Insight and pragmatism


   The last area I want to discuss in my summary of the HR Directors Business Summit is the need for insight.

One of the key themes coming through from the presentations (despite Julian Birkinshaw’s input) was that HR is simple and that we don’t need any new ideas.  I thought that this theme seemed particularly strong in the panel session on the Tuesday afternoon, and in Martin Tiplady’s presentation on Wednesday morning looking at HR at the London Met Police and elsewhere:

“HR’s not rocket science – it requires speed and pragmatism.”


(Tiplady also asked the rather odd question – “What was ever the point of competency frameworks?”.  It’s not a question I’m going to attempt to answer because I do struggle to get excited about competency frameworks, but this isn’t to suggest that they don’t – or at least can’t – provide a very sound basis for a company’s overall HR architecture.)


I think this push back against new ideas is a bit sad actually (I could see Tiplady’s 19th century policemen resisting progress the same way – and look how far we’ve come).

I accept completely Ulrich’s point that HR is provided through line management, and that our people’s experience of HR is mostly down to to the way their manager line manages.  If we could do something to get every line manager to spend time with, be interested in, support and grow their people, there’d be little need for HR.

But I’ve got news for you.


News just in

1.   You need good HR strategies.

Even with the best line managers in the world, there’d still be a need for HR professionals to tailor their strategies in the right way according to their own business (their own capabilities, their own management models etc).  If you’ve got the wrong strategic approach (and let’s face it, in this area at least, most organisations have) then the best, most pragmatic execution in the world, isn’t going to get you very far (at least down the road you want to go).

HR – this is your job – and it’s not going to go away.


2.  HR itself isn’t going to disappear

In the absence of these perfect line managers, we have to find other ways to help employees.  Just one example – we have to find new benefits that excite them.  These may still not be worth as much as a well meaning and contextualised thank you from an employee’s line manager, but they may be all people get.  We need more new ideas here because many of the old ones simply don’t work any more (if they ever did at all).

HR – you need these new ideas.


My role

I attend and present at conferences and webcasts, I travel and talk to people from different countries, I read and write books, I read and contribute to journals and magazines, I write and read blogs, I listen to and produce podcasts, I train HR teams, and I consult on strategic HR with leading organisations around the world.  I do all this so I can give you the insight I think you need.


Yes, I have my own ideas, particularly about HCM and HR / management 2.0 – about how organisations can develop human and social capital for competitive advantage.  And I happen to think that these are some of the best, new ideas around.


But I can help you understand other peoples’ thinking and approaches too.

So, on this blog for example, you’ll find critical reviews on the ideas of Dave Ulrich leadership brand and HR transformation, John Boudreau talentship / beyond HR, Henry Mintzberg communityship, Lynda Gratton hot spots and glow, Gurnek Bains meaning, Gary Hamel management innovation, Peter Cheese talent powered organisation, CK Prahalad innovation at the bottom of the pyramid, Peter Cappelli talent on demand, Jac Fitz-Enz HCM: 21 measurement, John Kotter sense of urgency, Ed Lawer talent-centricity, Dicky Beatty differentiated workforce, Tony Buzan mind mapping, Andrew Mayo HCM measurement, Nick Baylis happiness, Emmanuel Gobillot leadership, Jim Collins greatness, David Guest HR measurement and many more views besides.


Of course, your can access these ideas by attending these conferences and reading these books too (although you need to be open to new ideas as well!).

But then we know you won’t get time.

Or you could talk to one or more of these people direct, but then you’d just get their views, not the insight that an overview of all of these different views provides (you won’t find reviews of other peoples’ ideas on any of these thought leaders’ blogs).


You need to understand these new ideas but clear input, focusing on your agenda rather than the thought leaders’ own, is hard to find.  So whether this is through a normal consultancy project, or some form of longer-term relationship which I’ve posted on recently, you need my help.

Don’t you.

When you realise that you do, you can contact me here:  jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Talking of time, I’ve now run out of time to post on anything else from the Summit, but thanks to Tim Taylor from TUI, Allison Campbell from Bacardi, Stefan Tonnon from Progress Software and Jacqui Summons from Intec for your time, and for sharing your insights and experiences with me.  It’s much appreciated and I hope I can return the favour some day.



Picture credit: Met archives


Link to original post

I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).


Leave a Reply