Schlumberger Business Consulting senior advisor Patha Gosh suggested that the complexity of global business enviroments has increased by a factor of 20 since 1990. This requires organisations to be agile and adaptable.Patha Gosh suggested that the complexity of global business enviroments has increased by a factor of 20 since 1990. This requires organisations to be agile and adaptable.

”The real challenge, when we talked about the art of HR, is how to create platform where we help people to learn, unlearn and re-learn,” he explained. Ghosh said there are seven forces changing the work environment: convergence of technology: free data analytics: global warming and resource mobilisation; tension between Wall Street and Main Street; a shifting global economic power balance; the influence of social media; and generational conflict.

Former global head of talent management and HR excellence at ABB Dirk Stoltenberg pointed out that companies who outperform over the long term are agile. ”A study of 17 industries in 30 years showed that companies with more factors of agility had a 6% higher result in net profit, and 11% higher revenues,” he said.

For organisations to be successful, they must have five functions in the future:

1) A high-speed sensing and learning function;

2) An integration function – the ability to sense different opportunities and threats, and bring it together;

3) A distributed leadership function in which leadership is not only in the boardroom, but spread across enterprise;

4) An activist function that continuously challenges the matrix with how we measure ourselves; and,

5) An adaptive function to maintain the speed of change.

For organisations to be successful, former MD for HR at Inditex Jesus Vega encouraged creating a ”sensual company” that would drive engagement, productivity and results. ”People don’t like to be forced, but they love to be seduced,” he added.

Dave Ulrich profilna

Ross School of Business Professor Dave Ulrich believes that successful organisations understand the importance of culture, strong leadership and HR, looking from the outside in  what he identified at the latest evolution of HR. Ulrich described culture as ”the identity of the firm in the mind of customers and made real to employees”, and would prefer a firm with great culture and poor leaders because a ”strong culture should overcome weak leadership”.


Improving leadership was a common theme at the conference. Ghosh said it is high time to re-think how to measure effective leadership. ”Is it just about delivering growth or a return on sales and assets, or is it something more? For me the return on emotions of individuals is a measure of how well a CEO is doing,” he added.

Ulrich pointed out that leaders who are most successful have a 3:1 positive to negative comment ratio. He added that leadership (the collective) is more important than individual leaders and the five components of good leadership are: strategy, execution, talent, human capital and personal integrity.

Ulrich said HR complements corporate leaders because many CEOs struggle with talent management, leadership and culture. He also pointed out that the top 20% of CHROs have a similar character profile to CEOs, but remaining 80% don’t. He warned that HR being at the table or part of management doesn’t mean you get it your way, it means your view gets understood. ”We don’t listen to understand, we listen so other feel understood,” he added.


For HR to succeed at the top table, Ulrich said it’s important to have these competencies: strategic positioner, credible activist, capability builder, technology proponent, HR innovator and integrator, and change champion. ”Credible activism will get you in the room, but when you are there focus on capability building, being an HR innovator and integrator, change champion and the others,” he said. A key focus for HR is trying to ensure there is the right talent, culture and leadership, but ultimately these three are the line manager’s responsibility.

Vega said that HR is often too consumed by processes, analysis, procedures, guidance and handbooks – forgetting that most of the important decisions taken in life are made using emotions and feelings. ”It’s something we forget too often in HR,” he said.

Vega claimed that HR had lost its credibility during the global financial crisis because it was not ”brave enough’ in challenging management, adding that the function had been reduced to ”accountants and executors of death penalties.”

In response, COTRUGLI Business School professor Gavin Wallbridge suggested that the crisis had helped business realise that it needed to shift the current paradox of people vs. profit more towards people.


Vega urged all companies to eliminate fear, which removes enjoyment and disengaged staff. Business leaders should aim to be passionate, jovial, humble, positive and encourage participation from everyone.

Empowering employees and allowing them the freedom to express themselves artistically is vital for success in today’s competitive market.

Piere Bismuth senior advisor at Schlumberger Business Consulting, said HR manager should try to be a firm’s dreamers, storytellers and conductors: ”You have to be the chief information officers.”

Sharon Moshayof, a former talent development leader of global marketing at Merck, spoke about the vital ingredients of resilience. These include: positivity internally and externally, flexibility, focus, proactivity and the ability to handle change.

Statoil VP, performance management development Bjarte Bogsnes told the audience to ditch annual budgets and allow frontline teams greater ownership of goals and how they define success. He said measuring success on an annual budget means you are one year behind.

In response to a question about political interference in EU labour movement, Siemens head of global university relations Christian Schutz said the company tries to educate politicians, universities and other stakeholders. ”We are taking up some social responsibility because it is clear small organisations won’t talk to politicians to try and change the laws. Part of university relations for us is to give feedback to the major stakeholders in education on what, in our view, they should do.”

SOURCE: Arvind Hickman /