LEAD­ER­SHIP IN­SIGHTS

How Can HR Build A Game-chang­ing Ta­lent Strat­egy?

The HR Digest - - Content Features -

The most vo­cal crit­ics say HR Man­agers fo­cus too much on ad­min­is­tra­tive work and lack vi­sion and strate­gic in­sight. The harshly put feel­ings aren’t new. They’ve erupted be­cause peo­ple don’t like be­ing told how to be­have. We get par­tic­u­larly de­fen­sive when we’re in­structed to change how we in­ter­act with peo­ple, es­pe­cially those who re­port to us. The HR makes us per­form tasks we dis­like, such as pre­vent­ing us from hir­ing some­one we “just know” is a good fit, or doc­u­ment­ing prob­lems with dif­fi­cult em­ploy­ees.

Usu­ally when com­pa­nies are strug­gling with pro­duc­tiv­ity is­sues, HR is seen as a val­ued part­ner. When things are go­ing smoothly, man­agers tend to think, “What is the HR do­ing for us, any­way?”

This doesn’t mean HR is above crit­i­cism. There is plenty of room to im­prove and yet, lit­tle has been done in the past. In the early 1900s when the U.S. econ­omy was boom­ing, re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing work­ers was a dif­fi­cult thing to do. Af­ter the World War II, U.S. in­dus­try suf­fered from an ex­po­nen­tial ta­lent short­age. A lot of small com­pa­nies went out of busi­ness, and many big ones had to be sold.

In the lead­er­ship void, mod­ern HR was born. The HR man­agers ush­ered in prac­tices such as job ro­ta­tion, coach­ing, de­vel­op­men­tal as­sign­ments, 360-de­gree feed­back, and suc­ces­sion plans. This sound rou­tine today, but there was quite some­thing back then. The need to in­clude such prac­tices

arose mainly to at­tract and re­tain ta­lent post the World War II. HR be­came not just a pow­er­ful func­tion, but one voted the most glam­orous by busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives.

The eco­nomic slow­down of the 1970s elim­i­nated la­bor short­ages had busi­ness leader de­sign pro­grams to iden­tify and de­velop good man­agers and work­ers. Su­per­vi­sors spent less time on their di­rect reports. They had peo­ple work­ing un­der them to man­age ev­ery­body else, and other tasks were now given a higher pri­or­ity. Dur­ing the 1980s, when it was found that man­agers be­lieve peo­ple-man­age­ment tasks too dis­tract­ing, they were al­lowed to de­vote less ef­forts to eval­u­a­tion and coach­ing. The HR Man­ager’s tasks were now in­clu­sive of hir­ing, re­ten­tion and eval­u­a­tion and coach­ing. While at the same time, tasks tra­di­tion­ally per­formed by HR were now pushed onto su­per­vi­sors.

HR is now in the po­si­tion of try­ing to get those su­per­vi­sors to fol­low pro­ce­dures with­out hav­ing any di­rect power over them. This is more com­monly known as “man­ag­ing with am­bigu­ous au­thor­ity,” where those on the re­ceiv­ing end feel it’s like nag­ging.

As the econ­omy re­cov­ers post the 2008 Great Re­ces­sion, busi­nesses are now look­ing to HR to speed things up. The ex­per­tise will help com­pa­nies get ahead of de­bil­i­tat­ing mar­ket shifts. What can the HR do to lead the change?

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers and other ex­ec­u­tives are rarely ex­perts on work­place is­sues. What­ever ex­pe­ri­ence they have comes through train­ing pro­grams and as­sign­ments in which they could have learned ef­fec­tive peo­ple-man­age­ment prac­tices. HR teams can ar­tic­u­late a point of view on peo­ple-man­age­ment top­ics rel­e­vant to the busi­ness.

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