An Interview With Mike Haffenden Four Groups


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The following interview was held between Bruce Lewin and Mike Haffenden in December 2009. Mike co-founded the Corporate Research Forum1 and was formerly HR Director for Hewlett-Packard. The discussion focussed on a review of 2009 and themes for HR, along with exploring more broad topics for the function and profession as a whole.

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An Interview With Mike Haffenden Four Groups

  1. 1. Mike Haffenden Linking Behaviour to Bottom Line Performance An Interview with Mike Haffenden The following interview was held between Bruce Lewin and Mike Haffenden in December 2009. Mike co-foundded the Corporate Research Forum1 and was formerly HR Director for Hewlett-Packard. The discussion focussed on a review of 2009 and themes for HR, along with exploring more broad topics for the function and profession as a whole. Bruce: So how has 2009 been for you? major consultancy offered early on in Mike: Well, I think the pay thing is fas- Is there anything you would reflect on the year that the big issue in the crisis cinating. If there is a link to pay and or mention going forward? was talent, so I’m sure it’s important, performance and I’m not sure that but when survival’s the issue, you start there is, then I think it’s generally Mike: I think it’s been very difficult for to think about performance and cost. I accepted that what we’ve been doing everybody. The problems with the certainly see many organizations tack- over the last 10, 15, 20 years has not economy, the problems with small ling costs, i.e. reducing the number of been right. But I don’t see many peo- businesses, the problems with large people, and in some ways looking to ple offering much of an alternative to businesses, the lack of clear leadership temporary reforms. That’s been far the way we should pay people. So, if and major uncertainty, and reluctance less well dealt with and in many big bonuses are wrong, what should for anyone to really jump on the fun- organizations; it’s a huge opportunity we do? If long-term incentive plans damental problem, which is job cre- to improve that area of performance aren’t right, what should we do? If ation. and support with the performance of incentive retention payments aren’t an individual. I think that’s one right, what should happen instead? So clearly the government have to aspect. The second thing, of course, is I’ve not seen anybody come out with a start thinking about this, how to create the huge scurrying around in the six real sensible approach as to what wealth, how to create jobs and if it’s months in the area of pay and pay- should happen next. The reason for not going to be finance, what’s it ment systems. A lot of misplaced gov- that is a lot of people seem to have a going to be? ernment attention on bonuses and so- significant vested interest in not on. The consequence of that means changing. So, the consultants that Bruce: Have you found the agenda that many organizations have been have been doing very well. The chief changing over the year to reflect the looking at what we do. Very few executives have liked it quite a lot. HR economic environment or has it been organizations have actually made the people are quite happy about what’s more specialist HR themes that have sorts of changes that you’d think are going on. So, why would you change? dominated? going to lead to improved perform- ance. Bruce: Do you think those incumbents Mike: I think it’s interesting. Of course, will present any serious debate going HR has a huge opportunity to demon- Bruce: Do you think people have forward? strate competence, but there doesn’t missed a trick or an opportunity here? seem to be an initiative. I recall one
  2. 2. An Interview with Mike Haffenden Mike: Well it seems a little bit like thoughts and good ideas as to HR’s where people consistently delivery turkeys and Christmas. You don’t real- way forward. There are a number of outstandingly well, and there are a ly get people vote to give themselves HR directors who, I’m not saying are number of bloody good organizations less money. You’re not going to get following him. But they are certainly in the top right. Good organization, consultancies to vote them less consul- agreeing with him in practice to do good people. That’s where I think in tancy fees and HR directors are not some of the things that they’re doing. the top two boxes are where an really pivotal in the decision making But the CIPD, I just don’t think is on the organization should be aspiring and process. So, I think it’s going to be same page. not too much to do with improving pretty much steady as you go. their people, of course you need good Bruce: You’ve spoken before about the people to do it, but essentially it’s Bruce: Do you, just thinking about the view of classic four box model around about creating the context of the pre- kind of missed opportunities, and the people in organizations. Is that some- vious approach. opportunities that have presented thing that you think may help enhance themselves over the year, do you have either the function as a whole or of Bruce: From a HR point of view, how a reaction to the CIPD’s attempt to artic- practitioner’s views within it? much of this do you think is about get- ulate a new thought, new visions for ting the basics right and how much do the profession with their kind of re- Mike: Much of HR’s effort and initiative you think is about more advanced or casting of the HR function? has been focused on improving the more sophisticated practices? person, and yet very often, the people Mike: I think the CIPD is in a very diffi- are pretty good as they are, but the Mike: I think it’s both. I think many cult set of circumstances. This is an context in which they’re employed organizations don’t get the basics organization that deals with junior leaves a lot to be desired. We find that right. The basics to me would be sim- people and people who are not in the there is not enough work in terms of ple processes, treating people well, private sector. So, consequently, their improving the organization, but lots of communicating clearly and directly, views are not always seen as being work on improving individuals through and that’s not always about good followed by significant players and I coaching, through 360 degree feed- things. It’s about telling people what think Jackie Orm’s initiative to involve back, through training, through what- is expect of them, what you want more senior players has been a good ever else; but very little in terms of them to do. It’s about ensuring that one, but I just don’t think that they’re looking at the organization’s design, in people work together as a team and going to be leading the charge. I’m not terms of process improvements, in that an emphasis is placed on team sure that their initiatives are going to terms of creating an environment for dynamics as well as the individual. So, drive things on so much. people to flourish and do well and I think, yeah, there’s a lot to do in those sorts of things, which are basics. Equally, some organizations Bruce: Do you think anyone else it tak- arguably harder to do. So, in the four have got fairly complex things. If you ing up the slack? boxes you might have very many gov- really