The View From Taft

As a professor teaching millennial students, I always want to make sure that my class would have “balanced programming” during our 1 ½ hours of contact time. This means that the whole 1 ½ hours is spent not only on lecturing about the chapter, but also on playing team or individual games, viewing video clips, analyzing case studies, and other student-centered learning activities.
When I first had to teach the class talent management and the role of Human Resources (HR) in strategy, I was stumped on how to simplify the topic — until I saw this America’s Got Talent (AGT) clip in my Facebook newsfeed. The AGT clip was of the performance of Zurcaroh, an Austrian acrobat group, which was so compelling that the show’s host, Tyra Banks, gave it the much-coveted golden buzzer.
I now use Zurcaroh’s act as a metaphor to explain talent management, defined as “getting the right person at the right job at the right time.” The group’s act is also a metaphor for other HR functions such as training and development and performance management. Zurcaroh’s jaw-dropping act was perfectly executed because the right performers were doing the right stunts at the right time after they had brainstormed on their moves and undergone rigorous practice. In short, they managed their “human resources,” in the same way that companies do. As a result, the group earned a golden buzzer for its unique and well-executed performance and a slot in the final round. In other words, the group formulated and implemented a strategy in order to win.
Just like Zurcaroh, companies, in order to achieve profitability and growth — the traditional measures of success — must come up with strategies, including HR strategies, that add value to them instead of just simply copying the industry’s best practices.
Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, and Wright, authors of the textbook Fundamentals of Human Resource Management, point out that when it comes to strategy making, HR can be viewed in four ways: administrative, or doing day-to-day activities; two-way, with HR providing inputs to strategy formation and implementation; one-way, with HR simply implementing what it is told to do; and integrative, with HR being involved in every step, from strategy creation to strategy evaluation. They suggest that firms be integrative in their strategy formulation and evaluation so that HR can customize its practices to benefit not just the shareholders of the firm but also every employee in the organization.
Vivien Supangco of the University of the Philippines studied the sales performance, operating profits, new markets/products, and human resources of 36 Metro Manila-based organizations, and concluded, like Noe et al., that having HR play a role in strategic planning and corporate governance increases a company’s likelihood of success.
Because HR personnel manage the most important resource of the firm, they should participate in management decisions that impact employees. HR personnel, using HR analytics, can provide employee data, knowledge of labor laws, and their skill in succession planning; without HR, firms might do whatever they want, such as letting go of 100 employees without realizing or caring about the consequences to these employees and their families. Therefore, HR has a stake in the strategies of the firm.
But success should be measured not only in terms of profit and market share, but also in terms of how well an organization develops its people. Employees deserve to be valued and given dignity through work. Article 23 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the Philippines is a signatory, states:
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Firms must adhere to this commitment. However, it will be impossible if owners are in business just for profit. In the end, just like the Zurcaroh acrobat performers, managers, with the help of HR, must do a “balancing act” to make sure that employees, because they are given dignity in the workplace, are positively motivated in producing and delivering jaw-dropping products or services to their customers.
Alvin Neil A. Gutierrez is a DBA student of De La Salle University. He earned his Master in Human Resource Management degree as an AUSAID scholar from The University of Sydney Business School. He is also an Assistant Professor of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, where he teaches Strategic Human Resource Management and Corporate Social Responsibility and Governance.