Tag Archives: Human Resources

Is Short Term Executive Thinking a Problem?

7 Aug

All executives, and most other employees, are judged on a daily basis by what they are producing and particularly results measured against goals contributing to achievement of the business plan.  In a fairly large organization, metrics may be tracked on a daily basis within an operating division and at head offices far away.  Everyone is watching to see whether the numbers will be met today, this month, this quarter, this year.

Sustainability and working towards the future is critical, in principle, but results today, for most individuals, are what matters for survival and personal advantage.

Many executives, particularly CEOs and those responsible for Sales, may turn over frequently.  No matter who is the leader of the pack today, it is inevitable that for most, their days are numbered. New stars will be welcomed to take their place and yesterday’s heroes will be out the door and poised to be the hope of tomorrow at another organization, as the cycle repeats.

The executive knows he/she has to get results today and knows that the opportunity to dazzle an organization and, possibly, within an industry is limited.  Because of that, the focus is on results NOW, and at all costs and within his/her business lifetime.  These high profile executives are generally very smart people who understand long term planning and long term opportunity very well.  They can talk about it, prepare long term plans and projections, but if they are unlikely to be around to see it happen, all the focus has to be on results today and within the time frame of the current plan.

Of course, the executives all have their separate goals based on their specialty areas (e.g. Sales, Manufacturing) and the CEO counts on them all being achieved in order to meet business plan goals for the total organization. It is probably well understood that optimum results of one executive can often be at the expense of another.

Are they – the executive team – all pulling together in the same direction?  Does overall corporate success by superb teamwork take precedence over their individual successes in their own functional area?  That is extremely unlikely.  Their individual goals (functional and personal) come first and determine their success. They must take every action necessary to achieve them.  The VPs are working together, but not always marching under the same flag.

They may respect one-another but most likely spend significant time fighting, complaining about one another and each one doing whatever is necessary to meet his/her goals regardless of the impact on other goals and even the impact on future results.  Today is what counts, for the CEO also, who acts as referee!

How Does Human Resources Fit In?

It is not so easy.  HR is constantly told that it has to align with business goals and talk the talk of business colleagues.  If the executive relationships are somewhat dysfunctional, as I suggest, how does the VP HR determine what to align to?  HR has the vision and programs to contribute to the future, to sustainability and to contribute to productivity in many ways but do the executives really care? What do you think? Are they more interested in what HR can do for them today – to get problems and roadblocks out of the way, not the promise of great things in the future? Is it more important for HR to determine the true values and operating style of the organization and focus on responding within the real rather than pretend environment?

Should the success of most organizations be acknowledged as based primarily on the smart, day to day, and often reactive decisions of executives rather than a long term somewhat safe plan? Elements of both are essential, but how would they balance in real life? The question of executives to HR is likely to be “what can you do for me today?” rather than soliciting HR’s vision of the future.

My belief is that executives will want HR to address very practical things to help them achieve what each of them has to achieve today.  For example:

  • Hiring the right people without delay and firing people cleanly and quickly when they are no longer needed
  • Keeping the union under control (getting rid of it is generally preferred) and finding ways around limitations – similarly finding a way around restrictive and annoying legislation
  • Looking after employee problems and preferably without involving executives any more than absolutely necessary
  • Doing all the nice things to make the company look good and seem like a great employer and giving executives as much credit as possible e.g.  including them in photos and announcements and inviting them to participate in or lead high profile presentations
  • Keeping the employee records in order and making HR programs as easy as possible to comply with e.g.  performance management which should be more focused on results in real time rather than historically

If real business is often more immediate than imagined, are the standard HR approaches listed below really important to the CEO and VPs except as compliance rhetoric or in meeting formal planning requirements? For example:

  • Acting as an equal business partner and giving input to VPs about their operations and how best to achieve results
  • Being too proactive, with HR initiatives that may theoretically bring great results, but not helping achieve goals today or within the foreseeable future
  • Reminding executives that negative actions today can possibly help immediate results, but are likely to have a backlash in a year or so.

