HR must be the least “disrupted” function across any organisations business. Every now and again, someone calls for it to be destroyed, obliterated, or at least drastically reinvented. Some have also labelled it with ADD (Ambition Deficit Disorder).
But the case for a new kind of HR comes only partly from the perception of its stagnating performance over the decades, it comes mainly from the frustration of its unrealised potential.
I’m not an HR expert, although I have met a large number of HR executives through my work on Supply Chain Strategy and Operations over the years, but if I were to ask you how much of a critical impact HR has made on some of your really important business issues, or your best leaderships potential or the behaviours and capabilities in your business – impact that really made a difference to the outcome or performance – what would your answer be?
Whilst there is an argument for maintaining the compliance and process side of HR, the rest has remained static for far too long. Yet, given all of this, HR is the only department inside of our organisations that actually touches every single employee.
In a recent survey it was found that more than 70% of all HR professionals enter the field without a specific degree or certification in business or human resources. In the area of Leadership Development (the most urgent trend in surveys) 40% of business leaders reported that their companies are not ready. A quick scan of how much education in our business schools is focused on leadership/behaviours/dynamics of managing teams – reveals a disappointing answer – not much.
So What’s The Problem?
Well, the problem is that HR has so much potential to realise in the field of Leadership, Behaviours and Capabilities – potential that can make a hugely significant impact on business performance. It should be far too important to ignore let alone not be a major focus for reform.
It’s not that the timing is right for reform now – it was equally as important 10 years ago as it is today, but significant change has failed to materialise.
Yes, there has been some minor evidence of progress in HR – a handful of companies in 2015 announced they will drop the dreaded performance review and abolish forced rankings. Apparently 70 per cent of companies are now re-thinking the whole area of performance management. Interestingly managers talk to their teams much more often about performance when they stop measuring it on a bell curve.
What Can We Do Differently?
The most important areas of HR need to be in the hands of the strongest, most talented people in the business – individuals that are able to make the biggest impact, irrespective of the function they work in. They need to collectively set and run the agenda in 4 key areas.
This is not a minor reallocation of “things to achieve this year” on a Personal Development Plan, but a major shift towards embedding the 4 important areas of Leadership, Capabilities, Behaviours and Accountability into the remit of the top 10% of leaders in the organisation. Putting the strategy and the day to day operation of developing these activities areas in the most effective hands.
HR responsibilities can be funnelled into two separate directions – administration, led by the traditional HR function, reporting to the CFO; and the 4 key strategic areas mentioned above, led by high-potential line managers, reporting to the Executive:
- HR should forge relationships with the top 10% of the company’s influential business leaders
- Embed the development of the critical areas of Leadership, Capabilities, Behaviours and Accountability into the top leadership of business
- HR should manage the stewardship of the process (not the content) and measurement
- HR should develop an understanding of their competitors and peer group decision-makers and how their own company stack up against these in the areas above. Benchmark to set the ambition
- Top leaders to develop and act on coaching leadership and behaviours
This framework isn’t as far-fetched as it seems but it’s also no overnight success. There are a few very good examples where companies have shifted these key responsibilities into the heart of the business – to individuals who are best placed to make the biggest influence on people’s behaviours and build the capabilities of their colleagues. As a result, the performance of the business has grown.
Maybe it’s about time we used the best people in our companies wisely, unlock their potential in areas that help the whole business grow. It would lift the almost unattainable burden from HR… and you never know they might actually enjoy it too.