It’s the People, Stupid – IoD and DDI help CEOs understand the role of HR

professionals have always known that their contribution is critical to the
business, but some face an uphill struggle convincing their boards. However,
help is at hand in the form of It’s The People, Stupid, a guidebook
developed by the Institute of Directors in association with global HR consultancy
DDI, writes John Weston

aim is to help chief executives understand the importance of involving HR at
the planning stage of major corporate decisions by explaining HR’s critical
role in delivering company objectives. Set out in a Q&A format, the guide
suggests a dialogue for those setting business direction and those charged with
engaging the people to deliver the objectives.

abridged version of some of the guide’s 20 questions and answers are outlined

are the major business challenges facing our organisation over the next three
years, and what will HR be doing to help us meet them?

chances are that one of your organisation’s challenges is to gain competitive
advantage. Since people are crucial to the success of your business, HR needs
to have a clear understanding of the company’s business strategy and the
drivers behind it. This will enable HR to better direct its efforts towards
finding, hiring and retaining people across all functions who are most likely
to make business goals a reality.

well do your people understand the company’s values? And, how do they influence
business change?

are the attitudes, mindsets and beliefs that determine how work is accomplished
and how employees interact with each other and customers. They are subtle,
informal control mechanisms that influence behaviour. It is essential to check
that values continue to be relevant. For example, it is no good promoting
innovation if you are in survival mode and struggling to achieve profitability.
Do people know what the company values are? Are senior managers seen to model
them? If you’re not sure, ask – conversations at the coffee machine through to
employee surveys will tell you what you need to know

do we leverage our brand culture in our recruiting efforts to make our company
an employer of choice?

branding can help attract and retain some of the best talent. An Employer Value
Proposition (EVP) is created, outlining unique aspects of your culture, benefits
and development opportunities. HR needs to ensure the employer brand is aligned
with the corporate brand, ensuring advertisements, brochures and web pages are
complementary. HR also needs to make sure the selection process reflects
company values and image, so that even those you don’t select become advocates.

does your senior team compare with that of other world-class organisations, and
what are we doing to close gaps?

gifted your senior executives, you would be right to wonder how well they shape
up against the competition. To assess their performance, you need to establish
the competencies your executives need, audit them and compare the results
against an external benchmark. Bench strength auditing is a specialist skill
and best outsourced – one highly accurate approach is to use an executive
acceleration centre.

is our performance management system used and how do we measure its

management (PM) is aligning business strategy and company culture. Critically,
goals need to be cascaded from the business plan to make measurement of
individual performance possible, and PM needs to be aligned with other people
management systems, bringing behaviours based on organisational values to life.
Line managers need to be seen to drive and remain actively involved in the
implementation, during and after which all organisational communication
channels need to be used to convey the PM message. It is also vital that those
giving feedback have the skills to do it. Monitor through audit, measure
outcomes in terms of business impact, and make any necessary adjustments on an
ongoing basis.

key leadership talent left tomorrow, do we have internal candidates ready to
step into their jobs?

approaches to talent management leave organisations vulnerable to financial
difficulties and/or takeover.

succession processes start with a success profile that describes what a
particular organisation’s future leaders need to excel at, allowing for
organisational structures and business goals to change. The starting point is a
talent pool, rather than a collection of names to which future roles have been
designated. Candidates’ developmental priorities are then assessed to help them
shape up for future positions. Between 1 and 4 per cent of the workforce should
be in the pool at any one time.


specific measures are we taking to spot and nurture people with potential in
all areas of an organisation?

need to know how to spot leadership potential as early as possible, so it can
be developed effectively. Four key measures can help ascertain a person’s
suitability for leadership:

leadership promise

personal development orientation

balance of personal values and results

ability to master complex ideas

a potential candidate is identified, their specific strengths and development
needs must be diagnosed. A personal development plan needs to be agreed, based
on these, and the ‘high potential individual’ needs to be given the sustained
support of a trusted coach or mentor.

can I be appraised on my own performance and style? Can you help me maximise my
strength, develop the skills I need to stay ahead of the game and overcome some
of my weaknesses?

objective feedback on your performance and style is crucial if you want to make
a greater contribution to your organisation and inspire others to do so.

HR director can support you, with tools to help identify your weaknesses or
potential derailers. Executive coaching can then be used to help you increase your
personal awareness and enable you to bring out the best in yourself in any

first 10 readers to write to
will receive a free copy of the guide, normally priced at £7. To find out more
about this guide, go to


Weston is the director of development for the IoD

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