Do you think that executives are looking for that type of support? Are they seeking HR words of wisdom or a dynamic HR able to respond to issues and make things happen quickly to support the organization in real time? Do you believe that the executive short term thinking I describe is reality (for survival) and if so should it be more openly acknowledged? Do executives need HR help consistent with their business challenges today, largely leaving the future to take care of itself? 

What do you think? Thank you for your interest.  I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

Should We Blame Employees, Managers or HR for Poor Performance?

3 Aug

It really is confusing.  In recent discussions, there has been considerable emphasis placed on managers not being effective in reviewing the performance of their employees.  They are not diligent in following the steps of HR performance management programs and particularly ongoing communication with employees between formal reviews.

HR is often distrustful of managers, but once the managers complete their employee evaluations, we become their best supporters.  If an employee complains about an evaluation, most of the time we support the manager, unless the unfairness is too blatant.

It is logical that we should focus on managers and supervisors, as their effectiveness directly affects large numbers of employees reporting to them. In some respects, however, they can only be as effective as the tools we (HR) provide them with. If our HR performance management program is so excellent, we should take every action to ensure it is followed, but generally, we don’t.  Very often, we focus on employees as though they are the ones at fault and inherently lazy unless prodded. We constantly devise new initiatives to stimulate employees to do their best and become “engaged” but do managers/supervisors (and HR) really support employee success by setting the best example? Is our performance theory too often based on what we say rather than what we do?

Does the manager’s boss care whether the manager follows the HR performance management program diligently?  It is unlikely, as “big” bosses are not likely to be any better or any more committed to HR programs and principles. They are unlikely, in assessing performance of their first line managers/supervisors, to place much emphasis on how well they are following HR programs.  Is that the problem – or a major part of it?

We have developed a compelling argument that managers, by not following HR, are responsible for poor performance in their areas.  However, as we know, managers are always accountable for performance in their department, so what is the role of HR?  Is it possible that HR is indirectly responsible for some of the poor performance?

Unfortunately, HR is in a very vulnerable position.  If the same HR programs, particularly performance management, have been in place for 30 years or more and they are still not being seriously followed, there must be a problem.   Most HR programs have become increasingly sophisticated and are aligned to current theory and technical expertise, but that does not seem, in the case of performance management, to have helped.  Could it be that although the set-up and adaption of the program is technologically impressive, the program content and style remains seriously outdated and geared to another point in time?

Perhaps managers are better at managing performance than we think.  It seems that at the same time we have been developing and building on our conventional HR program, functional managers/supervisors have become increasingly sophisticated in tracking performance within their own areas.  They have their own metrics and tracking systems and are generally able to view current performance at any critical point.  The manager can see employee results/effectiveness in real time, and his/her boss and executives can similarly be tracking the manager performance. They are all obsessed by aspects that feed directly into objectives set by the organizations rather than historical HR criteria.  The manager’s boss cares about these numbers, the manager must also and HR must provide them with the best support in achieving what they need to achieve rather than what HR thinks they should be focusing on. If our HR performance management program has become redundant, maybe it is time for us to get together with the managers and develop something more appropriate for today and looking into the future.

For the company to be successful, the managers must be tracking relevant performance consistently and very effectively.  Probably better than trying to integrate their functional goals into our HR program (and retain control) it would be better to use some aspects of our HR program to train and expand the manager’s effectiveness in building their own performance management program.  Not forcing managers to follow a prescribed program, but to help the managers to customize their programs in the most effective way – programs that will be theirs and they will be fully accountable for.

Consistent with supporting the development of functional performance management programs, HR would take a proactive stand.  HR would support managers by providing coaching and training and collaborating as trouble-shooters should there be specific problems.  If, for example, there is a need for specific employee training, HR could develop a program and if it is available on line, all employees can benefit. In reality, I would see the HR role becoming more important rather than less important, particularly in addressing skills development needs as they occur rather than belatedly based on questionable historical analysis of employee performance after the fact.

I believe the change in focus, referred to above, would ensure that managers are fully committed to and embrace their own formally recognized program.  HR would be accepted and valued more as partners dealing with issues in real time and helping prevent poor performance during the current business cycle – rather than looking back in anger at the end of a business cycle and telling people what went wrong – when it is too late!  The technology is available to have an individual program for every employee (if desired) and we must embrace the potential application of available technology.

