Brex-ploration: The search for post-referendum clarity

In the wake of the EU referendum and the general election, the world will inevitably change significantly, although we can’t know yet how business, trade terms, markets and workforces will be affected, advises Professor Nick Kemsley, HR Programme Director.

With so many variables, it will take some time for any clarity to emerge, but we cannot afford to procrastinate, and history suggests that organisations that focus on the right things will fare better than those paralysed by institutional indecision. 

So what will characterise a successful organisation?

They must adopt an opportunistic and risk-mitigation mindset. Discard a ‘what will happen?’ view of the world and embrace a ‘what could happen?’ philosophy. Explore the right questions, their potential implications, the degree of risk and opportunity and how these translate into sensible short- to medium-term strategies.

Many organisations will need to address the knowing–doing gap around organisational capability (OC) development and strategic workforce planning (SWP). The rise of these disciplines in recent years has demonstrated the growing need for businesses to align business strategy (what we need to do) and OC (how we’re going to do it).

Where organisations are failing

Our research has revealed that many organisations are unable to effectively translate desired business outcomes to the delivery of required people and OC due to deficiencies in: 

  • strategy/organisational consulting – not holding meaningful conversations at a high enough level
  • leadership awareness – addressing organisational risk with the same importance as market, regulatory, consumer and competitive risk
  • translation skills – gaps in translating from business risks to strategies, encompassing resources, structure, process, system, skill, behaviour and engagement
  • prioritisation and alignment – not focusing people and organisational resources in a systemic and cost-effective way
  • executional capability – problems in strategic implementation (recruitment, training, reward, engagement, organisational design, leadership).

How to achieve that winning edge

Knowing which questions your organisation needs to answer is where the game is won or lost, and the rigour of OC consulting approaches or SWP can help enormously. They’ll help you understand the greatest risks and opportunities and, in turn, help you connect with structural and financial planning processes, stakeholder management needs and organisational metrics. 

All this must be informed and balanced with bottom-up insights, such as: 

  • What are our organisational strengths and weaknesses? What are our customers saying?
  • Do we engage employees? Do we attract the best talent? Are we in the ideal location?
  • Is what we are doing making a difference? How should we behave differently?

You should give these questions some serious thought to have the best chance of guiding your business through the coming period. Like decorating a room, the task may initially seem overwhelming but by applying one coat at a time, you will gradually gain a better appreciation of what needs to be done next to achieve the best overall outcome.

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