The 3 secrets to HR success from the fastest growing companies

The 3 secrets to HR success from the fastest growing companies
What is your company’s biggest asset? It’s most important driver of future success? It’s the people. Recognizing how to best manage your most valuable capital – human capital – will be the differentiator between success and failure. In a recent national survey, Canada’s fastest growing companies revealed three steps to HR success.

STEP 1: Bring HR to the head table
According to Canada’s fastest growing companies, putting the human resource function at the head table is a first step toward eliciting the results businesses need. Long gone are the days when “human resources” was solely a function that passively existed to handle complaints and paperwork. Today’s human resources function looks and acts very differently.

Christine Andrews, head of talent management at Doxim Inc., maintains that “HR is considered a true partner with the business in driving results and optimizing organizational performance”.

So how do you know if your HR department is in the past, present, or future? Consider asking three key questions; “Do department members have industry and global awareness?”, “Do they exhibit business knowledge?”, “Do they possess systems thinking?” If you can confidently answer yes to these questions, chances are you are on the right track.

Warren H. Wong, VP & chief talent officer, Elastic Path Software Inc., provides a forward thinking message when he states, “a vision focused towards results combined with a clear business plan and strategy allows talent management to become an enabling function”. Aligning the human resources function to the strategic planning of an organization may seem obvious to most, but execution can be somewhat challenging for organizations.

According to the survey of Canada’s most profitable companies, 45 per cent of respondents rated their ability to be involved in strategic planning activities as “excellent,” the top rating on a five-point scale. Also of notable significance was that close to half of respondents indicated they had an “excellent” understanding of the organization’s financial resources and limitations.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of participants in the survey also mentioned that their understanding of the history of the organization (63 per cent) and the organization’s values, mission, and vision (59 per cent) was “excellent.”

What these results tell us is that making decisions for an organization is like making decisions for a family. If you understand your family history, what your family would like to accomplish in the future, the existing financial constraints, and have the capability to make strategic decisions, you can do things. You can decide whether a new addition to the family would be suitable (akin to hiring employees), whether growth or information is required (similar to training and education in an organizational setting), and even when the right time to expose the kids to the public would be (comparable to an IPO)! These are all human resource related decisions.

STEP 2: Outsource HR functions
If placing the human resource function at the head table is a first step, what is the next step toward success? The second step involves another trend we are seeing with increased frequency – HR outsourcing.

According to, “We basically use HR outsourcing in order to gain time. Statistics have shown that the average company is losing 25 per cent of its time in managing human resources related problems. By using HR outsourcing, that time is gained and it can be directed towards the processes that are actually making money for a company. This is the most concrete benefit that every CEO should be aware of.”

Some firms have concluded that much of the non-core and non-strategic HR function can be successfully outsourced. For example, at the Annex Group, Tom Dutta, chief operating officer, is responsible for handling the HR department and uses an external resource when necessary. Tom has 25 years of HR experience and also sits on the executive, helping shape strategy and direction for the company.

Relating to our example of the family, unless we are really good at it, why would we design and sew our own clothing when we can buy it quite affordably at the local mall?

Step 3. Communication
Interpersonal relationship building, collaboration, and communication were highly prized amongst Canada’s most successful companies. Some 69 per cent of survey participants maintained that an understanding of the goals and objectives of other people was “very good” or “excellent.” The ability to interact effectively with others to produce outcomes was “very good” or better for 76 per cent of respondents. Topping the communication list was the ability to respect the values of others, with a solid 87 per cent of respondents rating this ability as “very good” or “excellent.”

According to Beth Burrows of Kids and Company Ltd., “Communication is critical every moment of every day. Even when we think we are communicating well, there are opportunities to communicate better.” Unsurprisingly, good communication will have a good impact on the bottom line and great communication will have a great impact. Knowing how and what to communicate is as much an art as it is a skill. Thankfully for many organizations, and families, communication can be improved upon.

But what about doing something other organizations aren’t doing that will give your organization a leg up on the competition? Is there a magical “super-step?” Believe it or not, the magic step is known by everyone but rarely practiced by anyone.

What is that magical “super-step?” Evaluation.

It is the evaluation of programs, processes, and policies. According to Wikipedia, evaluation is the “systematic determination of merit, worth, and significance of something or someone using criteria against a set of standards.” Quite simply, organizations fail to evaluate and thus miss out on potential opportunities.

About the author: Lynda Zugec is the Founder/Chairman of The Workforce Consultants, an international network of specialized consultants within the area of Human Resources.

The Workforce Consultants is a network of specialized consultants within the area of HR. The consultants that comprise the network are at the forefront of research and practice. Professors and graduate students at universities worldwide collaborate with industry professionals to deliver organizational HR solutions. For more information, visit