Tag Archive for innovation

When is an HR Job…NOT an HR Job?

groucho marx glassesThere’s always a lot of chatter about the upcoming demise of HR; will the profession adapt and change in order to remain viable, effective and relevant in the future world of work?

Ah yes…but the future is here:

  • Technology has reshaped how people connect and it has driven new and different ways for people to share and collaborate.
  • The traditional view of ‘the job’ is being blown up.
  • Employees are consumers of work and they expect immediate and transparent access to information and to each other.
  • Leaders have quickly learned that the old models of managing people (command-and-control anyone?) are withering on the vine; dead and dying.

In the midst of all this change sits the HR professional. She’s often hesitant to use technology and reluctant to realize that candidates are increasingly unwilling to purchase the work experience she’s selling. She’s sometimes unable or unwilling to understand that her role is not about promoting the HR agenda (compliance! structure! benefit administration! policies!!!!) but is, rather, about impacting the business agenda by strengthening capacities and capabilities for success.

Yet even if she is planning for the future of work that doesn’t mean those around her are doing the same.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately because of two distinct situations that came to my attention over the last year.

Company A has several thousand employees and, in a volatile industry sector, experienced the need to shore up some financial and operational items. A new leadership team, consultants and other interested parties moved into slash-and-burn mode with RIFs, re-organizations and changes/cuts in product offerings and business lines. Working for a labor intensive organization with high turnover (common for the industry) the human resources team always had a lot of fish in the fryer…but no more. HR was gutted. Eviscerated. The new model included the elimination of the CHRO position (“I don’t believe in HR” was uttered by a senior executive) and the removal of various HR generalists and specialists while the lone (as in 1) HR employee was moved under the Risk and Compliance Department. While he still holds an HR title it’s not – really – an HR job. Or is it?

Company B has several hundred employees and, in a hot and competitive industry sector, is in hyper growth mode. The leadership team identified talent, people development, and sustaining of organizational culture as necessary ingredients in the organizational gumbo and looked to grow out the HR/talent function by adding an HR leader to unite the talent acquisition staff (long nestled within business units) with the foundational HR staff (reporting to the COO). They had an idea to implement a fairly traditional model that was later upended for, one can assume, various reasons. Rather than create a human resources department with a defined leader, the HR/talent function (and along with it some plans for revising and revamping that which exists) was assigned to an executive who also oversees a key business division. It was akin to informing the VP of Sales that she’s also now the head of HR. She doesn’t have an HR title and it’s not – really – an HR job. Or is it?


So who, at these two very different organizations, has the HR job? If we take the traditional view we would say it’s the practitioner at Company A; he has an HR title and a smorgasbord of tasks associated with human resources are in his domain including policies, compliance, and the vetting of employee relations incidents and calls.

In my estimation though we’ll come to see in the very near future that it’s the multi-tasking executive in Company B who truly holds the HR job; she’s leading the business agenda while maintaining oversight of the talent strategies that lead to the attainment of growth and revenue goals.

Kind of an exciting time to be in HR. Or not.

Depends on what you consider an HR job.

The Unintended Consequences of ‘good’ HR

antique vaseWhen we look at the Human Resources Body of Knowledge as outlined by HR’s professional credentialing group, the Human Resources Certification Institute, we see there are 6 broad areas: (1) Business Management & Strategy (2) Workforce Planning & Employment (3) Human Resource Development (4) Compensation & Benefits (5) Employee & Labor Relations and (6) Risk Management.

That covers a lot of territory – as anyone who works in HR can tell you.

The “specialists” dive deep into a particular area including folks with titles like Talent Acquisition Director or Compensation Analyst, while the “generalist” HR leaders and practitioners focus on all of those broad areas.  Not every generalist will be a Labor Relations expert, but we all have to have a fair enough understanding of what’s coming down the road when the NLRB comes out with some new edict.

Most every HR practitioner is consumed with delivering at a high level; very few HR pros purposefully set out to be sucky.  Problems arise, however, when HR practices are treated with the level of sacredness usually reserved for the antique vase that grandpa gave to grandma when they were courting.  “Put it on the shelf!” “It’s never to be touched!” (You can, however, gaze upon it reverentially when company arrives or it’s a holiday).

We’ve gotten to this point because Judy the HR Director dispenses the wisdom she’s gleaned over her 35 years working in human resources to eager young acolytes thirsting for insight. Once upon a time Judy latched onto a “best practice” (whether it had anything to do with her specific needs, goals or organization was probably irrelevant) and what was once novel, innovative and groundbreaking (well, for someone else in any event) continues to fossilize in her HR Department.

Judy’s CEO, department managers and employees quite likely consider her a ‘good’ HR director; they’re being paid on time, their health insurance coverage is in order and new hires join the organization with achingly familiar regularity. You can bet that Judy is hitting all the high points within each of those 6 HR Bodies of Knowledge. When she attends HR conferences she makes sure to attend every legal update session, PPACA session and any session where her local employment attorney talks about the latest happenings from the US Circuit Court.

And what Judy knows, or learned in 1985, is what she’s passed on to every single one of the HR Reps, HR Generalists and Benefit Coordinators who have joined her team over the years.  All of whom have been characterized as doing ‘good’ HR by the CEO, department managers and employees – just like Judy.

So they keep playing it safe.  They tool along and consider themselves prepared for the future.  “Look,” they say, “we implemented a new cloud-based HCM system/ATS/Performance Appraisal system!”  Of course, as many do, they merely replicated Judy’s circa 1999 process/forms in an online system… but they did ‘good!’

With unintended consequences.

Soon to be discovered.

