Reading Harvard Business Review and The Atlantic provides an illusion that I possess at least an additional 10 points of IQ. Last year, HRB published, “It’s Time To Blow Up HR and build something new.” This time, the venerable institution offered little in terms of new thought and missed the boat on a number of key issues. I find these periodic attacks on human resources seems like a blame game at a time where effectively dealing with the human side of the business determines whether we succeed or fail.
I serve a sizeable number of human resource professionals as individual clients as well as internal business partners. I tell all of them, “If the CEO or business owner isn’t taking charge of the culture, keep your bags packed.” I also tell engagement clients that if the CEO doesn’t take charge of engagement save your face and your money – don’t do it.
When a CEO takes charge of a culture, human resources has plenty to do and it is more valuable and interesting work. This can include developing right fit with all hires. For example, many of hiring managers are shooting employee engagement in the foot simply because they are not connected to their own bias and have dreadful hiring skills. Many talent acquisition departments treat candidates like cattle. While process improvement ought to be a given, we could become far more involved in strategic business decisions with the CEO. But, when a human resources executive takes on responsibilities from a CEO such as culture and engagement, they will usually, at some point, be thrown under the bus because “they failed” at taking over the culture.
But, there is also a mindset within a big portion of the human resource profession that needs the kind of improvements that usually begin with self-awareness. A quote from the HBR article:
“Recent complaints about the HR function have touched a nerve in a large; sympathetic audience, particularly in the United States. The most vocal critics say that HR managers focus too much on “administrivia” and lack vision and strategic insight.”
We knew that.
Many members of the human resources profession want to find themselves “at the table” but membership isn’t based on activity, it is based on demonstrating sound business skills and strategy. The entrance doesn’t happen when someone hides behind loads of activity and complains they are not being “recognized” for all they contribute. But, many of us, with any form of objectivity, can see that tasks and “administrivia” are being taken over by software and technology so wake-up, smell or swallow a good dose of coffee and start taking some risks such as getting clear on strategy and speaking up.
At times, it is difficult to tell if HBR’s intended reader is the HR executive or the CEO. This leads to the crux of a major problem. Much of HBR’s articles speak to CEOs in how to evaluate the function of human resources. But, the average CEO needs a new outlook as well. We ought to be forging an entirely new relationship between the CEO and Chief Human Resource Officer that is based on mutual accountability.