Thomas Otter tagged me regarding his comments on a Workforce Article: Business Leaders Don’t See HR as Key to People Strategies.
It is not the first time I’ve read this sort of study, but it concerns me a lot. Yes, the sample isn’t huge, but the numbers are similar to stuff I’ve read before. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. A couple of years ago there was a big huff about the “why we hate HR article”, but has much changed? Should HR care?
My answer? Yes, HR should care, but what are we doing about it? My previous post was all about recruiters. Like it or not, this is the face of HR. It should not be, but it is. And whose fault is that? Ours.
Do we add value to the business? Some of us do, some of us do not. Are we caught up in paperwork and policies? Do we create employee handbooks that would rival War and Peace?
We say things like succession planning are critical to an organization’s success, but do we know how to make the business case for it? Have we developed metrics to prove what works and what doesn’t? Do we even speak the same language as the line?
Once upon a time I worked for corporate HR for a Fortune Top 100 Companies to Work For. While I hope not to give away too much info, suffice it to say, the business was retail oriented. Do you know what they required of every corporate HR person? A minimum of 3 weeks in the stores. I stocked shelves. I listened to customers. I worked in every department. I learned to speak the language of the line. I learned to understand the business, not just HR.
The reason I left? To be promoted I needed to work in the stores. And while I loved the company, retail requires hours I wasn’t willing to work, so I left. Was that a bad policy on the part of the company? Absolutely not. Their business is retail and I wasn’t willing to pay the price to learn it, so no promotion for me. (And for the record, I was not encouraged to leave, I got a new job and then resigned. I wanted career growth and I knew that wouldn’t happen without working nights and weekends.)
Did HR show value there? Absolutely. HR realized what the needs of the business were and created policies accordingly.
For HR to add value we need to speak the language and be able to state our case. We often get in scuffles with finance because training, development and benefits all cost money. When we give in because the CFO says, “that’s too expensive” we have cooked our own goose. Before we propose we need to have the figures that will show how it will save money in the long run–lower turnover, higher productivity, etc. If we can’t show that, we have no business making the proposal in the first place.
We need to not sit by quietly while the “big boys” make the decisions and then carry them out. Are we conducting layoffs? Why? Before we sign on the dotted line we better be showing that his layoff will truly help the company financially. What is the cost of turnover? How come we don’t know this off the top of our heads? (Or at least how to calculate it?) Are we increasing the employee portion of medical expenses? What will be the result of this in terms of turnover? We better be able to build models.
What are models? Crud people, hire yourself some statisticians.