Gauteng Business News

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HR: The Danger Lies Beneath the Waterline


Recent Gauteng Business News

Leaders tend to focus on obvious issues and often fail to account for the underlying ones that cause irreparable damage. “Strategy sits above the waterline, everyone in an organisation is aware of it, however it is what lurks beneath the waterline that should be concerning management, as this informs the culture of an organisation,” says Helene Vermaak, Director of The Human Edge.

Ultimately an organisation’s capacity to perform is a function of individual human behaviour and it is the invisible challenges related to this that need to be addressed. Strategy, integrated processes and operating models are clearly defined and leaders tend to spend significant time over communicating these elements and implementing scorecards to ensure adherence. “It is not wrong to focus on visible perils but it is important that an equal amount of time is taken to focus on the elements that aren’t,” says Vermaak.

The challenge that is often avoided by leaders is to strategically and systematically influence the behaviour of employees. “Behavioural challenges can hinder an organisation’s progress, yet many leaders do not focus on this as they lack the visibility of looming behavioural threats and the skills to respond quickly and effectively.” Leaders need to be able to scan below the surface, assess threats to the company’s internal capacity and develop strategies to build confident, engaged employees.

Vermaak says that research has shown that companies that address this challenge will reap many benefits. In times of crisis or economic difficulty reacting quickly to visible threats may help a company survive, but for the company to thrive, they will need to address the problems below the surface. What can leaders do to address the organisation’s culture and the elements below the waterline? Vermaak highlights the below three steps:

1. Scan below the surface – Capture the current employee experience. The Human Edge applies a programme that will collect stories from employees at all levels on incidents where things have gone wrong, as well as have senior leaders conduct structured interviews with a spectrum of employees to gain insights as to what is happening on the shop floor. This combined scanning approach yields rich data and exposes leaders to the often unseen challenges faced by employees. This engages them more profoundly in the need to step up to the influence challenge.

2. Search for vital behaviours – identify a few vital behaviours that can have the most impact on these challenges. Identifying the right vital behaviours will stop self-defeating and escalating behaviours and instead start a chain reaction that leads to good results.

3. Design a powerful influence strategy – the right influence strategy can demonstrate meaningful results in as soon as three to six months. The Human Edge applies a six sources influence model to develop a comprehensive influence strategy.

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