What do you think? I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

 


Between Life and Death at the Mystical Regatta!

1 Aug

It is the end of July and I am writing this from Sunnybrook Hospital just prior to being discharged. I referred to the waterway and regatta in the earlier summary below and emphasize it again as the context seems to strengthen rather than become more remote. My earlier hospital illusions seem to coexist very nicely with the reality I am now very aware of. Sunny brook is not set on a waterway hosting regattas, but after five admissions in 2015, the concept of being supported and driven positively forward by professional teams and great people in smooth gliding boats/canoes seems so close to the truth – wonderful teams of medical staff, friends, family and so many others who have helped my during this difficult time. My sincere thanks to you all!

During this medical stay I benefitted from a medical procedure that, hopefully, should allow me to return home on a more permanent basis and resume my life and relationships in a more positive way rather than too often from a hospital bed. I look forward to resuming normal communications and catching up with so many kind people who have contacted me but (offline) I have been unable to respond to. Thank you everyone and looking forward to chatting!

 

LIFE OR DEATH – THE MOMENT OF TRUTH!

Sometimes the moment of truth is not truth at all – at least in the conventional sense. My claim to a 2015 moment of truth was when I died in the corridor of Sunnybrook hospital after being rushed in by ambulance. The moment of truth outcome was determined by superb medical staff that revived me and supported me as I continued to hover between life and death and gradually improved.

Some people asked later what it was like to be technically dead for that short period. I could not respond as I only learned later about what happened. I do not think I saw any white light (as often reported) as I walked from the land of the living to meet my ancestors. I remember nothing except at some point I announced that I could see my mother. That declaration had an eerie effect on my wife and others present, but was not really obscure as my mother often appeared in dreams and these early hospital days in February 2015 (coldest February on record) were dominated by dreams and illusions.

It was a strange experience, particularly at first, hovering between consciousness and the deepest level of sedation and governed by dreams that felt real but were not. The dreams provided, it seems, acceptable explanations about what was happening. They were not reality, but to this day continue to feel real, like an alternative reality that accompanied, protected and strengthened me.

The strangest persistent delusion was about the location of the hospital. It was actually only about 10 minutes from our home, but in my mind it was remote on a waterway that was somehow linked by treaty to Norway and although freezing, still host to water sports at an annual regatta. In an earlier dream flashback, I recalled attending voluntarily on an earlier occasion – an interesting form of authentication. My hospital room (in my mind) was in a towering building overlooking the waterway.

For a considerable time I was not aware that I was in hospital. I generally believed I was located on the waterway mentioned above. The scenarios seemed to start to merge from the time I started to switch from intravenous to solid food. I was introduced to my meal (green, brown and white pureed mounds) by a nurse (real) at one of the outer buildings. I was amazed and believed that this waterway territory must provide free meals to anyone in the region. I asked whether that was true and was only told that I was entitled to free meals. At that point I was not sure how much overlap there was between reality and fantasy, but it all fitted nicely together.

The most disturbing delusion was the link I made between all the medical lines, tubes etc. I was attached to and limitations placed on my movement. In very precise terms the limitations translated into a restricted area of precisely 10 feet square within which I could freely move but not go outside. This was incredibly frustrating as in this alternative reality I could not go where I “needed” to go. Probably why it is not surprising to learn that in those early days, when I was so heavily restricted and medicated, I was fighting constantly and trying to unhook all the attachments and get out of bed.

One aspect I became aware of later was the intense spiritual support that was given to me particularly during the early days. Prayers and blessings and particularly from Christian practitioners and Tibetan Buddhists we have been close to over the years. Whatever the religion, I believe I heard the prayers – another moment of truth – and felt the collective strength steering me. I make no judgment about the relative truth of different religions, but that true caring and messages of love will always be heard. That, at least, is my moment of truth.

Certainly February 2015 was like no other month I had ever experienced. The moment of truth came with extreme consequences (life or death) and thankfully I survived. There are many moments of truth that contributed to the successful outcome. If the ambulance had not been so prompt, revival may not have been possible regardless of the skills of the medical staff. I believe the battle for survival drew on strengths from so many sources, many of which I may never fully understand but will always be thankful.

