The Next Generation of HR Leaders Depends on You

“What we call this group is a succession plan for Virginia banking,” (Bruce) Whitehurst said. “For any industry, success lies in energizing the next generation.”

Sometimes during our daily reading, we come across statements that give us pause. Those type of statements normally cause me to stop and lookout with a distant gaze, all in the realization that they nailed it with a perspective I had never considered. My next step is to capture that thought and put in into my little file for inspiration

What is our succession plan for our next generation of leaders? Like a lot of you, I interact with the leaders of my profession on a constant basis. We cheer each other on, share our thoughts and support each other in ways we each can.

But what about the next generation?

One day we will gradually fade off the stage. In the wings is a stable of eager, engaged and competent individuals waiting to make their entrance. The next generation could be people like my niece, Sydney Thomas, SPHR, who as corporate HR manager for Coca-Cola is doing some amazing work. She is in her fourth HR role with ever increasing responsibility.

What are we as leaders doing to bring along this new generation, which will be running this profession in years to come?

That comment about building the next generation of bankers, came from an article in American Banker. In it, one of the new bankers says, “I think younger individuals don’t always understand the opportunities that arise from being in the banking world, not only from the standpoint of personal and professional success, but also from the difference you and your bank can make in the community.”

You can make a word substitution in that statement and it could be scaled across our profession as well.

What role are you playing?

I had one of our professionals tell me that she was too tired and just did not respond to HR requests on LinkedIn. “They always want something,” she told me. Statements and attitudes like this, remind me of the “HR Lady,” prim, proper and no nonsense.

David Ulrich’s 20/60/20 theory of human resources tells us that 20% of the profession is highly engaged in our profession from a strategic prospective and 60% in the middle, through training and teaching, are willing to move to the top tier. However, the bottom 20% will never get there and have NO interest in moving themselves or the profession forward. They are in a comfort zone and are happy to stay there. They have no interest or desire to move from that zone.

According to a Gallup survey that I constantly quote, the level of manager engagement is in the same category as employee engagement; around 30% are engaged. I remember a manager at one point in my career telling me my team was spending too much time on fancy stuff as opposed to being the “good generalist.”

Pay it forward

If you have an opportunity to mentor a young professional or for that matter anyone in your profession, do it. You’ll discover it brings as much value to you as it does the mentee and the profession you profess to love.

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Today our young professionals can major in Human Resources, but we all know that when the rubber meets the road, that’s when the actual learning begins. What could be more of a strategic learning opportunity than to take someone or multiple someones under your wing and be there as a sounding board.

The only way this profession will gain the same status as other departments within the organizations is when we engage our bench and prepare them for a new future. That new future is an HR department that is viewed as an in-house consultancy that focuses on helping the organization meet its strategic goals. That is marketing, finance and IT’s, focus and we have to have the same laser focus as part of our strategic mission.

So next time you get a request, whether it be by email, LinkedIn or other social media, respond in a way that is positive. You owe it to the next generation of the HR bench to bring them along. Your profession will appreciate you for it.

About the Author

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.