Sunday July 20, 2008
We're privileged (and definitely delighted) to work with some very strong, successful and high profile HR Directors. (Who incidentally all seem to have titles other than HR Director e.g. Head of People and Innovation, Head of Talent and Change...). These are people who have elbowed the Finance Directors out of the way and positioned themselves as number two to their CEOs. They have become the business leaders' right hand men and women and are driving strategy, leading change, and most definitely influencing major business decisions. Thus they are contributing big time to bottom line sustainability and growth and making a name for themselves in the process.
On the other hand, it's sad to say, there far too many HR 'directors' who are the only top team member not to have a seat on the board. Why is this? Because; their 'colleagues', including the CEO, do not view HR as a function that can actually influence business performance. And some of these are in service industries where people are key to success and growth. I know it's unbelievable isn't it? But who is to blame - is it the organisations or the HR practitioners themselves?
I was having lunch recently with one of the most influential directors of a large and successful service business. Now this company reports impressive year on year growth and an extremely healthy bottom line, and it has great 'people stuff' in place. He works with an HRD who is definitely doing the right stuff yet he still commented that he didn't know why they needed a HR Director. 'After all, he expounded, we have a legal helpline and all the handbooks and policy stuff is in place so isn't the job done now?' Priceless is it that people still think that's the 'be all and end all' of HR. I pointed out just a few of the exciting initiatives and innovations his HRD had introduced (including bringing us in). He conceded that these had helped shape the business but wouldn't they as a business have done that stuff anyway? Well, in my opinion, probably not.
A couple of months ago, after six years (I kid you not) of meetings, discussions, and pontification, we were finally given the go ahead to implement our talent toolbox (online talent management system) into a large service business. So what changed to finally get things on the move? They appointed a new HRD. The previous two both saw a need and were interested in our product but the difference with the new guy is that he made a decision. He took it to the board, demonstrated the business benefits and projected return on investment and negotiated a budget for the initial outlay.
People will rarely lose their jobs by being safe and not taking tough decisions or rocking the boat in the boardroom, though they will miss out on a whole lot of innovation and opportunity. They'll also miss out on positioning themselves in a key role in becoming a driver not a reactor, significantly influencing strategy and business success. They'll suffer lower profile, be less respected, have a whole lot less job satisfaction and be lower paid.
It got me thinking about the company who took six years to decide to implement that business critical bit of kit. How different would the face of that business be by now if they'd had six years of succession planning, risk analysis and spot on training needs analysis? Six years of robust performance management, objective setting and monitoring? Six years of consultation, essential communication and managing individuals' aspirations? Six years of really managing their talent.
Procrastination is the thief of more than just time.
Isn't it about time that the strong, decision, high profile HRD, became the norm and not the exception?