Jon Ingham to HR: "You’re doing it wrong!"
Up close with…Jon Ingham
HR consultant, author, and blogger
Based in: Bracknell, UK
Academic background: Masters in Engineering, Masters in Business Administration, and (“more recently and more relevant”) a graduate degree in Psychology.
Mantra: We’re doing HR wrong!
What does that mean? People have amazing potential, so why constrain them by putting then in a box (such as a job description? Help them break free to drive business success.
Social media of choice: Twitter (I’m @joningham)
Most supported sports team: I’m more interested in “communities” than “teams”.
Biggest moment of your life thus far: Together with my wife, meeting our daughters in a Russian orphanage for the first time.
Your presentation is complete. You’re fully rested – and you’ve got 24 hours left in Singapore – what’s on the agenda? Walking around Marina Bay, followed by dinner in Boat Quay.
There is no doubt that HR – as a business function – has become far more strategic over the last decade. The days of the highly-transactional personnel department are long gone, but that doesn’t mean the journey is yet complete. Far from it, says UK-based HR thought leader Jon Ingham.
The well-known thinker, blogger, and speaker at next year’s HR Summit & Expo Asia 2018 says there is an even higher calling for the once humble HR department. He says the profession needs to begin leveraging on the many opportunities available to “create value”, rather than merely adding it.
Here’s how he explains the difference to HRM Magazine.
“When it is adding value, HR is still a support function,” Ingham says. “Creating value is the next big step and it involves truly seeing the potential in both the workforce and the HR team that knows it inside and out.”
“When it is creating value, HR is being a proactive, strategic partner with the business, identifying problems and coming up with real, people-centred solutions to them – not just executing the people side of the organisation’s declared strategy.”
Ingham says there has been a flaw in a lot of traditional thinking around HR. “Many assume that adding value is being strategic,” he warns. “But there are also opportunities to enable individuals working in our organisations to contribute in an even bigger way. – that is where HR can really create value.”
Asked for an example, Ingham highlights the work of McDonald’s Restaurants in his native UK.
In the early 2000s, it faced a damaging social trend, in which the phrase “McJobs” – to mean employment that was uninspiring, menial, low-paid, and unempowering – moved into widespread use. While the term applied to a wide range of the organisations and positions, it was naturally tied to its namesake and unlike other businesses, McDonald’s was not able to divorce itself from that perception.
Ingham says it was the HR leaders that identified the issue and the long-term ramifications for the organisation. If it was not seen as a good, positive employer, it would struggle to both fill positions and please customers.
It was the HR team also that led the fightback, with an employer branding strategy that actually embraced the “McJobs” label and turned it on its head. Through a long advertising, public relations, and communications campaign, staff were shown achieving far more than the term would imply, and let the public know that – yes – they had a “McJob” and they loved it.
“The HR team went to the business and confronted the issue even before the other leaders saw it as an issue,” Ingham says. “It started to invest more in people and focus on learning to create a highly-valued Employee Value Proposition and then communicated that promise widely.”
Next generation thought leader
Ingham has been researching and thinking about HR’s place in the organisation for many years. He actually started his career as an engineer and IT consultant. It wasn’t until he was called on to manage a significant organisational change in that capacity that he saw the potential and importance of the HR role. This was in 1999, and Ingham went on to tackle some key operational HR roles for organisations in both the UK and Moscow towards the end of the Soviet Union.
He says he was inspired by HR thought leader Linda Gratton’s work on The Future of Work, and began investing more and more effort in not just his own role but in how it could be changed and improved upon.
That led to a successful career in HR consulting, and Ingham has worked with some major clients in financial services, retail, chemical manufacturing, and the UK public sector to develop highly strategic and impactful approaches to people management.
Ingham has also been a prolific writer on HR issues over the last two decades. His first book, Strategic Human Capital Management, was published at the end of 2016 and features case studies from his own consulting work with the likes of Ernst & Young, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Adding to this, and dozens of research papers and contributions to journals such as the Strategic HR Review (including one chapter co-authored with Dave Ulrich), is his latest book, released earlier this year.
The Social Organisation, Ingham says, looks at a new way many forward-thinking HR teams are creating value through helping their workforces become more collaborative. The book explores the role of communities and other social groups in organisational design, and how social technologies – including Facebook for Work – can be aligned with each of these.
“It’s about how HR can fully leverage on employees’ high propensity to collaborate,” Ingham says. “That is a real opportunity to create value across the organisation.”
Live in Singapore
The Social Organisation, and the ideas and case studies behind it, will be a key part of Jon Ingham’s keynote presentation at next year’s HR Summit & Expo Asia in Singapore. Held at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 9 and 10, 2018, this promises to again be the region’s largest workforce management convention and expo, bringing together the world’s most influential business thinkers, solutions providers, and top HR decision makers.
For Ingham, it’s also a chance to get back to the world’s most dynamic business region. “I’ve done a lot of work in Asia-Pacific,” Ingham says. “I always look forward to getting back to Singapore in particular and seeing the dynamism and creative work up close.”
The Social Organisation, and the ideas and case studies behind it, will be a key part of Jon Ingham’s keynote presentation to next year’s HR Summit & Expo Asia in Singapore. Held at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 9 and 10, 2018, this promises to again be the region’s largest workforce management convention and expo, bringing together the world’s most influential business thinkers, solutions providers, and top HR decision makers.
HR Summit & Expo Asia 2018
HR Summit & Expo Asia 2018 celebrates its 16th anniversary in 2018, with a jam-packed programme of ground-breaking HR thinking and best practice case studies. With multiple conference streams and a free expo filled with the latest HR solutions and innovations, the two-day event is a must for anyone in business and workforce management in this part of the world.
The conference takes place on May 9 and 10 next year, at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. For more information, and early bird registration deals, visit: www.hrsummit.com.sg/