I cannot thank the staff of Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and St. John’s Cardiac Rehab enough for their support and for dealing so capably with my medical crisis. I thank all those who provided loving and spiritual support. I felt their support and prayers in a very personal and strengthening way.

My personal moments of truth drew on forms of reality (dreams and illusion) that may not have been real but were real, I believe, in mustering all the power available to meet the challenge. Now the weather has improved, I look forward to rejoining life and enjoying normal activities that I took for granted for many years. My moment of truth is the opportunity for a fresh beginning and probably greater appreciation than ever before.

Thank you everyone for helping me face my moment of truth and for supporting my confidence in our international caring society. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

 

Considering Goodwin Sands and Critical HR Change!

13 Jun

Not so long ago (maybe 5000 years) there was no sea separating Britain and France and people (presumably) could walk from Dover to Calais and stop for a meal on Goodwin Sands without  the risk of being stranded and drowning.  Today, the Goodwin Sands are a reminder as land, in the middle of the channel, that surfaces only at low tide and allows curious tourists to fleetingly tread where few people choose to tread.

There are no records from that time, but you can imagine the HR challenge when mid-channel people realized their lands were being flooded and had to choose whether to resettle in France or England. Similarly, Personnel had to choose between becoming Human Resources or ressources humaines and enjoying bland or spicy food!

How fast do people respond to major impending change? I understand the water rose gradually so the risk was not of immediate drowning. People did not have to swim to the closest shore, but noticed their lands becoming increasingly submerged and non habitable.

We can imagine that some people of the mid-channel lands, as soon as they recognized that the flooding was unstoppable, sold their belongings for whatever price, studied English or French and left as soon as possible for solid land where they could start again.  Was that smart or was that giving up? It is amazing how many of us will remain until the last moment in adverse circumstances as we are nervous about leaving what we have become accustomed to.

Many people, however, were fighters and would not accept inevitable change.  They built sea-walls, elevated their dwellings to as high as possible and resolved to fight.  Maybe they out-survived their neighbours by a hundred years or so, but having a home increasingly surrounded by water was not really preserving quality of life, but refusing to accept the need for change. We are unlikely to look back with surprise, as humankind still choose to reject reality, e.g. global warming, and cater only to short-term selfish needs with little regard for the future.

Some people refused to accept the changes that were happening and fought on, ignoring until too late the rising water. Maybe they ultimately drowned – maybe they invaded and replaced folks living on higher ground who had prepared better.

How does all this relate to Human Resources – to every aspect of our life?  It is not water that threatens most of us, but in a business environment the unstoppable flow of online information and technological know-how that can make anyone somewhat of an expert on most subjects. It can be as simple as acquiring appropriate technology with the right algorithms to explain what it all means and reach certain conclusions.

We cannot pretend change is not happening and expect our traditional HR way of doing things to endure regardless of the environment. Consider the following:

  • Many traditional HR approaches were based on the limited technological capability that existed at the time and were, of necessity, somewhat simplistic and untimely including, in particular, traditional performance management. Now we have the ability to factor in everything and develop systems, if we desire, customized for each employee and interactive in real time
  • Much HR strategy was based on our expertise on HR subjects (exclusive knowledge) that was not shared by others who were expected to defer to our “expert” HR opinions. Such humility no longer dominates and other function peers can elect to become experts in whatever interests them, based on all the online research materials available
  • Respect for “superiors” can no longer be assumed. This can reflect in family life and at work when different thinking (technologically influenced) of new generations may result in viewing earlier-age bosses and influencers as somewhat out of date, and strict hierarchical organizations (suppressing employees) similarly belonging in the past

We are being flooded by information delivered through the internet, by data collected, sorted and transmitted online and by intelligent programmed machines that can make decisions and interact, train and provide help, better than us, on multiple subjects. Is that the flood we have to be prepared for that threatens to submerge or swallow HR? If so, how can we be prepared and remain as essential to business support as in earlier days? For example:

  • We must expand HR skills consistent with today. We program the machines and make them work for us, but how well do we use them? How well do we instruct them? To what extent do they reflect the culture and needs of our organization or are they largely off-the-shelf purchased items that sound good?
  • Do we tend to try to use new technology, not to develop new approaches but to keep all the concepts, programs and processes we are comfortable with alive, but using a more efficient platform? 
  • On a day-to-day basis do we demonstrate that we can resolve problems (regardless of any technology) using our interactive/analytical HR skills and clearing the way for our business partners to proceed with their priorities without serious impediment?

