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Next Practices to Act On Now

The stated purpose of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) is to discover and advance next practices in human capital. What’s a next practice? Put simply, it’s a practice that our research proves to have a strong positive correlation to bottom-line business impact, yet is not widely put into practice.     

In many instances, a next practice serves as a prediction about a specific people strategy that will further distinguish high-performance organizations in the years to come.

As we look at studies we’ve conducted, it’s clear in retrospect that several of the next practices revealed in our research must now move into the realm of mainstream adoption.  Organizations that ignore these will feel the pain in terms of competitiveness and business performance. What priority is your organization placing on these? 

Embracing change becomes the new superpower

In the summer of 2019, we wrote that in this era of continuous disruption, the goal is no longer to manage change but rather to manage amid change. i4cp’s research has consistently shown that high-performance organizations are much more likely to view change as normal, manageable, and a source of opportunity. Low-performance organizations are much more likely to view change as just the opposite: overwhelming, tiring, or threatening. 

When leaders embrace change, there is strong positive correlation to market performance, agility effectiveness, and workforce readiness.  However, when culture resists change, there is a strong negative correlation. Given the new work models so many organizations are employing post-pandemic, it’s important to ensure that this 2019 next practice does not get overlooked: Promote those who best model behaviors that embody and support the desired culture (i4cp, Culture Renovation: A Blueprint for Action).

John BoudreauEmbracing change implies embracing uncertainty. According to Professor John Boudreau—best-selling author, a fellow in the National Academy of Human Resources, and board member at i4cp—embracing uncertainty will help HR establish contingency planning that will better enable it to pivot when/if the need or opportunity arises. Read his thoughts here.

Enabling fluidity unlocks a treasure-trove of trapped value

The seamless and borderless flow (i.e., fluidity) of people, information, capability, knowledge, and relationships across an enterprise’s ecosystem represents a couple of complimentary next practices revealed in the 2016 i4cp study Talent Mobility Matters, and the 2017 study The Three A’s of Organizational Agility. The agility study revealed that those from high-performance organizations were 3.5x more likely than those from low-performance organizations to report that their firms had established a network of internal and external partners to share, rent, and/or borrow talent (see the i4cp Talent Ecosystem Integration model).

Fluidity will be enhanced by deconstructing traditional job roles into smaller work components (i.e., tasks) or skills—a concept inspired by Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan and confirmed as a next practice in i4cp’s 2021 study, Accelerating Total Workforce Readiness. Effectiveness in this next practice better enables employers and their workers to match interests and capabilities to opportunities such as projects promoted on an internal talent marketplace platform or tailored development paths for purposeful upskilling.

Sanyin SiangSanyin Siang (ranked among the Thinkers50 Top Management Thinkers Globally and the founding executive director of Duke University’s Coach K Leadership & Ethics Center) senses something similar about the importance of fluidity and predicts that 2022 will be the year for “unlocking human potential.” Read her thoughts here.

An organization’s new corporate currency becomes its new benchmark

In 2022, executives will repeatedly hear the words purpose, culture, and brand directly or implied from every one of its major stakeholder groups. Each of these three elements (the composite of which forms what i4cp calls the New Corporate Currency) are inextricably linked and provide an accurate proxy for an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent.   

In his 2022 Letter to CEOs, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink wrote:

Putting your company’s purpose at the foundation of your relationships with your stakeholders is critical to long-term success. Employees need to understand and connect with your purpose; and when they do, they can be your staunchest advocates. Customers want to see and hear what you stand for as they increasingly look to do business with companies that share their values. And shareholders need to understand the guiding principle driving your vision and mission.

Investors and CEOs such as Fink recognize that the strength of an organization’s new corporate currency is a reflection of trust—do employees, prospective employees, and consumers trust in a company’s stated purpose (i.e., why it does what it does)? Do they trust that its purpose will be supported by the firm’s culture (i.e., what people experience based on behavior that’s rewarded, condemned, or tolerated)? This trust or mistrust will dictate the firm’s brands (i.e., its reputation as both a place to work and/or a purveyor of products and services). 

It’s safe to say that given the competitive reality of the talent landscape and pressure on organizations to take stands (and make progress) on issues such as racial, social, and environmental concerns, it’s never been more important to put into action two next practices called out in the i4cp research on Culture Renovation. Both practices enable organizations to monitor the sentiment of all stakeholders, understand and manage how the firm is perceived, and prioritize key actions that are identified. First, leveraging technology that provides always-on, data-driven feedback  (via digital platforms, daily pulse surveys, mobile apps, kiosks, etc.); second, using natural language processing and artificial intelligence engines that interpret and analyze spoken and written sentiment for deeper qualitative insights.  

Lisa ShalettLisa Shalett, former Goldman Sachs executive and co-founder of Extraordinary Women on Boards (a network of several hundred female directors who serve on public and private company boards), agrees and predicts that trust—as an asset and form of capital—needs strong consideration when evaluating a company’s strength and resilience. Read her thoughts here.

The start of any new year provides an obvious time for reflection. We encourage you to reflect on what your organization is doing (or could be doing) around the next practices we’ve revealed through our research that have come of age and are also reflected in the thought-leader predictions we’ve highlighted in this article. As you do, make sure to also read i4cp’s 2022 Priorities & Predictions report to learn how leading global organizations across i4cp’s extensive member network are addressing their priorities for the year ahead. 

In the meantime, be assured that i4cp will continue to strive to fulfill our purpose to discover and advance next practices in human capital, defining the practices that differentiate high-performance organizations now and into the future.

Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin is the chief research officer at i4cp. A highly sought-after international keynote speaker on all aspects of human resources and talent management, Kevin has been recognized as a “Top 100 HR Influencer” by HR Examiner, is a renowned keynote speaker, and has been published in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and HBR.