Thursday, March 21, 2013

How HR Gets in its Own Way of Being Awesome

I have been delivering many sessions, panels, classes, workshops and discussions regarding HR's journey to becoming what it thinks it should be...a true business partner.  (my word is Business Leader)

I always pose the question, "what are some roadblocks for you (HR) in becoming ____________.  (Fill in the blank with awesome, valuable, strategic, effective business partner, business leader, etc.)

Here is what I have been receiving as answers:

1. I don't have the executive support
2. I don't have the resources (technology, budget)
3. My staff is not strategic (skills)
4. My managers don't buy in to it, they think they will have more work
5. I don't have time
6. I can't do that stuff, I am busy doing _______________.  (employee relations, payroll, benefits, etc.)
7. Our employees need hand holding
8. I have to be involved in all employee relations issues
9. It's a difficult change and the business is not ready
10. A different HR model is difficult to get used to (generalist, specialist, support center)

The bottom line is this.  IF HR can't show how it impacts the bottom line and how what they do is a critical function of the business then the game is over.  It's hard to draw a line from processing paychecks to a result.  (I know getting paid is important, let a third party do that)

Think about these activities for a moment:

1) HR having the ability to identify competencies that drive results in the organization and develop those competencies rather than a generic set from the talent management system.
2) HR having the ability to predict the success of HR expenditures before the check is written.
3) HR having the ability to predict and identify those high performers that contribute most to the bottom line, that are at risk for leaving.
4) HR having the ability to create a high performer profile that predicts what a successful candidate "looks" like in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities.
5) HR having the ability to lead strategic execution to the point of cascading goals all the way down to the front line where execution is critical.

Now, those things above are what I would rather be doing in HR.  All of the roadblocks listed earlier can be overcome by educating leaders and managers on "what could be." Another tool to use, is creating a business case for a different HR model.  This task in not an easy one but leaders are used to business cases that speak the language of the business.   It's worth the effort and trust me, it's a lot funner than processing paychecks and benefits forms.

Another thing HR is going to have to do is this...let go.  Yes, you heard it from the biggest control freak on the planet.  So what, if you don't sit in every routine termination.  So what, if you don't sign every routine disciplinary form for attendance issues.  Who Cares?

I do see a shift...I have seen some bright HR professionals who are making a difference everyday in their organizations, we just need more people on that train.  As businesses deal with change and strategic shifts at a faster and faster pace, what a great time for HR to jump in head first.

How have you made the transition from transactional to strategic?  What were your roadblocks?


Bruce Lewin said...

HR needs to find a process that helps the business as a whole and managers in particular better manage their people.

Anything that provides reliable predictions about team members and actionable information that improves decision making is likely to have a good shot at making HR awesome.

By extension, such a process is likely to resolve half, if not all of the points in your list.

The bottom line is this. IF HR can't show how it impacts the bottom line and how what they do is a critical function of the business then the game is over.

Exactly - the question is how to make that impact in a consistent and scalable fashion...

Unknown said...

Like you said in your first statement..there has to be a process to make it scalable.

Thanks Bruce, for reading and commenting!!


Bruce Lewin said...

Hi Cathy, I've added some thoughts as to what properties this scalable process might have here - A Physics of People and The 5 Criteria to Transform Business.

The piece is probably a bit long and too abstract but the 5 criteria halfway down get to the heart of things...

1. Simple to Explain – Can the benefits be communicated and understood quickly and easily?
2. Scalable and Predictable – Can the approach and it’s recommended actions be repeated with reliable results?
3. Changes to People’s Jobs – Do people learn new processes or new methods of working?
4. A Return on Investment – Does the approach help make or save money?
5. External Validation – Are there endorsements from researchers, professional bodies or other companies?

Have you come across anything that ticks all 5 in the HR space, because I'm still looking, despite the fact there are examples in virtually all the other functions/departments in business.

Unknown said...


Thanks for the link to the article, I will read that very soon. But to your 5 point, I absolutely agree that HR has not ticked all 5 off....especially #4.

I feel like that is why we got stuck in the last decade about talking about being strategic, and now we are having to actually do that. There are many examples of companies that have made that leap and been successful that can show ROI after the fact, but as a practice HR has a hard time of creating the business case/ROI.

I love this discussion...would you like to be a guest blogger?