Putting the title another way, are the results you realize from your HR function because of something someone suggests or are they the outcome of a legitimate business need established by proper research? Does your HR have the skills to determine and act on that business need?
Once upon a time, we saw HR introduce throwing around fish to accomplish teamwork, talk about relocating cheese to address change management, create seating charts on buses and other forms of mass transit to define the strategic direction of a great company. We can toss hundreds of other ideas, created by everything from creative writers to University Professors trying to make a buck with a published book. The books themselves were interesting. Some of them were incredibly valid…but not for every organization where some member of management or HR read them.
Measurement of successful activity came about by actually counting activities being initiated, how many hours were devoted to them, how many employees were trained, etc. We counted and counted. Once all that counting was finished, everyone sat back and said: “Look what we did.” And nothing changed. Money was spent, time was utilized and people were kept busy. HR said we did good, Executive leadership scratched its head and wondered what happened. No one could demonstrate any kind of ROI or improvement in profit. HR complained they wanted a “seat at the table.” It didn’t happen. Top Leadership thought that was the best HR could do but insisted, rightfully so, that it wasn’t enough to drive the business and that seat at the table wasn’t yet earned.
So how should HR earn that?
It comes from focusing NOT on a traditional approach to new ideas driven by popular trends or buzz expressions (engagement comes to mind). It should come from using a needs/results focus. This will only happen through competency upgrades of existing HR staff or replacement. In short, HR must:
- Understand business
- Understand finance and business math (ROI, Cost-Benefit Analysis, etc)
- Understand needs analysis
- Understand basic measuring and operating techniques like Six Sigma, PDCA, Lean, etc.
Yet it doesn’t all fall on HR. It must also include management. Just because it involves humans or the workforce, doesn’t mean that only HR should do it. In fact, HR is the subject matter expert and facilitator, management is the executor. As a result, these initiatives must only be started when a legitimate business need is established. Never should it be because someone went to a seminar and…, or they read a book, or…
This requires that the few programs now being invested in are more thoroughly reviewed, revised, dropped, and restarted, as appropriate. The ultimate impact of what HR does is no longer measured in volume but should be measured based on their impact to the bottom line. This would require HR activities to be seen as an investment and not as a cost. If the ROI cannot be articulated, then rarely should it be undertaken.
This, going back to our 4 key competencies, require that HR understand how the business operates.
Being able to accomplish these things requires a greater level of knowledge, skill, and ability in a company’s HR team. As a result, the old belief systems that claimed in order to work in HR you must want to work with and for people, like people, and that the primary purpose of the role is to advocate for people, need to be reexamined. Again I go back to the 4 key competencies. Does your HR team possess them? Can they learn them? If not can you replace them?
Too many businesses would rather hire a cookie cutter of the former incumbent. That includes requiring they come from the same industry, have the exact same experiences and look/act so much like the former incumbent that all the search outcome accomplishes is the ability to continue doing the same things they were doing before; while expecting different results.
HR is a business function that has the ability to be the most important leadership role the company has, with the exception of the CEO. Yet business continues to hire HR people who cannot articulate or demonstrate their abilities with the above 4 competencies.
So how should you find your new HR Professionals and Leadership?
Certainly, they should have the requisite substantive and quantifiable experience, i.e., compensation, benefits, organizational development, recruiting, etc. What is equally if not more important is what they have accomplished for a business. You are wasting your time and ignoring an opportunity if you primarily concern yourself with years of experience, industry background and what the candidate was responsible for. Instead, ignore those things as they are unimportant artificial filters of LIMITED OR NO VALUE. Instead, focus on:
- Can they properly identify the business issue?
- Can they mathematically articulate the results that they have accomplished?
- Can they explain how they accomplished it including what worked and what did not?
- Can they express their knowledge of the business and how what they accomplished help drive the business?
If all you are concerned about is whether or not they come from the exact same industry as you, their years of experience fit neatly into a window (3-5, 7-10 for example) and they are nice to be around, then you haven’t grasped the potential of exactly what a business focused HR function can accomplish for you. You need to focus on what truly adds value to your business or all you will have is paperwork transactions.
Your workforce is the only true market differentiator your business has. Everyone else faces the same challenges from weather, materials, laws and similar external issues. It is your workforce that will create the product and services that place your head and shoulders above the competition. It is a good idea to get the best skilled among your HR to help them accomplish that. It is all up to you.