This is a real-talk forum. I’m not about to list leadership competencies or some empirical data I happened upon in my latest internet search on where CHRO’s and leaders in general go wrong.
As a CHRO, you are the figurehead and face of Human Resources. The success and failure of HR’s programs and initiatives rest on your shoulders. The obvious strategy ( assuming you still need to assert the value of HR in the organization) is to align at the top and do whatever they ask of you- even if it undermines the very essence of what HR contributes to the organization. It takes a vision, business savvy, strategy, and the ability to advocate and raise the important issues/discussions around employing people. According to some, marketing and/or financial types are just a few of the professionals being touted as the better choices for HR leadership and even at the staff level. The fact is I don’t care if you put someone with 20+ years of HR experience or 20+ years in Marketing- the central point is you better know people, the challenges of the business and the opportunities that are inherent in investing in talent. HR has always been a field that welcomed professionals from non-traditional backgrounds, so professionals in different fields outside of HR as HR leaders or professionals isn’t exactly groundbreaking.
When people join your organization they are in effect putting their faith in you and the possibilities that may or may not exist within your company. Essentially, they are entrusting you with their livelihoods. The hope is that they can make a decent living, enjoy the work they do and grow. The growth doesn’t necessarily have to mean promotions, but just the ability to continue to learn and grow in the way that is most meaningful for them professionally.
Newsflash– there are few people currently employed purely out of the love of working. Your employees are humans. They have families, problems, debts, health concerns, marital concerns etc. Your job as a leader of HR isn’t to be their psychologist, financial advisor or angel investor. However, it would help if you saw your employees, I mean really saw your employees in the context of being human beings with needs, wants and complex circumstances.
If you can see them through this varied lens, you may be moved to also see them as an investment. If you see them as an investment you might also be moved to do some of the following:
1) Get to know your people. How can you invest in something you know nothing about? Take the time to get to know the people behind your company. Say hello, shake a hand, know them by name where possible. It all makes a difference in how they see you.
2) Now that you have gotten to know your employees- it’s time to be honest. Be honest about work conditions, raises or lack thereof, your plans for the future. Somewhere along the line we have learned to treat employees like children withholding information and disseminating it as it suits your interests. Know that the omission of facts that affect your employees are seen as deliberate and underhanded.
3) Now that you know them and you are being honest. Good job! Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in your employees. There is nothing in this world that allows for us to receive something for nothing. Where are the programs aimed to develop, train, compensate, re-recruit, and allow flexibility where possible to retain your employees?
Some more questions…
How are you prioritizing your efforts? What’s the strategy? Pleasing the C-Suite is important and there’s no doubt that your decisions will not always be in the best interest of the employees. However, what if you tried to do the absolute best you could by your employees? What if- the key to keeping the C-Suite happy was to ensure that the employees were happy and productive. Isn’t that what you were hired to do?
That was a lot of questions, but these are all of the questions you should be asking yourself as a CHRO. HR has the unfortunate plight of having to walk a fine line between competing interests, people, obligations to the business and legal matters. That said, you are the consummate middle man leader. You cannot be so aligned to the top that you lose sight of the very element that keeps you employed- the people.
Are you a CHRO putting your talent first and impacting business strategy through dynamic employee-centered programs? Share your story.
CHROs can start by taking back the language. Stop referring to people as “talents” or “resources” or “capitals”… and start referring to them as PEOPLE.