“Businesses should place a high priority on engagement because engaged employees are the people who make companies successful”
We talk to Alan Hosking, the founder and executive editor of HR Future Magazine
What interested you about the HR field and how did you end up in your current profession?
“I inherited a deep love for people from my parents. Having always had a thirst for new knowledge myself, I expressed my desire to help others acquire new knowledge by qualifying as a high school teacher. After some years in teaching, I realised that I was growing others but not myself, and accepted a Training Manager position at Standard Bank head office in Johannesburg. While at Standard, I published a book on parenting (What nobody tells a new father), and was moved into a strategic communications role because of my writing skills. I however continued to operate in their HR division, which had some of the brightest HR minds around. I was therefore exposed to the latest HR thinking of the time. When I left Standard, it was a natural progression to become a publisher in the HR space. HR Future magazine was launched in 2001.”
What does employee engagement mean to you, and what importance should business place on having an engaged workforce?
“To me, an engaged employee is someone who has identified with the greater purpose of the company and wants to play their role in fulfilling that purpose. When they do that, they will do whatever is necessary in the course of their work activity. Businesses should place a high priority on engagement because engaged employees are the people who make companies successful. Disengaged employees are highly unproductive at best and destructive at worst. Disengagement is a silent killer. No-one wears a badge that says “Disengaged Employee”. They quietly use company resources while delivering no value in return.”
What HR-related topic are you most passionate about, and why?
“Leadership development is my passion. I believe that leadership is about using your qualities and skills to take action in order to lead people to a better reality. If we don’t help leaders to develop their qualities and skills so that they take action (implement strategy) more effectively, we will never get to a better reality. Don’t we all, as human beings, want a better reality?“
What do you think makes for a productive and profitable workplace?
“There are many significant and subtle factors that play a role in productivity and profitability. These include having effective leaders, the right people in the organisation, a culture that sets people free to do what they’re good at and a clearly communicated strategy. Some of the more subtle factors include positive energy, supportive relationships and a strong sense of purpose.”
What do you think is the greatest challenge in bringing a company’s workforce together, and how can this be addressed?
“The greatest challenge is to nurture a united leadership that extends from CEO to supervisor. When you have a united leadership that involves leadership at every level in a company, you have a united workforce. Executives are inclined to think that their leadership is somehow “different” from leadership further down the organisation. That’s not a valid view. They need to see their leadership team as being a lot bigger than just the few directors. How many directors have had even one meeting with leaders at other levels in the organisation? By meeting with leaders at different levels, they send a very clear message to all employees that they’re all united by one common goal.”
Do you believe the role of business is changing in terms of creating shared value and being responsible contributors to society? Please explain.
“Very definitely. The days of businesses taking what they can from the environment and the community and selfishly enjoying the profits are over. There’s no question that companies should make a profit. If they don’t, they simply won’t be around for very long and they won’t be able to use their resources for the greater good of their communities and country. Companies should be good corporate citizens. When companies see their role not so much as a “take” role but a “give” role too, where they share the value they have created, they act as leaders by taking people to a better reality!“
2016 has seen many incredible changes in the world of work, leadership and economics. Looking to the future, what do you believe will be the greatest challenges and opportunities we’ll face in 2017 in terms of human capital?
“One word describes what has been happening in the world from a political, economic, technological and consciousness point of view – disruption. It’s not the first time mankind has experienced massive disruption, but it is nevertheless a time of great disruption. One of the biggest challenges we have is helping people deal with these disruptions. People have an inherent reluctance to change because they believe that any change, or the future, will be worse than the present. That’s not so. Most of the changes we experience are for the better. Our opportunity lies in helping people reframe the way they see things so they can interpret the changes in a positive way. This will help them embrace the future rather than try to avoid it.“