novel technology and the associated advanced machinery.

Top Leadership on its part has contributed relentlessly to organization building and helping HR in this phase of transformation to align with business goals.

To dovetail HR policies was nevertheless difficult for us; to meet the same, we had to take a leap from transactional to transformational HR. There are disconnects still and it is yet not the state of Nirvana that exists when it comes to HR and Business alignment. There are clear differences on the opinion of HR’s overall contribution to strategic business priorities and these disconnects present a clear opportunity for us to demonstrate how we can be strategic partners in achieving business objectives.

Some of the areas, where HR can and should work to create synergy:-

a) Innovation and analytics: - HR and business leaders are both in agreement that innovation is a major priority. HR analytics is one such area, which will help the function drive better decision making and adding greater value to the wider business.

b) Rethinking talent management to increase HR’s wider business value: - The disconnect between HR and business leaders about the effectiveness of HR’s people strategy is particularly evident in relation to attitudes towards talent management. At a more granular level, however, HR and business leaders are actually working towards a number of common goals when it comes to talent management and they must prioritize common areas of interests such as up-skilling, succession planning, and investing in young people and enhancing employee experience.

c) Role of technology for transformation: - One of the most surprising disconnects between HR and business leadership is around the importance of replacing aging technology. New systems can improve the HR experience for all employees and allow HR to be a more strategic partner to the business while providing the tools to deliver innovation, agility, and talent management prized by business leaders.

To summarize, I would reiterate that relationship between HR and Leadership is becoming more collaborative; however the focus should be more towards striving for alignment being in line with even day-to-day line management activities.

There is still a long way to go if HR is to become a strategic partner at all levels. HR needs to build its own internal competencies to deal with organizational issues, understand the organization and its priorities that is rather than just implementing an intervention(s) HR must analyze the technicalities of its business and collaboratively ascertain if it is ready for such initiative. It must be dynamic in its approach of problem solving; providing creative and innovative solutions to current organization wide issues and keeping an eye on the future on the challenges and needs that may arise. Most importantly HR must build systems and processes that can sustain the overall alignment and create synergy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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