On November 13th we attended a business development event in London. The concept sounded good. During this day we would be paired up for 10 one-to-one 30 mins meetings with pre-qualified HR leaders. “Pre-qualified” meaning that these HR leaders were decision makers, had budget to spend and most importantly were looking for innovative solutions to ignite the performance of their organizations. As part of the pre-conference match-making process we had to complete a form describing our USP (unique selling point). Much like online dating platforms, the HR leaders would review the profiles of the various service providers and then make a choice of who they would like to meet based on the best fit with their needs.
This is the first time we invest in such an event. Until now all our business has been developed organically, either through our network of partners, word of mouth or simply because more and more people seem to be googling “how to measure human potential”! We knew that to do this right we couldn’t do it alone. We had to bring together a dedicated team and approach this as a project that would need significant investments in time and energy both during the preparation and follow up phases. So making such an investment together with the core group (10,000 pounds and many hours) was a big decision. Until recently we would not have dared to take such a bold step but with many small and medium sized projects under the belt, and a fantastic team of Human Potential facilitators in place, we unhesitantly took this leap of faith. It signals to the world that we are ready and committed to play in the “big leagues”!
The day started with a key note by Kevin Green, founder of What’s Next Consultancy and ex-HRD at Royal Mail. His message was simple: 85% of future value creation will come from the intangibles of the organization (in other words by accessing and unleashing the tremendous Human Potential that is dormant or sometimes even suppressed in organizations).
He went on to say:
- Leaders are experiencing an overwhelm of information and yearn to get back to basics / simplicity (ie: human connection)
- HR is at a tipping point. As a function we need to “get on the offensive” and lead the human capital revolution.
- Reinventing culture is a 400M pound opportunity. Key focus areas need to be on building a coaching culture amongst line managers as they are the bridges between high level vision / strategies and operational activities.
- Changing mindset and improving employee experience (vs structure and tech skills) are the two most critical focus areas to access the 85% of intangible value in the organization.
- Need to change mindset on talent. It’s not the people that are in the spotlight that usually create the most value. Rather it’s the “unsung heroes” who do the critical behind the scenes work that need to be acknowledged.
What an incredible setup for the day! Sujith and I were exchanging smiles throughout the talk and couldn’t wait to sit down with our “blind dates” to connect the dots between this keynote and the ins and outs of our Human Potential solutions.
Looking back on the day, over a cold British Ale in a neighboring pub, we felt a deep sense of fulfillment. The 10 people we had met were all high caliber HR leaders with a genuine interest in our approach. For each one we had come to clarity on what their need was and how we could take a small next step together. A follow up conversation to further explore the scope of a collaboration was the obvious one, so we took the next couple of days to summarize all our notes and send a personalized email to each one of the delegates.
Almost three weeks have gone by now and of the ten people we met, two have responded. In most sales situations this would be quite a positive outcome. However, given the targeted approach of this event and the quality of the conversations that we had, I have to admit that we were expecting a higher initial response to our follow up invitation. Of course there are many plausible explanations for this: pre-Christmas overwhelm, emails getting lost in inbox, ignored voice messages, other more urgent priorities and the list goes on…
All of this might be true AND…we suspect there is something more foundational going on to explain the disconnect between the intentions that were shared on November 13th and the lack of follow up action afterwards.
This finally brings me to the key point of the story.
We know unequivocally that 85% of future value creation will come from the intangibles (ie, the human lever) of the organization. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear. However, our HR interventions do not yet reflect this knowledge and understanding. There is a big gap between what we KNOW and what we DO. This is not a judgment, it’s simply a reality we must acknowledge in the midst of these transformational times. The following framework by Edgar Shein (thought leader in organizational culture and transformation) helps us understand why this disconnect exists and what needs to be done before it can come back into alignment.
The theory goes that the top and bottom of the pyramid are ALWAYS aligned. In other words, our observable behaviours are inevitably an expression of our unconscious thoughts, beliefs and assumptions about the organization/the world. For example an individual who exhibits excessively competitive behaviour (top of the pyramid) probably sees the world through a scarcity lens. In this case the core assumption or belief is that for one person to win another must lose (bottom of the pyramid).
The middle of the pyramid represents the intentions of the organization (values, vision, strategies). So let’s say the organization has set the intention to become more collaborative and as a result puts in place state-of-the-art systems and processes to make it easier for people to collaborate. Chances are very small that this will translate into the desired new behaviours (top of the pyramid). So simply changing the middle and expecting the top to follow is unrealistic and the main reason why so many well intentioned change programs fail.
Unless we work on the bottom layer and genuinely reassess our underlying belief systems and assumptions about the business we will not be able to create the sustainable changes in behaviour that we are aspiring for. This is of course very daunting work. It can feel like “opening Pandora’s Box”.
Because we don’t know what will be unleashed, is it not better to keep it tightly closed?
This is certainly the feeling many people have and undoubtedly one of the reasons why deeper, human centric HR interventions are avoided. It’s a fascinating paradox. One the one hand, addressing the bottom of the Shein pyramid offers the greatest hope, and on the other hand it also triggers the greatest fear.
As stewards and thought leaders of this work we have a deep compassion for leaders who are confronted with this dilemma. It’s a scary path to take and doesn’t come without risks. However, if executed with great care, it is possible to make the self realization journey more accessible and relevant to the organizational context. Creating transformational tools and methods that meet organizations where they’re at vs expecting them to take this huge leap of faith is what Being at Full Potential is all about. By quantifying the intangibles, we help shine the light on the invisible layer of culture. HR leaders now have a practical way to measure and release the 85% of intangible value and in doing so, it is possible to start harnessing the vast creative potential of their people. This goes a long way to bridge the gap between what we KNOW and what we DO and truly align all three layers of the Shein pyramid described above.
In our experience, when it comes to large scale organizational change journeys, there is no better place to start than with ourselves. As we grow in our HR leadership, so will we grow in our ability to inspire and engage other stakeholders throughout the organization.
Is this a challenge you are ready to take on? Do you want to courageously examine how some of your own beliefs may need to change in order to spark a deeper transformation within the organization? We can help!