Here we go again: The Candidate Experience

blackholeI’m sorry to have to do this.  It pains me to bring up, once again, the time worn topic of The Candidate Experience.  Hasn’t most everything been said, discussed and debated? Oh sure, Gerry and Elaine continue to come out with new findings and insights (always fascinating!) but is anything happening?  Changing?  Evolving?

I offer these stories shared by friends of the HR Schoolhouse:

Friend A, who hangs in the HR space, completed an online application in response to a job posting with a highly regarded company on LinkedIn; within several days he was contacted by a corporate recruiter and scheduled for a digital interview.  “Super,” he thought. “If they’re using digital interviewing technology it confirms for me they’re an organization that ‘gets it.’  He had high hopes; this company has been hyped as a great place to work with an engaging culture.  They’ve been noted as an innovator in HR practices and individuals working there are frequently lauded as ‘thought leaders’ in, you guessed it, the HR space. The interview process went well and he settled in for a brief wait, confident in his knowledge that here was a company that believed in treating candidates well so he should receive some notification in a timely manner.  That interview occurred 3 months ago; he has yet to hear one single word.  One.

Friend B works in recruiting at the leadership/executive level.  Though not actively searching for a job she recently saw a very tantalizing posting to lead the Talent Function (recruiting, performance, development) with a global firm; she checked it out, liked what she saw, and applied.  Within 24 hours she received a call and a phone interview with the corporate recruiter was scheduled for a week later.  All went well on the interview and a timeframe of several weeks was given at which point, she was assured, she would learn the status of her candidacy and any next steps, if she remained a viable candidate, including travel to the HQ office on the opposite side of the country would be discussed.  The recruiter asked her to send a connection request on LinkedIn.  That interview occurred 2 months ago.  The LinkedIn invite has not been accepted nor has Friend B heard one single word.  Not one.

Recruiters and HR practitioners the world over regularly lament the lack of time in their day; “I can’t get back to every candidate,” they like to whine.  OK – you’re busy; I get it. But these two situations are absolutely absurd.

Surely if you’ve been able to spend the time, effort and money to invest in the latest/greatest digital interviewing, you have an ATS that allows you to very easily, with one click or tick-of-a-box, send a pre-formatted email to a candidate. Certainly, you must agree, if you’re hiring for the head of Talent in your organization you can do a better job than conducting a lengthy phone interview followed by an endless wait whilst crickets chirp in the background?

Tell them thanks but no thanks.  Tell them the position has been put on hold.  Tell them they suck and can go to hell for all I care.

Just tell them something.

Maybe you should follow all the goings on with the CandE awards in North America, the UK, and Australia.   You might learn a thing or two.


Future Trends and Innovation – #KW2013

Jeremy-GutscheI’m attending KronosWorks 2013 and today’s opening keynote speaker was Jeremy Gutsche, founder of the site TrendHunter which is the world’s #1 and most popular trend spotting website. Jeremy’s session, “Culture of Innovation — How to Create a Culture of Customer Obsession and Innovation” was an energetic kick-off and really set the theme for the conference.

As a lead-in, Jeremy let us know that at times of constant (disruptive?) change we are faced with tremendous threats but also afforded tremendous opportunities.  So how, the question was posed, do we maximize our potential?

First step, he advised, is to answer the question “what is it you are trying to do? – for the answer to that will allow an individual (group) to find their trajectory and realize their ultimate capabilities.

As the session went on, there were several key points made:

  • Success can lead to complacency.  The act of becoming complacent has been going on for tens of thousands of years.  Since humans started planting seeds and became farmers, they became hard wired to do the same thing that would garner the crop the next year. So how do we get out of this mode – this tendency?  We need to re-find our “inner hunter.”  A quote shared from a Kodak executive (you remember Kodak, don’t you?) was “your company’s great culture is the seed to it’s own destruction”
  • Benchmarking can be dangerous.  As organizations (or as HR practitioners???) we benchmark to our competitors and others in our industry too much.  Why aren’t we coming up with the next great idea ourselves?   If we realize that people (customers for example) often just want a better version of what they’ve already been using we figure that we’re doing well and consider the next iteration of our “product” to be enough improvement – or innovation. 
  • We MUST make a cultural connection with people.  People (employees..customers..the general public) will want us to succeed if these feel connected on an emotional level and understand the benefit of their involvement with our brand, idea,  or product.   
  • Innovation begins by observing the end user.  In all industries or lines of business if you actually talk to/listen to the people who are using what you create then you will understand what can or should happen next.     This brings things right back to having that cultural connection  –  “when you create something that connects, your story will travel faster than ever before.”   (and while he was referencing customers in his examples, I certainly latched on to the applicability in our HR program and the need for us to talk to/listen to our customers including candidates, employees, managers, and leaders)
  • There are 3 ways to cultivate “infection” and make it stick:
  1. Make it simple
  2. Make it direct
  3. Make it supercharged

“Portray your product or idea as average and that is all it will ever be”


There were some good concepts in this session for folks who are thinking about innovation from an organizational standpoint or from a personal and individual standpoint.

I often wonder about the ability of HR practitioners to innovate and truly harness their creativity.  There are, unfortunately, roadblocks:  the reluctant CEO who won’t give the go-ahead; the time constraints to just keep the trains running on time; the lack of desire by the weary HR Director to take on any more initiatives.  Put these in the bucket and it becomes easier to either let things go as they’ve always gone or to replicate another organization’s process/practice and say “see – we innovated!”

As anticipated, Jeremy pointed us back to Trendhunter but with a goal (for me anyway) when he reminded us that by paying attention to viral trends and then methodically innovating we can generate ideas – harness creativity – exploit chaos.


Kronos has sponsored my participation at KronosWorks2013 however all ideas and opinions are my own.