HR Technologies for the Entrepreneurial Enterprise

I’m a big fan of venture capitalist reality TV shows such as Dragons’ Den (I started with the Canadian version and am now plowing through the UK seasons) and Shark Tank (the most compelling show IMO).  These shows speak to the entrepreneurial qualities I admire:  to work both hard and smart in pursuit of a goal; to be agile and responsive so as to grab whatever opportunity presents itself; to be disciplined and organized; to be persistent and overcome all the barriers you encounter; to perceive and evaluate everything – including yourself – in an unbiased manner; to be willing to take risks and take a gamble – to venture outside of your safety zone, step up to new challenges and blaze new trails.

As a past entrepreneur, I have lived this.  As exhausting as it is and as devastating and draining as failures can be, the sweet taste of success and the lessons you learn make it all worthwhile.

I became an “intrapreneur” (internal entrepreneur) to see what was possible in a company with infinitely more resources than me, myself and I.  Learning to work as part of a larger organization was a real challenge!  It was clear that many of my co-workers were counting down to their retirement instead of focused on the company’s success.  Meanwhile the corporate visions and slogans included what #HRTechConf’s Bill Kutik calls the “50 year old lie”: people are our most important assets.

But all of this is changing.

Since 2009, corporate America has laid off a large number of employees. The net impact has been a dramatic rise in profits and cash holdings even during a period of great depression.  Instead of hiring these people back, companies are investing their money in technology – especially Human Resource technologies and HR Shared Services.  Paper-based internal processes are being automated thereby enabling HR to play a more strategic role.  In this new strategic role, HR is being asked to ensure every employee is being paid and valued according to their contribution to the corporate goals.

Case in point: two Forbes articles by noted USC professor Edward E. Lawler III (Human Resources – It’s Time for a Reset and Corporate Strategy: How HR Can Become a Player) explore how companies are changing HR’s role from an administrative “Business Prevention Unit” into a strategic contributor responsible for delivering the talent needed to achieve business objectives.

Prof. Lawler states“(t)he approach to HR that worked several decades ago is no longer relevant today. Major changes must be made.” How right he is.

Despite massive unemployment, companies find themselves in a new war for talent.  This is creating a huge demand for HR departments to deliver more effective talent management solutions. Companies want employees to be rated and compensated based on their contribution to the company objectives. They want to find the performers and invest in their skills in order to maximize their productivity. And they want them to work in the company only as long as their skills are needed and their contributions create value.

While this vision may sound rather extreme, perhaps heartless, ask yourself this: how would you invest your own “Dragon dollars”?

I’ve come to realize people naturally seek to optimize their position within their environment – including work.  This means everyone has an entrepreneur inside of them with a Dragon claw or Shark tooth waiting to be bared.  Given the right motivation, alignment and direction, employees, without question, will invest themselves in achieving the company’s success!

So take a second, step back and take a Dragon’s view of your company.  What are you truly incenting your employees to do?  Do you want to be increasingly efficient and agile so that you will be able to not only survive in today’s business environment, but thrive in tomorrow’s?

Companies leveraging their HR function and investing in the latest HR technologies to shape their company into a high-performing entrepreneurial organization will succeed.  Those which do not will find themselves leaving the den/tank, empty handed.

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