For the second year in a row, Westminster Business School is very proud to announce that Professor Vlatka Hlupic has once again been nominated as ‘one of the most influential HR thinkers’ by HR Magazine. Vlatka’s professional portfolio at Westminster is impressive and alongside her role as Director of the Emergent Leadership and Development research group, Vlatka also runs the Westminster MBA Personal and Professional module. Outside of the university, Vlatka has collected various accolades, winning the CMI Management Articles of the Year Award, and the Croatian Woman of Influence Award (Business category); other nominations include being shortlisted for the CMI Management Book of the Year Award, for the Thinkers50 Guru Radar, “Ideas to practice” Award and for the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. Vlatka has also authored the acclaimed book The Management Shift, listed by Forbes as one of the top eight business books in 2014 and is a prominent, management consultant and Board adviser.
Following this most recent nomination by HR Magazine, we caught up with Vlatka to find out about her reaction to the nomination and to learn more about why she chose a career in change management.
Can you tell us about the award and what winning it means to you?
The prestigious Top 30 list of the Most Influential HR Thinkers in the world was compiled by HR Magazine. The awards were based on a combination of nominations from readers for the work that had inspired and had the most impact on how they approach their role; research was conducted by Ashridge Business School and input was given by an expert panel of executive head-hunters and HR Director readers. The nominated candidates were judged according to personal influence, practical relevance, visibility, originality, and influence during the past year. This is the second year that I have been included on this distinguished list. This year I am ranked at the 14th place, moving from the 27th place in 2015.
I am delighted and honoured to have my work recognised in this way. I feel extremely proud to be part of this prestigious global community of leading HR thinkers.
Why did you choose HR? What has motivated you to pursue this path?
I actually have a very interdisciplinary background. Some years ago I shifted from being a computer scientist to behavioural scientist because of my passion for people, and desire for making organisations more human and making the world a better place. That is why majority of my work now is HR related.
I have seen in many companies over-controlling management styles and systems that employees find stifling and demotivating. Companies need a better understanding of human psychology and motivation. I call it humanising management – treating people with respect, and distributing power and decision-making. The results, in terms of performance and success, can be astonishing. That is why I wrote the book The Management Shift.
Helping individuals, companies and society create happier, more purposeful and successful workplaces is my passion – it’s my life purpose. It gives me drive, energy and motivation, and it is hugely satisfying to see the practical impact of my ideas.
Can you tell us about your current research and how this fits in with present management thinking?
I am currently researching the mindset of CEOs and their strategies for humanising organisations and improving workplace performance.
At the moment I am writing a new book that will summarise this research and provide an insight into the mindsets and leadership styles of 50 CEOs in some of the world’s most successful companies. This new book will provide further practical lessons for other organisations to make the shift towards more humanised ways of working.
This fits very well with present management thinking, as a growing number of organisations, business leaders and leading management thinkers are voicing the need for the new, more human and purposeful management practices.
What do you think is the biggest challenge to HR over the next five years?
I think one of the biggest challenges for the HR profession is dealing with outdated leadership and management styles, rigid mindsets and organisational cultures that are too hierarchical, orderly and controlling. This creates the misalignment with the nature of current business environments which are complex, dynamic and volatile, requiring agile and fluid organisational structures and mindsets that foster innovation, creativity, engagement and performance.
What advice would you give to other academics who hope to bridge the gap between academia and practice?
My advice would be: always try to find real problems to work on and try to apply your models, frameworks and tools to the real world of business. Encourage students you supervise to find real life case studies to work on. Present your work at events attended by both academics and practitioners, develop writing skills so you can communicate your messages to both academics and practitioners, look for both academic and practitioner focused outlets for publication and most important of all, find your passion and purpose to make a a positive difference to the real world of business and pursue it persistently.
Do you have any interesting engagements coming up & what is your next goal?
I feel very privileged with all my engagements. Some of the forthcoming ones include speaking at the FT Live event on “Tackling the Productivity Challenge” on 13 October 2016, speaking on “HR and Technology” for the Westminster Business Forum event organised for senior Government officials, and attending the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna in November.
My next immediate goal is to complete my next book as soon as practicable, and to continue sharing my ideas at speaking engagements. Last but not least, my aim is to keep spreading the ripples with my work and continue my effort to make this world a better place.
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