We have come a long way since the article, “Why I Hate HR” by Keith B. Hammond in Fast Company in 2005. But, evidence suggests that we have not learned a lot on the way. The perceptions of HR have not moved much.
That is a real shame. My own experience of over four decades working in and for HR has shown that HR is a profession verging on being a vocation - it has many immensely passionate and knowledgeable professionals.
So, why the continued question over HR’s value?
To address the issue of the caliber of management and leadership, HR professionals need to become executives! They need to do their homework; yes, consult; but, then take responsibility and make a professional decisioné then, fight for it to be adopted
In 2018, I wrote an article here, “The Capability Question” and challenged HR professionals to remember the six contributions that they must make to their respective organizations in order to achieve or sustain credibility:
- Ensure a secure talent pipeline
- Maximize performance and productivity
- Accelerate, deepen, and broaden development
- Optimize HR investment
- HR Team development to keep up-to-date
- Ensure compliance
But, I see so many HR professionals continually distracted by populist ideas, demands for simplification (or trivialization), or a focus exclusively on transactional issues.
Some of the most intelligent and evidence-based comments about HR since that Fast Company article have come from Josh Bersin. As far back as 2014, he pointed out, explained, and justified the need for greater development of HR professionals. My own observations, experience, and research concur.
Back in 2017, I wrote here about, “The Technology Challenge for HR.” In that article, I listed the five non-HR skills that HR professionals need in order to succeed now and for the foreseeable future. In summary, these are:
Great HR leaders:
- Look out for and spot new technologies, and approach them with an open but curious mind;
- Understand the analytical power and the behavior engineering power of new technologies;
- Hold themselves accountable for determining the right technology to use. They don’t abdicate that responsibility to IT or Procurement.
Great HR leaders don’t merely look backward or extrapolate. They use analytics to predict and/or to test unproven hypotheses about how human performance and development can be enhanced.
Great HR leaders understand the very essence of their respective organizations, how they work, and how they generate and utilize the funds and resources to survive and grow. They understand, and they are able to prove, the impact of changes they propose or reject.
Great HR leaders believe that HR can be a leader in the development of organizational strategy, not merely subservient to it. They fight against demands to trivialize and to implement merely what is popular. And, they fight for what they know and can prove is best for the organization.
Great HR leaders create powerful business cases and obtain appropriate air-time to present them. Through personal presence, strong relationships and credibility with their stakeholders, and excellent persuasion and negotiation skills, they achieve buy-in and commitment.
All of the above require HR professionals to engage in planned, practical, and continuous personal development. But, achieving suitable skill levels in those skills amplifies the impact and value of the technical HR skills they already have.
Today, one of the hottest topics is, “The importance of the employee experience.” The employee experience is the aggregate of the thousands of brief, transient interactions that each employee experiences every week between themselves, the processes they have to follow, the technology they use, and those with whom they interact (most notably their peers and their managers). If we are to optimize the employee experience, we, therefore, need to focus most attention on three processes:
- How individual and team performance is optimized every minute, hour, day, week, … not merely annually!
- How individual and team development is ensured and accelerated
- How a robust talent pipeline is created and maintained to meet short, medium, and long-term needs.
Those three processes are the very core of people-management. In 2018, I wrote another article here, “Is ‘An Employer of Choice’ Best for You?” and addressed the very topic of the employee experience. In that article, I stated, “If optimizing the Employee Experience is key to being an employer of choice, then ensuring excellence in people management must be a high priority.”
It is now quite clear that the caliber of management is the significant differentiator of sustainably successful organizations.
I have read many articles about how HR can achieve greater influence and credibility. Many argue that HR professionals need to become consultants. Would consulting skills help? Of course. Are consulting skills the answer? No. Let’s be quite clear. The actions that are needed, especially radical changes to how managers are appointed and developed, will almost never be asked for by those in senior non-HR management roles.
To address the issue of the caliber of management and leadership, HR professionals need to become executives! They need to do their homework; yes, consult; but, then take responsibility and make a professional decision … then, fight for it to be adopted.
Great HR leaders don't merely look backward or extrapolate. they use analytics to predict and/or to test unproven hypotheses about how human performance and development can be enhanced
Most importantly, they need to:
- Understand the critical importance and urgency of addressing the management challenge;
- Stop using people-management as a reward for excellence at something else;
- Find ways to reward technical excellence differently;
- Have criteria for appointment to people-management positions that include (i) demonstrated people-management potential, (ii) genuine commitment to a career in people-management, (iii) commitment to the organization and continuous development, (iv) support from others who have worked with them;
- Ensure that suitable training is provided before the appointment; that a buddy/mentor is assigned during ramp-up time; and that on-going development is mandatory;
- Ensure that managers are held accountable for the employee experiences of their staff.
- The future of HR?
- HR professionals must focus on the SIX critical contributions so that they can prove their worth;
- HR professionals must develop the FIVE complementary skills to equip them to play a proactive and strategic role;
- HR professionals must implement contemporary and effective models of the THREE critical processes to ensure maximum productivity and effectiveness;
- HR professionals must address the ONE most significant factor of all, the caliber of management and leadership.
6531 - challenging, potentially exciting, but no-doubt rewarding!