HR leaders overwhelmed by organizational complexity

Changes in regulation, compliance, new technologies among challenges: Survey
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 07/25/2013

More than one-half (52 per cent) of HR leaders from 11 countries feel their role has required them to manage increasing levels of complexity in recent years.

Almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of the 1,293 respondents to a survey reported feeling overwhelmed by complexity and 52 per cent claimed they did not have the ability to fully cope with it.

The complexities identified were changes in regulation and compliance, and the emergence of new technologies that make it harder to gather important data, found the survey commissioned by Lumesse, a provider of integrated talent management solutions.

In addition, 60 per cent of survey respondents indicated they did not have full confidence in their organizations' ability to manage complexity, with 45 per cent of C-level respondents sharing that particular concern.

“HR leaders are not only feeling overwhelmed by the need to navigate the varying shades of each complexity but over half don't have full confidence in their organizations' ability to manage it either,” said Jeremy Langley, marketing and business development director at Lumesse. “It's particularly interesting that nearly half of our C-level respondents lack this confidence; especially given they are likely to play a key role in developing their overall approach.”

Only 30 per cent of HR professionals rated their leaders as “very able” to manage complexity, found the survey, and when asked whether their organizations included the ability to manage complexity as part of their leadership selection and development process, only 30 per cent said they did.

"If you drill down into the complexities outlined by the survey, the main challenge for HR leaders is the need to understand how the evolution of technologies, macro-economic factors and globalization can be assessed to create a multi-channel, multi-national and multi-generational approach to HR strategy,” said Katherine Jones, lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte.

“This can impact every detail from selecting which channel to best communicate with potential candidates depending on generation and culture, to how to encourage learning within the organization and whether that should be social or traditional.”

Complexity does not always mean difficult processes, according to Stephen Cerrone, ex-CHRO at Sara Lee.

“It often indicates a number of moving parts — situational changes — which cannot be easily predicted and can impact positively or negatively on the way a business operates. This is when organizations need to embrace complexity, trying to work with it, not against it,” he said.

"The management of complexity should not be limited to the CHRO. It is significant for all employees and specifically for those who manage global teams; ultimately, it will impact on everyone's daily work processes. Team leaders need to be effective communicators and promote conversation when complexity does arise so that it's fully understood and can be addressed."

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