VUCA: Realigning the Business and People Outlook – The Right Matches!

VUCA: Realigning the Business and People Outlook – The Right Matches!

The world at large is ever-changing, and organisations and employees are grappling to manage these changes. This article reflects on how HR professionals can have a multi-dimensional perspective that can help them realign HR philosophies with the business to simplify things in a VUCA world.

Sukhpreet SandhuVUCA, short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, has become a trendy managerial acronym that we all have been hearing and experiencing inside & outside the workplaces. VUCA has disrupted the entire era of running a business. In this entire process of being sustainable- how often do we pay attention to the kind of talent & people we need to run the expectedly unexpected show?

Believe it or not- with this changing environment wherein skillsets have taken the front seat by overshadowing every other aspect, getting the right set of people for any organisation is as good as finding a right “match” for yourself.
Sounds weird, right? But that’s the clandestine reality of finding & managing the talent that will pump the business- no matter how much technology takes over, a human interface is always unchallengeable. Looking at how this VUCA world is, we as HR professionals need to have a perspective which is multi-dimensional, easy to decode and adopt certain practices that not only boost the business performance but also the people performance. In the end, every problem these days become a people problem- whether the absence of people, the absence of the right people, or the presence of too many people with fewer skills or growth mindset- the scenarios keep fluctuating.

Let us just look at a few simple, yet interesting aspects that can help us realign HR philosophies with the business to simplify things in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and the ambiguous world:

1. Getting Your Fundamentals Right:

First things first! Have we looked at the basic business and culture drivers for the organisation? One of the reasons things go out of control is when organisations or businesses don’t have their fundamentals at the place- one can make changes only when the foundation has gone right. Readjusting goals and remapping them will only be objectively successful when you have clearly communicated to everyone what drives the business and how people drive the business with the smallest of contribution making it flourish. Whether it’s a start-up or an established firm,
the essence lies in cascading the ethos to everyone working towards making it big & successful.

2. Self-Awareness:

This is something we miss at every stage. There are times when we are sure about what we need; but how much we need, from where do we need, etc., are the things that make or break the chain. It’s about flipping the coin at the moment when we are confused in terms of what we need and above all whether we need it or not. It could be a new
business model, new technology to be launched, or new people to be added. As people and business enablers, HR professionals’ changing job has become consultative in nature. When no one is able to decide on what they need to change or add, ask them to list down what they don’t need; at least they would know they won’t make a wrong decision. It has done wonders in letting people come out of that confused state of mind in this super-competitive and dynamic world of changing expectations.

3. Striking a Balance Between Artificial and Natural Intelligence:

vvucca-sukhpreet-sandhuTechnology disruption has been taking over most of the tasks. AI and Bots are replacing human intervention with ease & efficiency, a part of it rests with us as well. With this disruption, the face time with humans and human resource professionals reduce. Artificial intelligence can never take over natural intelligence- emotions remain an aspect, which is difficult to bucket or translate as well, no matter how big the technology algorithms try to define. Use
technology to identify the problems and let humans fix it. Never be too dependent on one of them- balancing the two is the art.

4. Stagnancy Analysis:

The Millennial population is going to make an impact after 2020 so big that handling them with the current set of policies and processes will just make us choke every day. As HR professionals, we must look beyond the obvious and raise alarms at the right time whenever we sense stagnancy in the system. This is a culture-spoiler. In such a volatile world, people need fast-track growth, elevation and a reward structure that is not only tangible but gives some visibility on the intangible aspects. Reward small behaviours whether it’s about going extra-mile or helping
someone bridge the learning curve. It’s very important to keep scrutinizing the place and keep checking if things are still fresh in the system. Serving what people need as per their appetite is going to be another challenge, as one
menu may not fit all.

