Avengers Assemble! – HR Edition

If you’ve seen Joss Whedon’s latest success film ‘The Avengers’ you probably noticed how the main characters end up working together to face challenges head on and succeed in conquering them in their own … ahem ‘unique’ way. It’s a great movie, with a lesson for business it seems!

Surprisingly, this is not unlike business. Every company, both large multinationals and small business owners alike need to have a so-called ‘dream team’. For the sake of the analogy, I’ll call them ‘Company Avengers’ from now on. Why do we need such ‘superheroes’ you ask? Here’s an easy answer for you: Because we face superhuman challenges in business today. Just think about the current economic and financial climate, corporate social responsibility, climate change, … The list goes on and on.

You often hear the phrase ‘People are your greatest asset’ which is of course true and I’m glad that more and more businesses start to realize this (some faster than others). This HR-catchphrase is true for all levels of employees in your business. But there is a core group for which this phrase rings even truer.

In essence, a business is a group of people working towards one or more goals. Who sets these goals and targets? Who points everyone in the right direction? Who takes the tough decisions when necessary? The Company Avengers of course! Obviously, these people are centered in high or upper level management but this analogy can be applied to smaller projects or teams as well. I will not go into the details of identifying or assessing which individuals in your senior management are your personals ‘Avengers’, I’ll leave that to people with more experience on the matter.

I will however describe what profiles or characteristics these people have and what role HR plays in finding, retaining these people, and help translate their vision and guidance into reality

In essence, your team of ‘Avengers’ consists of people that are driven by an unyielding, almost fanatical commitment to reach goals to achieve mutual benefit. They channel this commitment through their own field of expertise and draw from many tools in order to advance the company as a whole. A dream team like this should be diverse and have people with expertise in various fields of expertise, varying in age and political conviction.

To draw on the ‘Avengers’ analogy further, here’s a breakdown of personalities you could (and should?) have in your dream team:

Steve Rogers/Captain America (idealist): This person is an idealist. He has the grand idea or mission statement that needs to be executed; only he doesn’t have the know-how or expertise to do so.

Tony Stark/Iron Man (the brain):  Can also be described as ‘the brain’. These are people that have a knack for translating ideas in strategies. He’s also the most light-hearted of your Avengers. His quick wit, brain and other skills are a great asset to the team.

Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (the looks): People with the right ‘looks’. They carry out the right image to all the stakeholders (both internal and external). (The analogy is far-fetched but I had to make it work …)

Bruce Banner/The Hulk (the muscle): Paired with the brains of the team, this person represents ‘the muscle’. Essentially, these are the people who get things done! They take huge workloads upon themselves and seem to thrive under all the pressure. They are not afraid to tackle any obstacle they com a across.

Nick Fury (the motivator): This person serves as the facilitator of the group. He’s the one motivating the team when needed and has a knack for finding the right pressure points to stimulate others.

Agent Phil Coulson (the binding agent): This type of person is very ‘down to earth’; they are both Clark Kent and Superman at once, swooping in wearing shirt and tie or blouse. They can work well in just about any situation laid out before them. Together with the facilitator he has the people skills to connect team members and hold them together.

That’s enough of the Avengers-analogy I believe. Let’s examine what role HR plays in this story. In essence, HR has a very important part to play in this story. Our primary goal is to facilitate the whole operation. We are the ones with the skills and expertise to hire, train, motivate and keep the right people for the right job/role. We enable the company, through good conduct and strong principles, to carry out the grand ideas and missions that the idealists in upper level management lay before the employees.

The implementation of a business strategy demands an optimal cooperation with the human work force. This is where the term ‘strategic HR’ comes into the picture. We’ve all read about it on websites, in books and HR magazines. Honestly, I believe that the term is used too loosely. Successful strategy implementation is an often overwhelming task. It’s one thing to get management on board, but motivating and creating the right culture for employees to get them to believe in their employer and strategy.

To be quite frank, this is a huge responsibility for the HR-team. One thing that we must remember at all times is this iconic quote from a movie: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. And that, ladies and gentlemen is why I wrote this article. To remind you all that we have a major responsibility, not only to others but to ourselves, to ensure that (y)our company is heading in the right direction.

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