Like the mid-channel fighter/survivor, we can use all the wonderful modern technology to move forward to achieve better things, rather than simply sustain what is currently in place. What we liked in the past was often the way it was because it was the best we could do, at that time, with the resources available.  We celebrated our progress and glossed over the limitations because there was little else we could do at the time. We were very happy with what we had and can continue to be happy (fulfilled) as we, with open minds, bravely move into the future as an integral part of the new world!

What do you think?  With all our enthusiasm for new technology, have we sufficiently adapted our minds to utilize it to the full potential?  Are we clinging too much to the past?  In the case of the new generations, are we clinging too much to what we are comfortable with in providing leadership although the context may be significantly different? How can we change our thinking?

Thank you for your interest.  I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS – Key to HR Success!

11 Jun

I am proud to be an EMPLOYEE RELATIONS professional – the key to trust, working together effectively and achieving mutually beneficial results!

I have had various impressive HR titles and been associated with more high fallutin aspects of Human Resources, but the magic ingredient, I believe, that holds everything together, is Employee Relations. I should make it clear that although the employees we need to relate to are often quite junior, the same principles apply to relationships at all levels, including senior management.

HR people behind the scenes can work on impressive Human Capital Management programs and initiatives, but it is Employee Relations aspects that will often determine their success.  The same program can be seen as inspiring or can be seen as more HR foolishness depending on the thought, strategy and sensitivity that goes into implementation.  The way it is communicated to management and employees will determine its credibility – whether it is seen more as HRspeak or management  gibberish or whether it is seen as something of value to be thought through and objectively considered.

Employee Relations is not a simple selling process, but more the establishment of an environment where there is trust and confidence about the motives of management when they talk about subjects and initiatives – an environment within which employees feel valued for their contribution and intelligence.

Employee Relations does not have the same acceptance as other HR functions because it is not held together by tangible facts, universally applied strategy or precise methodology and program evaluation techniques.   It is less defined than other aspects of Human Resources and as a result is more challenging for Human Resources people wishing to become Employee Relations proficient.

Employee Relations is key to the success of engagement initiatives.  Employee Relations is critical in Labor Relations – in keeping the relationship between management and bargaining unit employees strongly in place – can make a decisive difference when employees are voting to accept a negotiated package or go on strike.  Employee Relations will determine the effectiveness of our business partnership with peers – our acceptance is not based simply on how smart we are, but how smart we are in projecting our smartness and the way in which we are committed to their (functional peers) interests and working with them.

Employee Relations is the icing on the cake for almost every HR initiative – the add-on to open many doors – ultimately the key to HR acceptance – regardless of whether or not the organization style is employee friendly.

If Employee Relations is so important, how can we become more proficient?  What do you think? There are books and courses, but a very practical approach could be to spend a day, away from the normal hustle and bustle and just think, reflect and try to understand who you are dealing with and communicating with on a day-to-day basis – try to see their needs from their perspective:

  • What is most important to the average employee?  What makes them feel good?  What turns them off?  As an employee, what kinds of things encourage MY buy-in?  To what extent, when I present things to employees, do I present them in a way that would influence me to accept (and be enthusiastic) if I was the person being sold to?
  • As a business partner, how do I want other business partners to communicate with me?  What is most important?  Is the way I approach business partners the way I would want them to approach me?  Am I projecting as an equal partner or a partner providing specific services?  If I present advice about THEIR business, is it the way I would like them to offer me advice about HR?
  • When I address issues with union employees am I communicating to gain their trust and confidence in the company?  Alternatively, am I addressing them as though they are the union and tainting dialogue with negativism and possibly some contempt?
  • When we are handling situation of extreme sensitivity do we ensure that our approach is professional and sensitive while still assuming a leadership role? This could apply to sickness, death, terminations and many different types of conflict and uncertainty that could seriously affect employees if handled badly.

