How to Be a More Strategic HR Leader in 2017

November 10, 2016 Sarah Payne

Bill Castellano is Ph.D., associate dean, executive and professional education, at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations

How can we be more strategic tackling some of today’s greatest workforce challenges – like the skills gap, generational diversity, and the growing population of contract workers?

To gain some insight, we reached out to Bill Castellano, Ph.D., associate dean, executive and professional education, at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. He has more than 30 years of experience working in corporate Fortune 50, entrepreneurial, and research environments. And before joining Rutgers University, Castellano held senior HR management positions at Merrill Lynch and Manufacturers Hanover Trust.

We talked about why giving employees clear line of sight is so important and how to manage in a relational, as opposed to a transactional, way.

Read the first part of our Q&A below.

 

What are some of the challenges HR leaders face today? How can we be more strategic as a profession?

I do a lot of research on the “new normal” that is impacting business and how we work —specifically, globalization and the skills gap.

The United States dominated the global economy after World War II. Now, rapid population growth in developing countries has increased the number of educated, global workers – it’s a double-edged sword. Even though our share of the global economy is being reduced, it has opened up more markets for multinational organizations. It’s also creating a much more competitive and dynamic workplace.

We also have a growing skills gap – the demand for highly skilled talent is far exceeding the supply of that talent, creating a number of challenges for companies.

In order to be strategic, we need to think about how these trends change the competencies we need to be successful, the incentives we offer, and the work environments we create. I also believe we need a lot more organizational adaptability.

 

There are five generations in the workplace today. How can managers better motivate such a diverse group?

Focus on line of sight – show individuals specifically how their performance helps your organization achieve its objectives. Be sure you’re sharing information and providing training. Organizations that do those basic things right, particularly attracting and selecting people who fit with their culture, go a long way in ensuring that these individuals are engaged, productive and helping the organization succeed.

 

Do you think hiring that’s too focused on culture fit can cause groupthink?

Well, if you have a collegial culture, you wouldn’t want to hire somebody who is very aggressive and competitive, and vice versa. There are plenty of aggressive, competitive cultures. And if you hire someone who prefers a more collegial work environment, that person is not going to be successful. No matter which programs, flexibility, or training you offer, psychological fit plays a huge role in how comfortable employees are in expressing their opinions.

 

So it comes down to shared values?

Yes. Shared values increase meaningfulness and identification with the workplace. Fit, I think, is a very important driver of engagement.


Shared values increase meaningfulness and identification with the workplace
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How does the growing number of contract workers change workplace dynamics? Is it possible to create a culture that is more inclusive of these workers?

Some research claims contract workers (independent contractors, consultants, part-time workers) comprise nearly 30 percent of the workplace; it’s certainly the fastest growing segment of the labor force.

Traditionally, these workers were hired to help organizations achieve scalability with fluctuating business demands. As a result, they were hired in a very transactional way. Today, not only do you need numerical flexibility, but you also need functional flexibility.

Organizations today hire many of these contract workers because of the skills and knowledge they have. It’s critical for organizations to create an environment where these individuals are willing to share their knowledge.

Successful organizations manage contractors in a relational way – including them in communications, getting them involved in decision-making, and discussing how their performance helps the organization achieve its strategic objectives.


Successful organizations manage contractors in a relational way
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Because contract workers are people, too. Right?

Right. Contract human capital who are managed that way are typically the ones doing work that’s highly critical to the organization. Contract human capital performing non-critical work are primarily still managed in a very transactional way.

 

Are they successful managing in that way or do you think that needs to change?

It depends. There are plenty of examples where these transactional relationships work for both parties. Where it doesn’t work is when individuals are forced into this type of work. Perhaps they prefer to be an employee and to have a more relational experience, but they are forced into a transactional situation. Not only could this turn into a negative situation, but the employee clearly would not be engaged or go above and beyond in their work.

 

In your research and experience, what impact does social recognition have on culture and engagement?

Social recognition is a huge driver of organizational culture and engagement. It brings up the idea of interactional justice, which is how well your manager respects and treats you. Does he or she treat you with dignity? Do they share information with you to help you with your job? This is a type of social recognition, and a driver of engagement.


Social recognition is a huge driver of organizational culture and engagement
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Certainly we know that manager and co-worker relationships – to the extent that they support each other and recognize each other’s contributions – are equally strong drivers of engagement.

I think it also touches on psychological safety, which is a condition of engagement. Employees who are psychologically safe are comfortable being who they are at work; they are recognized for their contributions. All of these things collectively are huge drivers of engagement and create high-performance cultures.


How to Be a More Strategic HR Leader in 2017 #workhuman
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Stay tuned for part 2 of our Q&A with Bill next week!

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