Employee choice is the key to success

Providing
development opportunities and giving staff autonomy are the best ways to
promote competitiveness

Employers
must be prepared to give employees more choice, greater autonomy and improved
development opportunities to compete in the future.

Keynote
speakers, Gary Hamel, Lynda Gratton and CK Prahalad, told the HR delegates that
companies are operating in the most turbulent times in history and have to
innovate to survive.

Prahalad,
professor of business administration at the University of Michigan Business
School, said the deregulation of industries, globalisation, growth in emerging
markets, convergence of technology and the internet were working simultaneously
to change the relationship between producers and consumers.

Traditional
actions taken in response to increased competition – making efficiencies – are
no longer enough, he warned. "You can only prune the rose bush so much
until you’re left with a stub," said Prahalad.

Strategy
is the new source of competitive advantage, and it is critical for HR to
"take a strategic view on where the business is going", he said.

Gratton,
professor at London Business School, warned that the traditional command and
control model of employment is no longer appropriate because it does not allow
employees to develop or contribute to their full potential.

She
explained that new technology, such as laptops, and employee portals, giving
staff more autonomy, and the changing expectations of the next generation of
employees, must be harnessed if employers want to become the new
high-performing democratic organisations.

To
do this, companies must encourage their people to be the best they can be by
creating opportunities for them to make choices, such as providing variety at
work and training and development based on the interests and strengths of their
staff.

These
choices should extend to areas such as reward, location and the hours people
work.

"You
must allow people to build their potential and the potential of your
organisation," said Gratton.

Hamel
said HR directors must develop a learning system for senior managers to help
them react to the changing world.

He
told the conference that improved internal communication will become even more
critical in empowering commitment and personal development.

Gratton
used the example of BP as a democratic organisation that is already making
efforts to empower its staff.

The
company’s intranet has a search engine, which matches employees’ interests and
abilities to vacant positions within the organisation.

"BP
accepts people into jobs for which they have little or no prior experience. For
example, Greg Grimshaw, the head of e-HR, was previously an engineer and will
be going back to his specialist field," said Gratton.

The
final part of the jigsaw for employers wanting to evolve into democratic
organisations is ensuring staff have absolute clarity about their companies’
goals.

Gratton
believes that organisations which successfully evolve into the new model will
be the new employers of choice and gain competitive advantage.

By
Ben Willmott

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