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is one of those delightful words that sounds like what it means: Quick, lively, bracing, and refreshing.  Anything brisk is happening quickly, but not too fast.  Marked by speed, liveliness, and vigour and energy.

For the past few decades, HR has been under scrutiny for many reasons. Perhaps the most important one is, the question of the value of the profession and the speed it executes at. As Ulrich rightfully commented in a recent article: “Every few years there are public critiques about the HR field. Some prophets see what is wrong and give them a pathway to heaven”.

But, actually, I believe there has been too much focus in recent years on ‘strategic HR’ and not enough on speed of delivery.  Many consulting companies offer advice, pathways and strategies but few get to the core of it.

A better question is: Do we need to sacrifice quality and value to the business in exchange for speed?  And what are the risks associated to delivering with speed?

Forget the ‘war on talent’! What about the ‘war on performance’?

Over the last 20 years, the ‘war on talent’ has been a dominant metaphor in HR, but approaching 2020, a far more important battle is emerging: the ‘war on performance’.

HR practitioners know they need to focus on delivering the business scorecard (that in itself would add more value and credibility to HR). However, just focusing on the business scorecard is not enough. HR practitioners need to ‘wow’ the business by focusing on holistic performance and excellence too. All too often HR is blamed for pockets of delivery. So how can HR perform briskly and without the associated risks?

Why holistic performance trumps people performance

Management is tasked to deliver on organisational, process and people performance, but all too often HR tends to focus solely on people performance. HR needs to deliver on what the business wants and not what HR thinks should be delivered. In order to ‘wow’ the business, HR must deliver on holistic performance, because that’s what the business scorecard relies on.

Start with the customer and end with the customer – this is holistic performance that is sustainable for the business.

What is holistic performance?

Holistic performance is based on systems thinking theory and can be mapped using the ‘double C’ as follows:

  • Customer: What are the actual business needs?
  • Conditions: What are the conditions in the environment for sustainable results and performance?
  • Outcomes: What should sustainably be achieved?
  • Input: What is needed for sustainable outcomes? Do you have the resources and innovation?
  • Process: How will the sustainable outcomes be achieved? Do you have the right systems in place?
  • Consequences: How will holistic performance be managed? What are the feedback loops?
  • Customer: Have sustainable results and business needs been achieved and addressed?

Once this has been mapped, you can better assess what the risks are to achieve holistic performance. Which brings me to the risk assessment roadmap below.

Your roadmap to holistic performance

Ultimately, it is people who will deliver performance and the risks should be identified at a holistic perspective as shown in the graphic:


The foundation of holistic performance

The ‘war on performance’ necessitates questioning our agility to stay ahead of the future. Do your reality check against the holistic performance foundations and assess the risks associated with getting ready for 2020. There are four foundations to holistic performance delivery to consider:

Foundation #1: Business and world perspective impact

  • The world around us – the challenge for internal and environmental green sustainability.
  • The world is in a no-growth phase – no expansion.
  • Doing more with less.
  • Movement, mobility, agility, flexi-everything.
  • Global ‘war for talent’ vs. ‘war on performance’ – talent isn’t everything but the differentiator is the upskilling and reskilling and holistic view to performance.
  • ‘War on performance’ – this is a challenge for a strategic “whole new HR approach” – engage in holistic performance for sustainability.
  • Fluid nature of business – business-on-the-go’.
  • The era of ‘yes’ to the power of big data analytics.

 Foundation #2: People perspective impact

  • FOMO and ‘focus deficit syndrome’ – rethink office hours, impact of connectivity, impact on performance outputs and results.
  • Innovation and creativity are needed everywhere – the new scarce skills.
  • Learning solutions delivery in ‘bits and bytes’.
  • Crowd-sourcing feedback systems – everything and everyone gets rated and are involved in feedback.
  • A new breed of ‘knowledge doers’ is emerging.
  • Where are the women? Women are vulnerable to job losses even though there has been a surge to place them in senior positions – do the stats. Women are the most underutilised business resource.
  • Performance impact – work anytime, anywhere – is the organisation ready for this?
  • People need ‘everyday-EQ’.
  • Leadership:
    • Managers’ new role as ‘brand managers’ – employees need to feel the value of the brand to stay engaged.
    • Leading vs. coaching and mentoring – the new must-have skills.
    • ‘Knowledge vs. managing’ managers are replaced by team project management and assignment management.
    • Everything is about relationships and socialisation.
    • Team performance and team-to-team managing is emerging.

Foundation #3: Process perspective impact

  • Prepare workforce for the pace of technology, automation and innovation changes.
  • No turning back from digitisation.
  • Prepare for a blended workforce to be ready for the future now – re- and out-deploy people who don’t have the capability and emotional willingness.
  • The internet of things – how clients/customers/employees access information, make decisions and engage with the brand – or not!
  • The everything cloud – tools, job aids, rules, procedures and policies must be accessible everywhere to everyone.

Foundation #4: Organisation perspective impact

  • Business beyond compliance and governance – ethical and sustainable business is the new focus.
  • Demise of traditional performance management systems – strategic mindset shift and change is needed to get out of the caves.
  • Everything is about data and analytics – and interpretation.
  • Winners and losers – who are they?
  • Scenario and futures planning is replacing old-school strategic planning.
  • Apps are replacing HR management and everything else.

HR practitioners will ‘wow’ the business when they understand and deliver on holistic performance; help the business identify risks and plan to meet business-needs briskly. This view on a ‘war on performance’ necessitates a re-look of HR and management’s ability and agility to deliver.  A holistic performance audit – not a talent audit or skills audit should be done on both HR and management’s roles, performance standards, skills, knowledge and competence. When HR and management stand back to view the painting called ‘holistic performance’, they should both see the same picture.

Get started today!

If you would like to know more about how to perform a holistic performance audit for your organisation please don’t hesitate to contact me: Belia Nel at or on +2782 458 5851.

If you would like to know more about what we do, please visit our website or connect with Belia Nel on LinkedIn.

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