If you have a problem thinking through the concepts outlined above and if they do not make much sense to you, then another approach could be to explore further, possibly with a coach or mentor, someone you respect on Employee Relations matters.  Earning your Employee Relations “badge” could make all the difference between remaining a backroom HR support person (although nothing wrong with that) or, becoming a great HR leader if that is your career goal.

How important do you consider Employee Relations?  What advice do you have for HR people seeking to become more effective Employee Relations practitioners?  Do you believe it is something that can be learned?  I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Thanks,

Ian

How Can HR Empower Employees to Reach Full Potential?

16 May

This is a very interesting question as reaching full potential can mean many different things depending on the context. When a parent wants a child to meet his/her full potential, it probably reflects the values of the parent and traditionally may mean doing well at school, getting a good job, raising a nice family and other similar things. We want to be proud of the achievements of our children.

When an organization wants employees to meet their full potential, it is usually more for the benefit of the organization. Theoretically if the employee is working at a higher level, work output should be at a higher level, but that may not be the case. In striving to meet full potential, an individual may actually lose interest in his/her job. As long as the person (ignorance is bliss) thought of the job as his/her reasonable “lot in life” there would be acceptance and some engagement, but if the “I could/should be doing better” is too strong, the current job may be handled in a cursory way waiting for rightful destiny.

Expanding the concept of “full potential” further, why should HR attempt to empower employees to reach full potential and what would that mean? Here are some thoughts:

  • It could mean that the employee develops stronger values and work standards that result in more thoughtful application of the employee to the job and some continuous improvement combined with great results
  • It could mean that the employee gains a fuller understanding of life totality and starts to see employment as a very small part of life – a necessity to earn money – but in general a diminishing aspect of enlightenment. The employee could easily lose interest and transfer interest to more meaningful (his/her opinion) things

There are risks (as throughout history) in making people too aware of reality, but if the objective for HR is truly to empower employees to reach full potential, there can, I believe, be mutual benefit in a mature organization, but greatly influenced by a number of things and particularly employee expectations, including :

  • If the employee’s self-worth is increased (encouraged by HR) the person would expect to be promoted or be paid more
  • If the employee is moving towards achieving full potential, he/she would question information more and the company could not just pretend to be great communicators. There would have to be a forum for employees to intelligently and positively discuss and question company information that more commonly may be given one way in less enlightened organizations
  • If the employee is encouraged to reach full potential, there must be reasons, in an organizational context, to justify why the employee should make the additional effort
  • HR people, the teachers, are equally employees and should be equally committed to their own progression and able to give testimony why and how fulfilling full potential benefits people and should be able to give personal business examples. This may be difficult if the HR person is very young and clearly still evolving

Achieving full potential is also complicated because it is a more holistic concept than just being loyal to one function or one manager. Traditional career advancement would in many cases not give sufficient incentive and the way the company operates would have to be adapted to focus on a workforce encouraged to attain full potential. For example:

  • Company values that emphasize the commitment to employees reaching full potential. Not just words, but realistically thought through (before being a stated value) with applicable strategies
  • More open internal job postings with the good of the total organization being most important and individual managers not able to prevent employees in their function from transferring elsewhere within the organization
  • More emphasis on developmental transfers to allow progression of employees through expanded experience and understanding
  • Less emphasis on hierarchical relationship and programs (e.g. HR programs) where managers are required to judge employees. A parent/child type environment is not really conducive to an employee developing full potential as it is not logical to tell an individual how he/she must evolve
  • An environment within which TRUST is a key value and should be reflected through policies including accepting the employee’s self opinion on various subjects including performance management, attendance and acknowledgement of improvement needs on matters that may often result in discipline

What do you think? Is promoting employees to meet their full potential realistic in most organizations or does it conflict with the way most organizations operate? If it is practical, what benefit is it likely to bring? Can HR hope to succeed in promoting employee potential if other managers and particularly senior executives are not similarly committed or significantly developing their own potential?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

I Must Admit HR is Getting Better, Better all the Time!

