I was talking to a client about the profile of the new CHRO (or Chief People Officer) they wanted to hire.
The CEO asked me what my observations in other organisations were. In my answer I covered seven elements I have seen many times.
1. The HR agenda is not connected to the most urgent business
When I read HR Plans, it is often very difficult to see the connection to the most urgent business issues. Most HR plans are very general. Please compare the high level picture of your HR plan with the picture below, and I bet you will recognise a couple of the “focus” points.
Read: “Creating a sound HR strategy“.
2. The HR agenda is too broad
I quote from my article: “3 very common mistakes HR makes“.
“HR is often proud of all the nice interventions they have to offer.
Competency frameworks. Performance management systems. Training, on-the-job and off-the-job. Classroom training and E-learning. Recruitment. Nice bonus systems. And so on.
The consultants have learned us (cleverly): always go for integrated solutions. Even better if you use the word ‘ holistic’. All the instruments should be used to drive the organisation in the right direction. Management says: we want it all (at a low price). HR is happy, because they are taken serious.
In a restaurant you will never order the complete menu (unless you are recreating La Grande Bouffe). You have to make a choice. Starter, main course and desert. Maybe it is even healthier to take only the main course.
HR should not offer the complete menu. Determine the root cause of burning issues, and then choose the intervention that has the highest impact with the least effort. Do not strive for perfection and completeness. Yes, a holistic vision on people and organisations is necessary. But holistic is not the same as ‘wholistic’”.
3. Status is too important
For some HR managers, the most important question they have in the interview is: “Will I be a member of the management team?”. Too much focus on status is not a good sign. Maybe you should prefer a candidate who says: “I hope I don’t have to be a member of the management team” (and thinks: “I can use my time better”).
Read: “Trends in HR job titles – update“.
4. Poor implementation
Partly as a result of 1 (not focusing on the most urgent business issues) and 2 (too big HR agenda), the implementation of HR is often poor. Too many projects, hardly ever properly finished. The result: unhappy senior management and unhappy employees. “HR is always very busy, but what are they doing?”.
5. Too much focus on management, not enough on employees
Dave Ulrich’s “Human Resource Champions” has probably been the book with the largest impact on the HR profession in the last decades. Unfortunately, many people did not read the book, but only saw a picture with the four archetypical roles for HR. For many the book was summarised in one key message: you must become a Strategic Business Partner. As strategy was a role of top management, this meant you had to get close to management, or even better, become part of top management! Many of today’s CHRO’s have grown in this area. Therefore, HR has focused too much on pleasing top management, and forgot to develop two of the other key roles Ulrich described: Employee Champion and Administrative Expert.
The tide is slowly turning, from PTB (please the boss) to EI (employee intimacy). Really understanding the wishes, needs and capabilities of employees is getting more important, and this employee intimacy is required to design relevant employee journeys.
6. Not capable to run HR Operations
HR Operations have been underrated. If you investigate how employees and management value the “employee experience”, and in which elements of the experience they would like to see improvement, the improvement areas are often related to HR Operations. HR information is difficult to find on the intranet. It takes too long before candidates receive the job offer. Posting internal vacancies is too complex. Manager- and employee self service is too complex.
Running HR Operations require specific skills. This is more about IT and hospitality than about strategic HR. Improving HR Operations should be a key priority of HR.
7. Not enough people analytics and evidence based interventions
Is there a high level people analytics team? Does HR produce solid headcount reports? Is HR able to prove their interventions contribute to solving urgent business issues?
HR is a profession, and we should be able to come up with focused impactful solutions. Data driven and evidence based, not too much relying on our gut-feelings