Last week I issued an invitation to my fellow HR professionals to become part of an inaugural group of Trench HR Bloggers for the Fishbowl. Since then, there has been a hearty response. I thought I’d post some of my favorites as they come in. The first comes from Christopher de Mers, OD specialist for Travis County, Texas one of the ten largest employers in the Austin area. And his past life includes stints as recruiting manager, ER manager, HR director and training manager for Apple, Dell and Home Depot. Read it, get to know Chris, and tell him what you think! I can tell you he’s barking right up my alley.
Every year I meet, exchange ideas with and am perplexed by fellow HR practitioners still seeking that elusive seat at the table. In their own ways and typically with earnest irony they tell me they can’t be more effective until they understand the business better. Once that’s done, they calculate, they’ll have the gravitas and credibility to get that seat, and become a business partner if not leader. And then they can really do their job.
Your company doesn’t care.
Let’s re-think the quest. People get a seat at the metaphoric table because they’re exceptionally good at two things: predicting the near-term needs of the business and making the right things happen to meet those needs. In other words, be active and mostly right. Having a five-year strategic plan makes no difference if you’re wrong the first two (you’ll never see year three) or if you simply have a plan and no action.
More than once I’ve encountered HR resources who talk about other disciplines in their company with such excitement and intelligence I sometimes don’t realize they’re actually in HR. “Good!” you say. Not so fast. Consider this: if I don’t know you’re HR how does your company? In many cases they don’t.
Of course its important to understand the business; hopefully you knew that much before you left school. Yet, as a favorite boss of mine used to say, let’s be clear on what counts. In HR what counts is managing talent and all that that entails.
Rather than mimicking other disciplines and striving to show how business-like we are by repeating their buzzwords, adopting their beliefs and rattling off their key metrics, why don’t we do what we were hired to do – source, secure and develop the talent that makes those disciplines run. Too many times HR pros run away from their profession as if it weren’t business-like enough to be, well, er, a part of the business.
And therein lies the paradox.
No other group has the breadth of interaction that HR does, speaking to and working with virtually every part of the enterprise. At the same time HR has a fundamental responsibility to take action on what’s in the best interest of the enterprise. Seen in this light – spanning the entire company and acting in its best collective interests – HR is more business-like than most disciplines. So take pride in that.
Should you understand the product pipeline, key customers, competitive pressures and strategic plans? Yes. So should every other professional in your company. Attempting to increase your business impact through excessive focusing on marketing, production, sales, operations or research, however, means you’ll spend less time thinking and working on talent. I.e., your preoccupation with the macro business hurts your personal business performance.
So enjoy the HR role. Few disciplines offer you the opportunity to be at the center of what fuels your business: finding, preparing and placing the right people in the right places at the right time.
And don’t worry about your seat; the rest of us are standing up. Working.