People management continues to bear too many negative labels. Strengthening its weak points poses challenges for leaders, employees, and HR departments alike.

David Reyero

Some time ago, I decided to conduct an "informal survey" among fifty relevant professionals in people management. The objective was to gather their feedback on this essential question: Do you consider it necessary to reinvent people management to increase its impact

It was interesting to note two clear streams of thought that I summarize in two terms: complacency and dissatisfaction

  • The complacent ones believed that people management has progressed significantly in recent years, that its impact is sufficiently good in organizations, and that leaders, people management professionals, and employees in general are already quite well prepared for future challenges. 
  • The dissatisfied ones thought that while people management has progressed, there is still much ground to cover and great opportunities to improve the level of the overall impact, the people management strategies, the professionals in this field, and the organizational leaders. I clearly align myself with this group of dissatisfied individuals. 

Three reasons support my dissatisfaction: 

  • Very few companies actually have a critical mass of transformative leaders capable of meeting the extraordinary challenges of the future, nor is there a people management area ambitious enough to face them with guarantees. 
  • It is not common for every professional to take on their daily work with accountability and maturity, with a mindset of being the "CEO of their job position". 
  • There is a shortage of people management professionals who can speak on equal terms about any strategic issue in board meetings and, as a positive ripple effect, have a profound impact throughout the workforce. 

Challenges for leaders

In terms of leaders, examples of bosses who shine as individuals with good self-leadership and team leadership are still scarce. We need inspiring, transformative, humble, healthily demanding individuals with a good balance between support and challenge. 

The challenge and opportunity to take leadership to the next level are still very much alive. We need leadership styles and beliefs that better combine the classic and valuable pillars of leadership with emerging elements and anticipation of the profound socioeconomic changes and value shifts we are experiencing. 

Challenges for professionals

In such a complex and disruptive environment, we need professionals who do not wait to be told what to do. We require organizations that better manage the positive combination of freedom (empowerment) and accountability

A culture of accountability fully embraced at all levels of the organization is a facilitator for more innovation, better results, and greater professional growth. This is still quite unusual in the business world, as indicated by various reports

Growth challenges for people management

Fortunately, the times of purely administrative and operational visions of the old "personnel management" and the "command and control" bosses are behind us. 

In recent years, we have progressed wisely and with added value towards professionalization and technification of people management processes and better qualification of our leaders. Progress is evident and demonstrated in aspects such as improved work environment, higher productivity, more development opportunities, or greater psychological safety in organizations. 

The reputation of people management still too often carries negative labels

However, the reputation of people management still often carries negative labels: "too technical and process-oriented," "disconnected from the business and lacking closeness to teams," "complex," "rigid," "limited capacity and impact on transformation," etc. 

We have a great opportunity to transform this view of people management, which is likely biased and in need of improvement. We live in an era of continuous transformation and 'talentism', as Juan Carlos Cubeiro explains.  

It is in these two aspects (talent and transformation) where people management professionals have the opportunity to make a differential contribution, as they are clear strengths of our function. 

A couple of elements can help in this evolution to amplify its contribution: 

  • Better seize the opportunities of business management that increasingly values people management and talent. Understanding the business better and taking a more leading role in multiple transformations will enhance the impact of this key organizational area. A better reputation and strategic importance are also associated with greater demand, as reflected in this Harvard Business Review report. 
  • Engage in self-criticism and listen more to feedback from different stakeholders. Challenging reflections on the role of people management should be a stimulus to avoid falling into complacency. For example, this Cezanne study on "trust in human resources" of over 1,000 employees shows worrying statistics. Other studies indicate that 75% of employees do not trust that the person in charge of the people management area in their organization cares about their needs. These are data that encourage us to continue advancing with common sense and tenacity, adopting a balanced view without falling into triumphalism nor excessive self-criticism. 

An optimistic look towards the future

Undoubtedly, we are experiencing an era of change in people management and leadership. At this juncture, we can adopt two attitudes: wait and see how the environment evolves or jump in and engage with the group of pioneers, daring to chart a new path. I prefer not to lag behind, even though at times I feel the uncertainty of having more questions than answers. 

Let's focus on building a renewed roadmap for people management that integrates the best of our current learnings and the open and curious eyes that the future requires. 

It's a complex, necessary, and exciting transformation journey for those who aim to leave a better legacy and improve our reality with passion, common sense, resilience, and courage. 

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