Giving Human Resources a seat at the table
By Leanne Hoagland-Smith September 15, 2012 9:28PM
In last week’s column, one of the critical findings from the Indiana Business Council was the belief about human resources not being strategic. And this I believe is a very valid concern given what is happening in the market place with regards to human capital talent (workforce).
First the word strategic or strategy is one that is often misunderstood if not misused. The origins of this word come from the Greek and means for a general to deceive his enemies. In the business world this translates for leadership to overcome known and unknown obstacles or in simpler terms strategy is all about thinking and planning. President Dwight Eisenhower as the Commander in Chief for D-Day as well as the planner behind our US Interstate Highway system said “Plans are worthless; planning is everything.” Eisenhower was a master strategist.
Another element within this problem is the Human Resource Department not viewed as a talent management asset. Instead HR and the overall labor force are viewed as liabilities in that they take dollars away from profits between salaries, benefits and compliance costs. This is evident by the lack of Human Resources at what is called the C Suite table. Examine most mid to large size firms and you will notice a place for one if not more of these Chiefs:
• Executive Officer
• Operations Officer
• Financial Officer
• Technology Officer
• Purchasing Officer
• Innovation Officer
• Information Officer
These seats at the C Suite table suggest each of these officers and their representative departments have significant value or bring incredible assets to efficiently and effectively running the organization. And yet those responsible for executing the operations, finances, technology, purchasing, innovation and information are not represented by what I would like to call the Chief People Officer. Does this really make logical sense?
For many organizations be they profit or not for profit, the critical gap is in their workforce and the misalignment to strategy, structure, processes and rewards. This misalignment creates poor to no results.
To be strategic does require communication with crystal clarity. Of course, if there is no strategic plan and from my experiences the majority of small business firms (with under 100 employees) lack a complete and comprehensive strategic plan, then how can HR work with the other departments? What happens is HR is relegated to compliance and truly fails to be part of the organization’s big picture thinking.
HR is probably the most undervalued department in many organizations because of self-limiting beliefs from the existing C Suite table to even within the Human Resource Department. To improve workforce begins promoting from within supported by ongoing development as the “super” worker does not necessarily translate into the “super” visor.
To survive in the forthcoming talent wars and yes they are coming if not already here, may require executives to put away their current beliefs and embrace their workforce as critical assets. By taking this forward thinking approach will allow those small businesses to not only survive, but thrive in this ever changing global marketplace.
P.S. Shout Out – The Northwest Indiana Society of Human Resource Management (SHRMNWI) and ASTD Michiana are two organizations dedicated to improving the quality of the workforce.
If you missed last week’s column, here is the link: