Wayne Gretzky, perhaps the greatest hockey player of all time, was asked the “secret” of his success. He said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
Assessment, anticipation, positioning, and timing—all hallmarks of Gretzky’s game—are attributes that serve human resources professionals well. If the puck represents organizational direction, where is it headed, and where does it need to be to reach its intended destination? Where and when will people need to be positioned relative to the organization’s direction? What skills will they need? How will they work together to achieve the organization’s goals? How will the organization ensure workforce readiness, viability, and sustainability? What obstacles, challenges, and opportunities regarding the environment and the competition need to be taken into account to develop a winning human-capital strategy?
Beyond legal compliance and managing the life cycle of the employee, human resources professionals create the most value when they understand their business so well, they can translate organizational direction into human capital requirements and help develop human-capital strategies. The ability to assess “the field of play” and see how strategy, structure, systems, and people align to build capacity and get results separates great HR professionals from the merely good.
Opportunities and risks are manifold. Changing demographics, knowledge transfer, generations in the workforce, diversity, globalization, risk management, the impact of technology and data, and other factors compete for our attention every day. Human resources professionals who can assess and anticipate relevant elements and connect them to organizational direction and goals will be invaluable. Like Gretzky, we make the most important contribution when we help our organizations play “where the puck is going to be.”