Top 4 (mis-) Challenges for HR in 2010?
By Admin

May 18, 2010

In a Colorado Business Magazine Article entitled: ”Top Four HR Challenges for 2010” written by Susan Zimmerman, SPHR, MBA, Senior VP – Human Resources for Lincoln Trust Company (her background is primarily Financial Institution HR), Susan concludes that: Legislation, Talent Acquisition, Organizational “Dieting” and “Healing the Corporate Mind, Body and Soul”, are the four top priorities for HR in 2010.

In essence her article comes down to this: HR needs to find cheaper ways of doing everything. Vendors need to pay the price. Talent is difficult to find. Legislation needs to be looked at, and in the greater perspective, HR needs to lead the way to healing employee’s fears, leading executives and businesses into the future and preparing the business strategies for years beyond.

The real issue is this: HR is supposed to be good at so many things, but can only really INFLUENCE a few. The attraction to many HR folks is to be “Strategic” and to be a “Leader” in theories, to be on the cutting edge of whatever SHRM tells them is the new greatest Buzz Word, or fun thing to take control of. Most of the new programs and buzzwords are fleeting, and have little to do with the core of an organization. Most new HR “Strategies” are meant to have HR folks feel good about their “Profession” and to feel In Control about what they are doing. The result: HR still is tangential to running the actual business of a corporation. And they get treated as such.

Lasting Solutions, Ongoing Challenges, Long Term Paybacks: (Create The Great Workplace)

How about a more lasting solution to current HR “Challenges”? Collaboration. Simple word, and it is the CORE of The Great Workplace of tomorrow. Collaboration with vendors who know more about your business (marketplace) than you do, who are on the leading edge of “Best Practices” (your famous phrase for double-super-secret HR info), working with the people who are actually running the business to see what is working and what isn’t, and with that elusive “Employee Body” that you so earnestly want to take care of. Instead of thinking you have the answers to BIG business strategies, enlist the aid of people who do, at least each has one small part of the equation.

“Collaboration” means having to come out from behind your well-protected gates, closed doors, voicemail, and 5:01 exits to run home. Collaboration means going OUTSIDE your “HR Domains”. Collaboration means working with people, bodies of knowledge, and scenarios that YOU DO NOT CONTROL. Scary, isn’t it?

Let’s stop being a “Practioner” of HR (Practicing) and start being part of the business, be part of management and be part of the solution.

Let’s address the points in the quoted article:

Legislation: Policy and Procedures. No one yet really knows what is up. This is ground for attorneys, benefits experts and consultants. HR will take over AFTER the facts are in. Then HR’s job will be following the prescribed formula.

New Talent Challenges: “Talent Economist” is the new term for “Hiring” and (can’t hire from job boards) is not even defined, but it is supposed to sound good. “And they can’t MANAGE talent through orientation and goal setting” (quote from article). HR spends less than 5% of their time in “Talent Acquisition”, yet feels they are pros. HR cannot think that talent is very hard to find and make productive WHILE attempting to cut costs (Corporate Dieting). Great Talent is harder to find now than before this recession. COLLABORATE with the people who spend 100% of their time on this. Or stay out of it. The solution to “Managing Talent” (you don’t, actual functional managers do) is to try “Onboarding” rather than “Orientation”. It works. Collaborate with Management. “Onboarding” (Immersion) is getting people fast-tracked to productivity, not just forms.

Corporate Dieting: HR’s way of cutting costs is NOT doing something. Or demanding that the things that work take a price cut. First focus on what purposes the activity is trying to achieve, as in goals. And know that simply cutting costs will only produce very small, short-term increases to a bottom line, or your bonus. Start thinking like an owner, not a policy person. Look at long term PAYBACKS. Cost cuts need to be combined with productivity increases.

Healing the Corporate Mind, Body and Soul: Ah, c’mon. You can influence, but you cannot heal. No one really trusts you anyhow. That comes from years of shutting your doors, acting like you are special, and staying at the gate. If HR could do all of the above AND do the day-to-day stuff you were actually hired to do, you would be CEO. Get into the trenches first. Focus on doing the job you were hired to do. This stuff is designed by HR folks to make other HR folks feel important. “Strategy” is for senior level business manager-folks not the entire HR community. “Business Strategy” is for business people. HR supports that. You don’t make the policies.

Here is the list of what the best business minds feel HR people need to be focusing on:

1)     Focus on your company’s Purpose! Not Mission, Not Industry Place. Purpose is what you do for customers, and your customer’s customers. Learn to promote this and you will lead the organization. Old mission statements are company-serving, not customer serving. Missions are fleeting. Purpose is focused.

2)     Promote a culture of Collaboration. This starts by looking at all people who can help your firm as “Participants”, not “employees, vendors, Board, Community”. You are all in this together. HR in the past has looked at “Collaboration” as “teamwork”. Not even close to the same. HR has always been “control” oriented. Collaboration is scary, but highly productive. And in leading collaboration, you are NOT in control. The collaborators are. Scary, but how has YOUR idea done so far?

3)     Think in terms of Corporate Sustainability”: Only part of that is “Green”. The core of this has to do with HOW your organization will last “1,000 Years”. Not just the next quarter. Not juts until the new “Term” comes up. The Japanese have made a lot of mistakes. Looking at a business life as 1,000 years isn’t one of them.

4)     Help operating executives with their Operating Plan that Integrates all Participants into achieving the corporate PURPOSE. A cohesive strategy depends upon this. Support the initiative, make things move. Be part of it.

5)     Help all participants understand ”Intelligently Profitable” as a core reason for the organization doing what it does. Everyone is in this fight together, and the organization is in it with the community. Intelligently profitable is BOTH NOT the strategy of Goldman, nor any failed company that gave away too much.

6)     Work on Sensible, Tuned Benefits. Not entitlements, not give aways and not take aways. What is it that people REALLY need and want. Is it practical? Does it help with “Intelligently Profitable”?

7)     Work on ONBOARDING your talent. This gets good people productive quickly. Don’t try to focus on cutting acquisition costs. Focus on getting people who are hired, and not, wanting to and able to help with the organization’s purpose. Focus on branding your employment. Return emails from applicants, tune in to their needs.

8)     Provide TOOLS to achieve the PURPOSE. Again, focus on helping good, interested people achieve your organization’s purpose.

9)     Buy Local, Promote The Region. Next time you want to get knowledge, look in your back yard. If you think that going outside is necessary, look to keep your community healthy.

10) Help Management learn what Visible, Tangible leadership that promotes the organization’s purpose is all about. It is DIFFICULT, if you don’t know anything other than “Mission”. Mission does not cut it anymore. Purpose does. Help the Execs learn how to be leaders. You job is King-making, not trying to be The King.

It’s a new day, a new business climate. All the old things like “Control”, “Cost Reduction” and “Policies” are great for History lessons. They won’t produce results in 2010 and beyond. They are old, worn and simply more of the same.

Turn down requests to go to HR society meetings with Lawyers, Government officials, more HR managers and your own crew. Refuse to attend “closed” meetings (HR Only). Encourage HR societies to invite their CEO’s/ COO’s. Go to meetings with business owners, authors, researchers and people who are making things happen. The people who address HR meetings have been invited by people who are NOT looking for new ideas. Those people volunteered to be program consultants because no one wanted the job.

Respectfully submitted.

Robert Schepens