Monday, March 16, 2009

Here we go again....

The last time an article caused a big uproar in the HR community was the infamous 2005 Fast Company article, "Why We Hate HR."  I made that required reading in all my HR classes at the time. 

Well today we have the blogosphere and Twitterville, discussing the latest article about HR, at, "Memo to CFO's: Don't Trust HR."  Yikes!

Well I see some very similar themes in both articles regarding our short comings as a profession:
1) Business "savviness"
2) Analytical ability
3) Performance Management

I do agree with those listed above, in general.  I say that because as an HR consultant and professor I do meet a lot of HR professionals.  I will say that I think there has been a change in the last few years though.  I have met some extremely talented HR professionals that really "get it" and "get it done."  For example, we have a client in manufacturing that just hired a new HR Manager.  This manager understands manufacturing and adds value on a daily basis assisting the CEO and Executive Team with sales process improvements, lean principles to enhance efficiency and troubleshooting late shipments to increase customer loyalty.  I think that is adding value!

I disagree with Professor Beatty regarding employee engagement and financial returns.  I believe there is a connection and there is a ton of research that supports, "Happy employees=happy customers=higher returns."  Its HR's job to figure out which employees are engaged, AND which ones are engaged plus performing and which ones are not.  The ones that are not need to be managed out of the system. 

Professor Richard Beauty, from the article suggests enlisting someone in Operations to do HR's work.  HR has the knowledge, skills and abilities to do value added work, no doubt.  By investing time into understanding business and analytics, HR can really become a trusted business partner.  I think the economy has heightened the need for this skillset as many diffcult decisions are being made and data/analytics for those decisions is in high demand. 

How do you accomplish this illusive business "savviness" and analytic ability?  All of these articles are quick to point of the deficiencies but rarely offer any are some off the top of my head:

1) Get an MBA if you are serious about HR and understanding the business
2) Spend time on other parts of the organization learning sales, marketing, accounting, etc.
3) Report to a CFO
4) Take classes in analytics or statistics

I think we are at a time in our profession, where we have to JUST DO IT!  We need to up our skills sets and take this challenge head on.  Maybe then we can stop discussing the table and these articles!!

What are your thoughts? 


Anonymous said...

Thought from the management side. There isn't a one size fits all approach. Seems like each firm needs to define the specific HR needs and focus on filling that need. The issue between HR and mgt is often communication, meaning lack of it. If HR is on the same page related to priority and goals, things go a lot more smoothly and everyone works toward the same end. Frustration often stems from finding the balance between mgt's top priorities and HR's top priorities.

Anonymous said...

Really interesting response to the article on HR.
(1) Has the perception of HR really changed since the scathing Fast Company Article? There are always pockets of excellence, but on the whole I think the answer is No.
(2) If your solutions are carried out then we will be reading less articles like these in 2013. I think "report to a CFO" is interesting - shouldn't that be CEO?

Denise Cooper said...

Ben you sound like a nice guy. So don't take offense with my comments. My opinion is your comments are representative of the problem. Competing priorities - bull hockey! HR's priority is the business' priority and if it isn't then what are they there for!
The CFO article is skewed to help sell the professors book but the basic premise he speaks from is true. You'd fire a line or finance manager if they ran their function knowing as little about finance, analytics and the business as the typical HR professional. You'd fire them and HR would be the first to yell for their head.

Here's something to think about. Go ask your HR contact when was the last time they took their own self development seriously. I'm not talking about going to SHRM and learning the latest legal updates. I'm talking about learning how to be a leader; how to inspire others to follow a course of action that will take the business to the next level.
Ben, if you're an executive are you demanding from HR the same level of rigor and logic that you demand from the CFO, CIO, Operations, or Sales? If not, why not?
There are HR professionals who can give you that level of value added information. But if you don't expect it then you won't get it.

As a function, HR is locked in a self fulfilling cycle... we're on the defensive and believe that's where we have to remain.
Cathy get your readers to start a revolt. Each reader should demand that their HR professional give them more. Each line manager take the initiative to learn more about how to get the most out of the collective talent in your organization.
If your HR professional can't answer those questions go outside and find someone who can.
HR can deliver value but only if it is an expectation that it does so.

Unknown said...

Denise, Ben and Andy:

Thanks for the comments. I recently spoke at a SHRM event here in Atlanta and of coarse, the article was mentioned. I belive you all have many good points.

Andy, my comment regarding reporting to a CEO was kinda tonque in check, but there is some validity to that...I learned more about analytics and the business when I reported to a CFO as an HR Director. So, I knmow we want to report to the CEO but in terms of learning cool stuff...the CFO I reported to was great.

Denise...I hope I am on a sorta revolt. I try very hard to teach, speak and write about HR's role, especially now. I think we are at a very important crossroads due to the economy...HR can deliver or find another career.

Ben, communications are key, expectations are important., I would say less communicating and more CONVERSATIONS....very different.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

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