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People Are The Biggest Differentiator In An Organisation: Coretha Rushing, SHRM

"We have to be very purposeful about how we fill the skill- gap and HR plays a role in business in trying to identify the basic skills needed for the people in future", says Coretha M Rushing, Board Chair, SHRM

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Coretha M Rushing, Board Chair, SHRM talks to BW Businessworld during the SHRM annual conference about the role of HR in an organisation, engagement and future of the workplace.

How has the role of HR changed in terms of better hiring and business development?

The role of HR continues to change because businesses continue to change, and we are moving from an industrial kind of organisation to more about thought leader and thinking organisations. And because of that people become more important than ever. So the reason that HR is changing is that the role and influence of people in the workplace are becoming more and more critical.

If you have the best technology, everyone can replace and replicate your technology, or if you have a new product you may have a first market advantage and you may go over the new market with the product or service, but that also can be replicated quickly.

The difference between one company and another is really of the people they have, and I think business leaders who are inside the organisation understand that the great differentiator is the people you have in your organisation and the kind of work culture you have created. That is the biggest change I see that leaders understand that and they want good HR to maximize the human capital they have.

Is engagement really a thing in workplaces now?

I think absolutely yes. If you are a business that has customers, you want your customers to be engaged and want your customers to work with you. If your employees are not engaged, they make for very poor customer experience. And there have been many studies to prove that an engaged workforce results in a high quality of customer service.

How powerful is the HR in terms of decision making or is it the top management that drives the decisions?

It depends on the company. I think a contemporary leading edge company has a human resource as a major member of their decision-making team because the most important and largest asset they have is the people. So, you would want the person responsible for the people to be at the table and help you make those decisions. So it depends on the company, but companies trying to be competitive make sure their human resource is playing a critical role like any other functional area.

How often do you need to measure engagement? And what after measuring engagement?

On a formal basis, most companies will measure engagement at least annually, and we at SHRM measure engagement every six weeks through a mini-survey but the reality is that engagement is measured every day. Every day when an employee comes into the workplace and has a positive, neutral or negative experience is being measured, and when then they go out in turn and represent your company, their experience is being translated to your customers.

After measuring engagement, you should review the data with your leadership team and present it broadly to the employees, since people want to know the feedback. Based on the feedback, you can take some actions from the suggestions of the employees. The whole idea about feedback is to take actions.

What does the future of workplace look like?

I don’t think we know. I think we know that there are critical skills which will be important, the ability to learn and be flexible with change will be critical. I think the challenge we have is that everyday businesses change, the roles change and the people change with it. We have no idea what it will look like, but what is going to happen is that people will continue to play a critical role no matter what happens.

Since there is a lot of talk about the skill gap in the market, how difficult is it for the HR to hire?

It is really hard. There are plenty of jobs but not always the right skills available. For many countries like the USA and India, with the partnership of public and private sector, it is about training the workers of tomorrow. We need to understand that the gap and capability don’t go away and we have to be very purposeful about how we fill that gap and HR plays a role in business in trying to identify the basic skills needed for the people in future.