Strategic Human Capital Insights

Has HR Lost Its Golden Thread? Identify the Motivators for Employees

What is HR’s Business and How Does it Contribute to the Business?

Smiling employees in a line at workWhat is the real role and contribution of HR?  The thread of people development within organizations is wrapped around the fabric of business. So what is the golden thread that unites business and people development?

In a series of blogs and online discussions, we will help facilitate and accelerate the delivery of solutions to weave the golden thread of HR into the fabric of the business.  Mike Smith and Carolyn Dare from and Joanne Flynn from Phoenix Strategic Performance will engage with you to address the themes that underpin the essence of HR.

What are the critical issues that keep business leaders awake at night?

Although executives regularly affirm the importance of their people to overall business success, few companies have in place any systematic way to measure their investment in human capital assets, the return on that investment and which areas of that investment are most likely to produce an increase in overall business performance.

If business focus was brought to this formerly ‘soft’ area, then great business results would be achieved from leadership team effectiveness, strategic alignment to the bottom level, clarifying roles post-merger, doubling learning and development returns, lowering strategic risk, optimising excellence in execution, multiplying star performer behaviours or adding meaning to people’s work.  So we are not just talking about financial data!

Recent reports have criticised HR stating the following:

  1. “Business leaders and HR…continue to give HR borderline failure/barely passing grades...HR organizations rated their teams the equivalent of a C-minus (an average of 1.65 on a five-point scale), showing almost no improvement over last year’s ratings.  When we asked business leaders to rate HR, the score was even lower. Business leaders rated HR a D-plus (an average of 1.32 on a five-point scale), indicating their increased expectations” Deliotte's Human Capital report 2015
  2. “65% of CEOs feel they lack the information they need to increase the return on their investment on human capital.”
    © PriceWaterhouseCoopers 15th Global CEO Survey of 1,258 business leaders in 60 countries

  3. HR is increasingly becoming the business partner as they are seen to deliver business strategy, align business objectives and demonstrate their impact on the bottom line, but large numbers still need clarity on how their role, or the role of HR, fits in the organisation. Dr A Hesketh, Lancaster University.

  4. “The three biggest challenges facing HR: Measuring HR programs in financial terms: 35%, delivering workforce metrics and analytics: 26%t and driving internal mobility and career development: 24%”; Harris, Stacey. The High-Impact HR Organization: Top 10 Best Practices on the Road to Excellence. Bersin & Associates. 2011.

  5. A report by the CIPD entitled “Real-life leaders: closing the knowing-doing gap” commented on a study of nearly 2,500 leaders and managers in the UK stated; “Our research shows that organisations might be unwittingly setting their leaders up for failure by not aligning the systems and structures to the behaviours they expect of leaders. ….. Although HR professionals appear to have been focusing on their roles in advocating for and delivering development of leadership capability, there is no evidence that the HR function assumes the role of strategic adviser.” 


When aligned to business performance, people might now feel truly supported, appreciated and valued—they might feel like they are now helping shape the success of the business.  And when that happens, just imagine how the business would grow.

In a wide-ranging study of employee motivation, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer asked 600 managers about what they thought was the single-most important motivator for employees at work.  A shocking 95% of them got the answer wrong.

It’s not money, safety, security, or pressure that drives employees at work. It’s not the supposedly foundational needs in Maslow’s hierarchy.

The most important motivator for employees at work is what Amabile and Kramer call “the power of small wins“: employees are highly productive and driven to do their best work when they feel as if they’re making progress every day toward a meaningful goal.

Engagement and involvement does not guarantee that people have meaning in their work. Creating Empowered Achievers is essential to business success.

Give us the opportunity to address the issues. Please submit your views in our survey to establish what you think HR should start with.

Take the Business of HR Survey>>

Mike Smith
is Director, Learning Transfer Solutions Global. He is passionate about ensuring that individuals become empowered achievers, HR has a strategic role in executive teams, and that businesses gain alignment and fast execution of their business strategies. His current company, LTS­Global, is dedicated to giving companies, trainers and consultants help to enable them to activate new learning. He can be reached at

Carolyn Dare is a Partner with Learning Transfer Solutions Global, a consulting firm that works in a systemic way to lead and anchor large scale change, transformation and performance enhancement initiatives in organisations. She is an accomplished virtual community designer, online facilitator, and website/online simulation developer. She can be reached at

Topics: Human Resources

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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