need international processes, ernment departments bottom left, these can be quite complex, quite dif- Mike: Yeah, I think some of the US aca- possibly managing not very good peo- ficult, and some of that does require demics are doing really quite interest- ple in an environment which isn’t subtle or sophisticated management. I ing work. We’ve been working with great. Bottom right, you might have a think it’s a combination of those Pat Wright from Cornell and Pat is a number of the banks that have great things, but I do find many organiza- thoughtful, helpful academic who is people, but tend to do everything they tions get it wrong most of the time. working with some UK businesses to can to stifle their initiative. Top left move things forward. I think he lacks you might have some of the sandwich Bruce: Would make any recommenda- the showmanship of Ulrich, which is makers or McDonald’s who don’t nec- tions or thoughts to advance these probably a good thing. On the other essarily hire the best people, but cre- ideas? Obviously Ulrich’s work has been hand, I think he’s got some good ate a great working environment championed for awhile, but do you
  3. 3. An Interview with Mike Haffenden think there’s any simple or even com- ibly well at bringing in good people, Mike: Well, it’s never actually been plicated theme that’s emerged as to moving them through the organiza- clear as to what our contribution might progress the function from your point of tion, and putting them into positions of be. We’ve got four domains that we view? prominence. think HR provides tangible contribu- tion. The four would be, the HR opera- Mike: I’m not a big Dave Ulrich fan. I’m Bruce: Sure. Do you think that’s tions delivering the basics, which I certainly not enthusiastic of prescrip- because of the people, per se, or do think HR has done very well. The other tive solutions to problems. Each situa- you think it’s because of the economic three areas would be talent manage- tion needs to be judged accordingly environment and the respective busi- ment, performance management, and and appropriate measures taken. It ness model? creating the right kind of environment needs clarity of thought. It needs for good people to flourish. I think analysis and it needs determination to Mike: I think it’s easier at Tesco, we’ve done far less time in those get things done. because you’ve got opportunity. areas, and a lot of it’s to do with lack You’ve got spaces that you can put of expertise and an inability to actual- Bruce: Do you think that the day will people that are moving forward into. ly make an impact. There are clearly ever come when HR is having meaning- So, if you’ve got jobs for bright up and exceptions to that. ful impact on cash flow statements or coming people to move into, then it’s financial measures, across the profes- easier than if you’re a contracting Bruce: Do you think there will be any sion rather than worst examples? organization. Under the latter circum- new HR technologies coming along to stances, the people that are entrapped help the HR to more effectively func- Mike: I think that’s a million miles and they’ll go somewhere else. But if tion in these areas? away. The best HR directors are how- it’s expanding and growing, you can ever very influential within their hold on to good people and move Mike: I think that certainly, software organizations. There are some out- them as you go forward. But a lot of tools can be helpful in terms of manag- standing examples of people who this is about harboring your resource. ing talent, but I think that some the have made a substantial contribution, But then as an investor in an organiza- fundamentals are going back to basics but HR’s role in the strategic direction tion. I’m always interested in the qual- and getting a grasp of principles of of the enterprise is inevitably not the ity and caliber of talent that that social science, how people work same as the chief executive’s. In some organization has got. If you think of it together collectively, looking at cause cases, they are a strong supporting act as your investment portfolio. I’m not and effect, looking at things that cause and in other cases, they’re just not going to put money into an organiza- improved performance and looking at involved. And the ones that are tion that has got duffers running it. things that cause people to grow and involved are far fewer than the ones develop in organizations. We know all that would like to be. Bruce: Do you think there are other this stuff, but simply choose not to themes apart from talent that are of apply it. Bruce: Do you think there are any HR broad interest to shareholder communi- activities that either could be, in princi- ty? Bruce: What would be an example of ple, or have been in the past taken to something that you think is known but share holders or run by the CEO? Mike: Yeah, I think remuneration strat- isn’t applied? egy must be important and the way Mike: I think the whole issue of talent people get paid is important. I think Mike: The cult of the individual exists in is important. and if look at Tesco’s those are the two important areas. many organizations and yet we all pipeline of people coming through, it’s know that success comes from having phenomenal! Compare and contrast Bruce: Where do you think HR fits into effective teams. I think creating envi- with Mark & Spencer and some other the wider organisational picture? ronments of team goals, team incen- organizations. Tesco have done incred- tives and team culture is important to
  4. 4. An Interview with Mike Haffenden success. So, how would you create this environment where people are brought into the shared vision, the shared purpose and deliver according- Footnotes and References ly? I think there’s something also about the fact that this year has been very 1. difficult for people in work and I think that creating an environment where Written by people do still get something from it, Bruce Lewin, Director where they still enjoy what they’re doing, and can regard work as being positive rather than negative is impor- About Four Groups tant as well. Four Groups have developed a new Bruce: Thank you very much for your approach called 4G to understand time Mike. behaviour, relationships and culture. 4G provides its users with insight into per- Mike: Thank you. sonal characteristics, how relationships develop within teams and groups and how culture can be best defined and managed. 4G provides organisations with infor- mation on how best to deploy and opti- mise the performance of their people. It also enables preventative measures to be taken which minimise the less productive aspects of interaction and group dynamics such as friction and misunderstanding between colleagues. 4G represents a systematic approach to managing the previously intangible aspects of organisational life. The methodology is easily replicable and can be implemented quickly and effi- ciently. Four Groups Ltd 5 St. Johns Lane London EC1M 4BH, United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 20 7250 4779 Email: © 2010 Four Groups Ltd, 5 St. Johns Lane London EC1M 4BH, United Kingdom. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without Company Number: 4650494 express written permission from Four Groups Ltd. Image credit VAT Number: 817 7962 85 Registered in England and Wales