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The Centrality of Professional Development in HR Strategy

(Published in HR Insights - November 9th, 2012)

Human resources development: More honoured in the breach than the observance. The commitment to invest in one’s human capital too often takes a back seat to other organisational priorities, particularly and ironically during hard times when it is needed the most.

Regardless of one’s primary book of business, the core reality of contemporary organisational life is that all enterprises are in the people and the information business and that these two intrinsic lines of business connect and lubricate corporate performance. Inattention to human and information detail ultimately diminishes performance and productivity. Organisational effectiveness derives from having the right intelligence about your market and deploying people – your human capital – in ways that address and exploit market realities and leverage great talent.

If this is so, what impedes a high-level and sustained commitment to human resources development?

The answer lies in part in the need for a model that:

a.) Establishes clearly the link between investment in human capital, resource allocations, and corporate financial performance, i.e., profitability

b.) Compellingly reinforces the principle that management has a vested interest in employee loyalty and productivity, to the extent that the evaluation and remuneration of the manager will be largely a function of the performance of his/her employees.


To address this need, I propose such a model (Figure 1), comprised of the following elements:

  • Organisational culture at the core of the model, defining the values and principles that guide the conduct of the organisation’s business and behaviours – values and  principles which ideally will emphasise and encourage empowerment, innovation, and flexibility.
  • The four quadrants that reflect the logic and flow of management’s investment in human capital development are:

1. Metrics – Whereby the manager clearly defines the results against which
the individual’s performance will be evaluated and relates performance to
intended outcomes for the team and the corporation.

2. Controls – Whereby the manager balances the commitment to empowerment
with a delineation of those practices that are unacceptable in achieving the

3. Verification – Whereby, in the spirit of trust but verify,
the manager defines the process, format and frequency for tracking performance
against the metrics and uses the verification process as a platform for
coaching, interventions and/or corrections.

4. Professional development – Whereby, based on the employee’s
performance, the manager identifies not only areas of strength but also
opportunities for investing in building the employees’ skill sets.

  • The cycle of review, improvement and resource allocations feeds continuous improvement in organisational performance. The premise of the cycle is that a conscious investment in human capital will breed higher levels of performance that  ultimately will inure to the benefit of the corporation and its stakeholders and that will in turn determine future investments for continuous improvement.

The bottom line is that this model will work when the CEO is fully and unequivocally committed to a sustained investment in human capital. The engagement of an HR manager does not relieve the CEO of responsibility for personnel management and development. Indeed, the CEO must ever and always be the chief HR officer, even if the title is conferred on a subordinate. The HR manager exists to help the CEO achieve corporate objectives by ensuring that all  employees have an environment in which they can do their jobs and excel.

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