3 May

It does not seem so long ago, maybe two or three years when HR seemed to be going through a period of great uncertainty. A lot of discussion was about why people disliked HR, why HR was not respected and why HR was not at the table. At the same time (and earlier) HR seemed troubled about HR identity and was seeking to align more closely with business partners which, in many cases, seemed to include less emphasis on people and less emphasis on the HR problem solving role and ability to respond to challenges.

HR people have been frequently criticized for being too reactive, but today, it seems, it is becoming not only respectable but critical in our constantly changing environments. New style HR people (similar to many in the past) are able to react promptly to deal with issues and in many cases convert reactive into transformative to further interests of the organization.

The improvement in HR that I have noticed, from sentiments expressed by many HR people, is a significant increase in professional confidence and renewed pride that we have distinct skills to benefit an organization. Our skills complement other functions but our skill pattern may be significantly different and being a business partner does not mean agreeing with everything presented to us. We must take a stand when necessary to support achievement of organizational goals that may sometimes differ from the direction pursued by some functional executives.

With this new, more practical thinking, we also seem to have greater confidence in looking within our function and taking steps to revitalize HR including critical evaluation of programs that may have been key to HR for many years. For example:

  • Less emphasis on large somewhat fixed HR programs (e.g. performance management) and more emphasis on a more modular approach using the integration of mainstream data rather than stand alone HR programs
  • Being fully part of the business and with high credibility HR people close to the action (ear to the ground) and at any time ready to respond to support organizational interests and deal effectively with any organizational challenges and       threats
  • Not being obsessed by being at the big table, but making sure we are at the right small tables (e.g. functional) where the action takes place and we may be involved early enough to be part of the strategic thinking and contribute positively rather than challenge after the fact when people already feel committed to the planned action. With such a strategic and business focused role, HR would automatically have a very legitimate place at the big table and the new confidence and practical support of HR would be welcomed
  • HR confidence that our specialist expertise on people issues translates into present and sustained business advantage and we are able to sell concepts in the most practical and acceptable way.  Not only employee issues, but significant focus on our community, our customer/sales focus and external resources of various kinds that may be critical and needed at any point
  • The evolving more pragmatic HR seems more ready to take a strong stand on critical matters (e.g. ethics and corporate values) and to achieve this recognizes the need to develop the appropriate negotiating and diplomacy skills. We cannot just be stubborn people in an HR world of our own (sometimes the problem with old style HR) but be straight-talking business-sensitive leaders able to gain the respect of those we deal with
  • HR is coming of age by the way we seem ready now to question all our HR beliefs. It is very difficult not to develop a bias and our bias may have matched perfectly the conventional way of doing things in the past, but be outdated based on the technological capability now available. We must grasp the opportunities and be leaders in redesigning how we do many things and how we may train and impart user confidence during a period of organizational transition.
  • The success of HR in the future may depend very much on the ability of HR to attract the right talent and be able to meet staffing needs with the minimum of delay. I would have liked to say that HR has simplified and made the process more practical, but there still seem to be major philosophic differences between different HR people. There are HR people who make the selection process very complicated and try to match such things as attitude. There are others who support a simpler and more objective process. The key to success would be HR’s contribution to effective organizational design to ensure that the culture of the organization is able to assimilate most employees, regardless of different styles. I believe trending, particularly, by HR generalists, is moving more towards a simpler recruiting process, but at this point, opinions continue to be very divided

I must admit HR is getting better – it’s getting better all the time! I offer some thoughts on this subject which I believe are supported by many modern day HR realists and seem consistent with the beliefs of many HR students who, of course, will soon be setting the HR trends for tomorrow. HR improvement is dependent on realistically acknowledging evolving business and people differences and expectations and balancing them in the most appropriate way. Success of HR depends on us knowing who we are, what we can do and to updating and adapting much of what is already in place to reflect the present as it is and move confidently into the future. I believe an increasing number of HR people are committed to change and that gives reason to feel confidence about the future of our profession.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

 

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