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The alignment that makes the difference

On 4-5 February 2020, HR Directors, industry experts, strategic thinkers, innovators and leaders from global organisations, representing industries from aerospace and automotive through to real estate and retail gathered in Birmingham, UK for their annual event - The HR Directors Summit. This year the theme of the Summit was “Harnessing Human Creativity”.

If you, like me, are interested in nuances of meaning behind the words we use, you will know that the word “harnessing” can mean “using”, “utilising”. But it can also mean “controlling” and “exploiting”.


While creativity is essential for any organisation in pursuit of strategic advantage, the way we think (and go) about harnessing it can make a big difference to the outcomes we achieve.

One of my coaching clients, let's call him George, is a Millennial. A well regarded expert in his field, he was headhunted by a large multinational company for his creativity and unorthodox approach to problem-solving. The role he was offered gave him plenty of opportunities to innovate and come up with revolutionary ideas that worked. George loved his new job – until things changed dramatically just a few months later, when the main (or rather the one and only) “bug buster” suddenly left the company two weeks before the launch of the new software product.


Amid the ensuing panic, George stepped forward and volunteered to help because he had the skills and knowledge required, and because he genuinely cared about his new company and its products. The new software was launched as planned and everyone was impressed with the work that George has done in such a short time. In fact, his bosses were so impressed, that they gave him a substantial bonus and asked to stay in the role of a “bug buster” a bit longer, until they recruit a replacement. George did not like this role, but several new products were in the pipeline and he was aware that the company would suffer should he refuse, so he agreed to this temporary arrangement.


However, as the saying goes, there is nothing more permanent than temporary arrangements. The originally-agreed three months turned into six, and then nine. When George repeatedly raised the matter with his managers and HR (human resources), at first they were blaming the lack of suitable candidates for the failure to recruit a new “bug buster”. Later they admitted that he is so good in this role that they would rather have him than somebody else “polishing” new products in preparation to the launch.


George has realised that he is stuck in the role he grew to hate. This was not what he had signed up for when he had joined this company. His initial frustration turned into unhappiness and then depression, but his managers and HR did not seem to care about the impact this situation had on George as long as the job was done. A couple of months later, George left this company – he was headhunted by their competitor.


George's new company has a different “corporate mindset” - the one of nurturing and utilising creativity rather than controlling and exploiting it. Two years on, George is happy in this company in the role where he is free to innovate. He is also able to share his knowledge and skills by mentoring and training people – not only those who he is managing, but also colleagues from other departments, thus increasing the resilience of the whole company. George is working hard – probably, twice as hard as in his previous company, but he loves it. Yes, the remuneration is good but, more importantly for George, his personal energies and capabilities are well-aligned with his job, he feels listened to, valued and committed to his employer - a win-win situation.


As George's story demonstrates, not all cases of “harnessed” creativity in the workplace lead to increased employee performance and satisfaction because not all HR strategies, policies and practices are born equal.


HR professionals may remember a mathematical notation used by Boxall and Purcell (2008) to illustrate the impact of HR on individual performance:


P=f(A,M,O)

Where “P” stands for performance, “A” for ability, “M” for motivation and “O” for opportunity.

In other words, individual performance is seen as a function of the person’s ability, their motivation and an opportunity to do a good job. This formula also highlights the fact that while there is a definite dependency between “A”, “M”, “O” and performance, the precise relationships among ability, motivation and opportunity are unknown. This uncertainty creates a real ‘minefield’ for organisations.

In addition, HR is not solely concerned with managing separate individuals. At a collective level, it does include building a functioning workplace society where individuals know, can and are willing to do what is valuable for an organisation, and where relationships and networks among individuals and groups can create value and strategic advantage for this organisation. I deliberately wrote the word “willing” in bold because it does not matter what and how much we know and can do – our performance will suffer if we are not willing to do what we know is valuable for our organisation. Furthermore, no amount of money and other job perks will keep us for long in a job which we are able but not willing to do because our personal energies and capabilities are not aligned with the needs of that job. Unfortunately, the importance (or even the existence) of such an alignment is not acknowledged in the aforementioned notation. It is also missing from many HR strategies and practices.


Yet getting this alignment right can make the difference between recruiting and retaining the most valuable people for your organisation, and losing them, as it happened in the case of my client George.


Traditionally, recruitment and talent management decisions rely heavily on things like qualification, expertise, experience and personality, while the impact of people in organisations and the ways they prefer to make it was not considered until The GC Index®, a digital Organimetric (organisation metric), became available.


The GC Index® measures and describes five proclivities - five different ways in which people are inclined to make an impact and contribution in their organisations.


These five proclivities are:


  • Strategists who see the future and engage others with a clear direction that brings focus to action.

  • Game Changers who generate the ideas and possibilities that have the potential to be transformational.

  • Play Makers who focus on getting the best from others, individually and collectively, in support of agreed objectives.

  • Implementers who get things done. As leaders they shape strategic plans and deliver tangible outcomes.

  • Polishers who create a future to be proud of. They focus on making things better, continual improvement, and the pursuit of excellence.


Understanding these proclivities (which are different from the personality traits we all got used to) is essential for effective HR management and for individual and organisational alignment.


Nathan Ott, CEO at The GC Index, pointed out at four key ingredients of the notion of an individual and organisational alignment in the workplace which make the difference between ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ organisations:


1. The alignment of an individual’s skills and motivations to a role and a team.

2. The alignment of expectations between a manager and their reports: what do we want to achieve and how will we know when we have achieved it?

3. The alignment of teams and divisions to corporate goals.

4. The alignment of rewards to performance.


Nathan argued that with these key ingredients in place, people will enjoy their roles, will feel valued for their own personal impact and will become more productive; teams will become more effective by leveraging the impact of each individual member; enhanced collaboration will lead to improved organisational cohesion; greater awareness of how each person has an impact will help to increase diversity and reduce “unconscious bias”.


During the periods of organisational change, The Change Maker Profile™ powered by The GC Index can be used to measure how individuals can make a change-making impact inside their organisations. This tool revolutionises the way individuals and teams understand the process of change, supercharge their capability to make positive contribution to each stage of the transformational change process and achieve tangible business outcomes.

In 2019, The GC Index® became People Assessment Tool of choice for the UK Recruitment Industry. Along with The Change Maker Profile, it is time for HR professionals to discover and utilise their potential for the benefit of their organisations.


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Please contact Zoryna O'Donnell for more information zoryna@thechangemakergroup.com


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References Boxall, P. and Purcell, J. (2008) Strategy and Human Resource Management, 2nd edition. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan

The GC Index® - https://www.thegcindex.com/the-gc-index/


The Change Maker Profile™ - https://www.thechangemakergroup.com/thechangemakerprofile