Monday, June 21, 2010

Can HR be Strategic Without C-Level Support?



I read one of the best blog posts last week, that I have read in a long time.  Bill Taylor, at the Harvard Business  Review blog wrote, Why We (Shouldn't) Hate HR.   He recounts the infamous Fast Company article, Why We Hate HR with a totally new perspective.  (One that I happen to agree with).   One of my favorite quotes from his post is:

As this provocative essay approaches its fifth anniversary, perhaps it's time to change the debate. The real problem, I'd submit, isn't that HR executives aren't financially savvy enough, or too focused on delivering programs rather than enhancing value, or unable to conduct themselves as the equals of the traditional power players in the organization — all points the original essay makes. The real problem is that too many organizations aren't as demanding, as rigorous, as creative about the human element in business as they are about finance, marketing, and R&D. If companies and their CEOs aren't serious about the people side of their organizations, how can we expect HR people in those organizations to play as a serious a role as we (and they) want them to play?
Recently, I have seen the situation described above play out in living color.  You can TALK about employees being an "asset" or a "competitive advantage" but if you don't put your money where your mouth is..then it is just that...TALK!

Today, I had the privilege and honor to speak to 140 HR individuals in transition in the Atlanta area for SHRM-Atlanta's HR Helping HR program.  We had a room full of very intelligent, motivated HR professionals.  I was discussing the trends that I see in HR and we began talking about Mr. Taylor's comments.  Everyone in the room agreed that there is a shared responsibility for an HR department to be strategic:

1) The HR professionals have to have the competencies to pull it off AND
2) The C-Suite has to have the vision and support the effort to make resources available

What are your thoughts on Bill Taylor's article?  Agree or Disagree?

5 comments:

Barbara A Hughes said...

Couldn't agree with you (or Bill Taylor) more, Cathy. We are STILL treating intellectual capital and intangible assets as though they are liabilities, just because a 500 year old accounting system treats them as such. That includes our workforce, the engine that will drive innovation and process improvements and customer experiences.
Somehow, the message is not getting to the people with the spreadsheets. I guess we have to continue to beat the tin drum loudly that People Matter.
Despite the unemployment rate, as you have said in presentations, the dearth of talent is only going to get worse as more highly technical and creative jobs come on stream.
I'm betting that some C's DO get it and they are the ones who will be running the successful companies over the next decade. The best talent will seek out those companies and the others will fade away.

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR said...

I think this is dead on. If the C-suite does not expect or demand that HR make a strategic impact then it will not occur. Individuals within the department may think strategically, they may plan strategically, and they may talk strategically but if the CEO does not listen or embrace HR's work STRATEGIC is not going to happen.

blank said...

Cathy,

Well said.

Six years ago, I started off with a bang at the C suite level, rolling out ambituious turnaround HR projects. I was riding mighty high on my horse, without a clue over what I was missing, in reading the undercurrents that would cause my downfall. Yep, all the talks at the C suite don't mean damn if the "walk the sincere talk" is missing. I have come to realise pseudo committment is worse than no committment. The former at least tells you that leadership is not ready. But to feint support for HR in the change efforts really sucks.

When will they ever "get it". I am sick and tired of seeing HR people filling the HR seminar. It should be the bloody CEOs and BODs.

This morning I gave a mouthful to a GM who said that one of his guys who had called sick to often due to diabetes, a LIABILITY!.

This is the kind of morons we have running operations.

Sorry, if I sounded foul. Well, that's how I feel towards techies who treat people like doormats.

Perhaps, something dramatic should happen to make those C suite guys to take notice that they need to transcend beyond the hypocritical rhetoric on HR and convert they talk into real actions.

blank said...

Cathy,

Well said.

Six years ago, I started off with a bang at the C suite level, rolling out ambituious turnaround HR projects. I was riding mighty high on my horse, without a clue over what I was missing, in reading the undercurrents that would cause my downfall. Yep, all the talks at the C suite don't mean damn if the "walk the sincere talk" is missing. I have come to realise pseudo committment is worse than no committment. The former at least tells you that leadership is not ready. But to feint support for HR in the change efforts really sucks.

When will they ever "get it". I am sick and tired of seeing HR people filling the HR seminar. It should be the bloody CEOs and BODs.

This morning I gave a mouthful to a GM who said that one of his guys who had called sick to often due to diabetes, a LIABILITY!.

This is the kind of morons we have running operations.

Sorry, if I sounded foul. Well, that's how I feel towards techies who treat people like doormats.

Perhaps, something dramatic should happen to make those C suite guys to take notice that they need to transcend beyond the hypocritical rhetoric on HR and convert they talk into real actions.

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR said...

Thnaks so much for your comment. I feel your frustrations and I ahve been through them myself. I believe we as HR professionals have to try and gauge potential organizations we want to work with their level of people commitment. By asking some really tough questions on the front end perhaps we can do better at our own due dilegence. (I am spekaing from my own personal experience.) And then, perhaps we can be more educational about this is a new economy and we aren't making widgets anymore. Our product is our people and we need to treat them with care. I wish I had the answer, but I do so more and more hopping on the band wagon post recession...maybe that was an eye opener!

Thanks for reading!