Target both informal and formal career management
Every month, Lesley Arens of #ZigZagHR interviews an international HR professional. This time, Sofia Van Overmeire, General Manager of HR Talents, connects Lesley with Addie van Rooij, Vice President People Operations, L&D Services, M&A HR Services and Labor Relations at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). He is responsible for HR Services for 60,000 employees in more than 70 countries. How does career management take shape at HPE and to what extent does he put it into practice himself with his HR team?
Informal career management: The employee at the wheel
"Employees can also seek out challenges on their own. In my team, for example, people typically spend 40 per cent of their time on projects that are not in their own job description. HPE actively supports employees across the company doing that. That way, they learn and take control of their careers."
He classifies it as informal career management: "That assumes that employees themselves look for the sweet spot between what the company needs today and in the future, and how they can contribute to that. It will only be successful if it is clear to all employees where the company is going, what strategy it is pursuing and what skills are needed for this in the next three to five years."
The drive for continuous development is typical of companies like HPE. "But not all employees have to be equally fanatical," he notes.
Formal career management: Employer sets the lines, HR draws along
"Every company has a destination and a trajectory. It defines the economic and social contribution it wants to make," says Addie van Rooij. "Once that is clear, you can specify what skills are needed to do that. Management is not partly responsible for this, it has to make sure those skills are available."
You can achieve this in several ways:
You can acquire the skills at the time you need them. "But then, know that you will have to pay a high price for it, because this is where the law of supply and demand comes into play."
You can focus on development with a extensive training offer for your own employees. " However, know that you will often be too late: developing a training package usually takes six months, you need at least three months to roll out that training, and it takes at least another three months for employees to master those news skills. And how quickly are those skills obsolete?"
Learning in The Flow of Work is a better alternative.
"In our HR team, we go full steam ahead with development according to the 80/20 rule: in 80% of cases, we bet on developing," Addie van Rooij illustrates. "We use the domino concept for this: if an employee leaves the company, the person one level down gets a promotion and salary increase.
The budget impact is lower than having to recruit externally ánd it gives people perspective. In the business, this 80/20 rule is not always feasible, in key positions you sometimes have to source talent externally."
Practice at HPE: HR takes expertise from IT
Four years ago, user experience, scrum master management and document automation were not HR tasks at HPE. "That expertise was with IT," testifies Addie van Rooij. "I have integrated that expertise within HR, so that today we no longer depend on IT for digitalisation projects within HR. We experienced the added value during the corona pandemic: we were able to react quickly and made our added value for the company tangible."
"We learned robotics from Finance, for example. How? We set up practices around it, an executive in HR takes on the role of sponsor and HR employees learn the new skills through a mentor from the Finance team. Next, they join a community, where they do projects to master those new skills and get continuous feedback from mentors."
"Today, the systems have been built out and everything is in one tool, driven by artificial intelligence. Employees now get automatic feedback and suggestions for new projects, encouraging them to take control of their careers. Everything is traceable and transparent," Addie van Rooij beams.
All executives first undergo in-depth training in problem solving and decision making. That way, everyone speaks the same language, making collaboration much easier. Managers, in their turn, teach that method to their teams."
"This is how HR learned to organise thoughts methodically," he says. "Now everyone in HR has an overview of all the problems we experienced as well as the solutions we worked out. So it's not just about providing the necessary technology, but also about leadership and thorough knowledge management, so that knowledge and expertise are not lost.
Advice for young HRM professionals: Dare
As a young HR professional, Addie van Rooij was once told by his mentor: “We already know you can do this, because you’ve done this before. Now go do something that you don’t know you can do.”