5. Foster “Why is it..?”:

Well, each time something happens in the businesses/ organisations, everyone goes like “why is it..?. We all get a bubble around our heads with lots of questions and so many whys! The idea is to let people pour all those whys and
challenge the status quo. Power and authority create innovations or processes, wisdom allows what should be implemented with a 360-degree dimension which one mind can miss but hundreds of minds, perhaps, won’t. Too much rigidity and autocracy in the systems would never allow systems to be progressive and people to be transformational. The evolution of the ecosystem will get stuck and the unanswered whys would become the hindrances in the business growth.

6. Focus Shift to “Inputs” Rather than “Outputs”:

In this output-oriented culture, we tend to miss an imperative element- the consistent flow of right & meaningful inputs. Creating more and more channels and opening platforms of receiving the right inputs makes a business slightly more sustainable than a place where the focus is only on targets and achievements.

Targets limit people- they just push them to an extent but one never realizes that their full potential is a lot more than just doing one defined\target on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. No doubt that target sets expected performance outcomes, but it can never help leverage people to their full potential.


7. The Secret Sauce of Leadership Flavour:

Building the right set of capabilities within the leadership has always been one challenge that we, as HR professionals, struggle with. Notice the group and team-wise trends on what is going right and what is not- do a comparison internally within every business unit on people’s expectations with the kind of leadership they want
to be with (mainly from attribute standpoint) and where are the gaps cropping up. Leadership is a blend of art and science. Some follow it the scientists’ way and some artistically. But the core rests with defining the ingredients right! Why is there a leadership need in the ecosystem? What will be different in the presence and absence of that leader? Middle management and direct manager mindset development is the key here. People consider leaders as the organisation they work for and this affects their experiences around that workplace. The kind of behaviour and attributes a leader demonstrates, an employee will map them with the entire organisation whether it’s following a defined practice or fostering something over and above the established guidelines.

8. Feedback and Communication Loops:

In an ambiguous environment, if this is not taken up seriously- this can lead to a toxic culture of further indistinctness, distrust, and speculation among people. How often a founder/CEO of the firm comes forward and discusses business & people performance, openly? Not too common of practice being followed? Even if those who come forward and do this openly must look at making things objectively clear- not only to the board but also to those who are allowing him to present the impact to the board, i.e. the people. Communication is sometimes the barrier and sometimes a launchpad- it’s all up to us how we perceive it. Talk about every small and big thing that goes in an organisation; address them- discretely or openly- but it must be addressed! Have a firm belief in promoting bottom-up culture, let people talk and communicate what they want to share. Let them be what they are- personally and professionally. Break the silos and give people platforms to share their feedback after all businesses are run by people and people are enabled by businesses. HR professionals play the role of a catalyst to ensure things happen with minimal leakages.

9. Allow More and More Mistakes:

One can’t expect 100% perfection or anything nearing it when the businesses get dynamic day after day & people become more and more inclined towards experimenting with new chapters. Calculative in taking risks and enabling people to be fearless in taking ownership of launching new things or experimenting with the existing things (without disturbing the current flow) must be taken into account. One app that disrupts something can go viral overnight or new product/ service-line introducing the consumers to an altogether unexplored aspect- all happens because people get options to commit mistakes and businesses accept mistakes. Some firms give budgets to their people to run innovations, own P&L, and ownership of deliverables including mistakes. Give people a chance to do things the way they wish to- they may fail but with the kind of learning, they will come up for themselves and the business- shall surely give a new landscape to look for unseen and unheard parts of core drivers of people, process, and performance.

VUCA for HR professionals can also be seen as V: Visionary, U: Unique, C: Caring, and A: Aligned. Visionary for the business and its context with expected performance and people element, Unique in terms of its processes and practices that fit the system in an agile way. Caring for its people ensuring there is less room for speculations. Aligned for what’s going on and what’s coming next & how to address it.

It’s just about how we look at it- as a roadblock or a bow & arrows hitting the bullseye to deliver what people want versus what every changing business demands via creating synergies & leveraging strengths.


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