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Five years ago, I wrote the following article. It’s about the reasons that people hate HR. It was prompted by an article in Fast Company that is cited in the piece. Five years ago, there was some promise that HR would come under scrutiny and transform itself.
I don’t think that that’s what happened.
Does any of this still sound familiar to you?
Here’s the bombshell. HR’s reputation in the conference rooms of the planet has gotten worse. In an article certain to raise the ire of
many an HR manager, Keith H. Hammonds, deputy editor of Fast Company, rants coherently and at length about the failings of contemporary HR.
Here are a few tasty morsels from his screed:
After close to 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming “strategic partners” with a “seat at the table” where the business decisions that matter are made, most human-resources professionals aren’t nearly there. They have no seat, and the table is locked inside a conference room to which
they have no key. HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.
- Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming — and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications — when we can understand them at all — so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?
- In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources — finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment — just as IT runs the computers and finance
minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip. Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those
functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What’s left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.
- Most human-resources managers aren’t particularly interested in, or equipped for, doing business. And in a business, that’s sort of a problem. As guardians of a company’s talent, HR has to understand how people serve corporate objectives. Instead, “business acumen is the single biggest factor
that HR professionals in the U.S. lack today,” says Anthony J. Rucci, executive vice president at Cardinal Health Inc., a big health-care supply distributor.
Be prepared. This article signals a tidal wave of extremely critical thinking about HR. Now that the decade’s worth of layoffs are over, HR managers around the world should be prepared to answer very tough questions about the value that they bring to the party.
Do your local HR folks (and yourself) a favor. Read the article and have a coherent opinion. Make sure that anyone you care for in the business sees it.
It’s amazing how simplistically things can be described when they are devoid of operational experience and limited to the perspective of recruiting. I’ve come across a view of the Human Capital Marketplace that describes the “Talent Lifecycle” as Attract-Recruit-Hire-Retain. It’s as if candidates didn’t exist in advance of requirements and didn’t have a variety of roles and relationships after hiring occurs. It’s as if downsizing, layoffs and the end of a business weren’t perfectly predictable parts of an employment relationship. It’s as if the only thing that matters was the tiny details of the Recruiting process.
Much of the real value extracted from Human Capital comes from the internal machinations involved in assignment, reassignment, utilization, assessment and development. While Recruiting is an extraordinary gateway function, its utility as a key component of strategy is variable: stronger in up times, weaker in down times. When cost containment is the issue, Recruiting is not the answer.
Any fully featured, business cycle responsive Human Capital Management system must have cost savings and personnel optimization strategies embedded in the product.
Ask most Recruiting professionals what the complement of Recruiting is and they’ll mumble something about outplacement. Internal and external alike, Recruiters sort of wash their hands the moment a new hire has begun to be absorbed by the organization. (There’s some interesting research on the impact of newcomers on culture which might shed light on expanded downstream roles for Recruiters.)
I’ve asked a variety of industry leaders what they think the result of Recruitment Automation will be. I asked in a variety of ways, but the gist of the question is “If new systems reduce the drudge work of the recruiter, how will that newfound time be filled?” The most common answer is that Recruiters will do more recruiting.
I’m beginning to realize that recruiting is in deep need of expanded variability. Rather than simply being a gateway between the outside world and the company, Recruiting skills can be usefully applied to the internal processes that actually make a company great. Shouldn’t every recruiter be held accountable for the transition of a new hire to successful integration? Why aren’t recruiters held accountable for the performance of the entire network of people that they hire? Why isn’t recruiting accountable for its impact on productivity?
These are the tough questions that follow the implementation of a real Recruiting system. The answers won’t be simple and formulaic. Rather, they’ll be culturally biased and context sensitive.
Auren Hoffman is the CEO of Rapleaf. Rapleaf helps B2C companies give their consumers a better experience by providing automated search services for each consumer. We’ve written about Rapleaf earlier this year.
Here’s his take on Effectively Using Email To Make Introductions.
The Art of the Email Introduction
How to introduce two people so that they both benefit
Email introductions are a poorly-understood art and are often done too hastily without careful thought. Making introductions the right way can be the best way to help two people and create a lot of value. But doing it wrong can make one of the parties look bad and can alienate one or both parties from you.
Below are my tips on the best ways to make an email introduction between two people.
Before we go through the mechanics, let’s first define your objectives as the introducer. Your goal should be to benefit both people you are introducing. Both parties should be happy you made the introduction, glad they met the other person, and thankful to you. You should not bother making an introduction if it will only benefit one of the parties.
Now for the tips on the proper way to make introductions:
1. Take the time
Good introductions require careful thoughtful preparation. Take the time to really think why both parties will benefit from each other and spell it out in an email. Hasty introductions can have minimal or even negative impact. I’m sure we’ve all been victims of hastily written email intros. I recently got one that said “Auren/John – you two just HAVE to meet each other. You two take it from here.” – I’d like to know who John is and why we should meet.
2. Ask for permission
A good way to start the introduction process is to first email the people and ask them for permission. Make the case of why they should meet the other party and ask them if it would be OK for you to introduce the two. Usually it will work well, but occasionally someone will say that they are too busy. If that’s the case, you just saved both friends a lot of trouble.
3. Make sure there is a quick follow up
You never want to make an introduction where both parties don’t immediately respond to each other. To prevent this from happening, make sure that the weight of your email encourages both people to quickly arrange a time to talk.
4. Take the time of each person into account
Be clear in your email introduction what the next action for the two parties should be. Suggest whether they should meet for lunch, coffee, over the phone, or just exchange emails. Often people should just have a quick phone call and you don’t want to waste the time of one or both people by suggesting a lunch.
Rarely introduce your friend to someone just because your friend wants to meet her. There needs to be an exchange of value between the two people and both parties need to come away with more value than their time is worth. To find a worthwhile introduction, you may need to proactively suggest people who your friends might want to meet.
5. Clearly give the location of each person
Location is one detail that is forgotten all too often but can save a lot of back and forth communication. If one person is in LA and the other is in NY, let them know. If they are going to be the same city in two weeks, they can now meet in person. If they are going to arrange a call, they will now know what time zone they are in.
6. Be sure to give their first and last name and a quick bio of the person
I often get intros from people to email@example.com – so I know the first name of the person is “Jim” but don’t know their last name and it makes it difficult to save the person’s contact information. And a quick bio will go a long way in giving context.
7. Mention if two people have met before
If you know the two parties have met before, even if only briefly, be sure to mention it in the introduction. Often people forget brief meetings so you can save them from embarrassment.
8. Include all necessary parties
If the people use their assistants, then copy the assistants of both parties if appropriate.
9. Only forward emails that make the originator look good
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been introduced to someone by an introducer who forwards me a semi-confidential email chain that I probably shouldn’t see. Forward only positive emails and, if you have to, edit the email before forwarding to make both sides look good.
10. Make intentions of your introduction clear
If you are introducing single people of different genders, make sure that the purpose of your introduction is clear and that there is no misunderstanding. Being clear about whether the introduction is a business or a personal one will preclude embarrassing situations where people have misaligned intentions.
As an introducer, your goal should be for both parties to be glad that you made the intro. If only party one gets value from the meeting, you have failed. But when you succeed, you have the potential to massively increase the happiness of both people.
Our sponsor Pinstripe, Inc. designs, builds and delivers high-performance talent acquisition and management solutions. Pinstripe’s innovative approach to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) integrates sourcing, recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and engagement into a complete, end-to-end solution. Pinstripe on-demand hiring solutions are tailored for specific clients across a spectrum of industries including financial services, healthcare, technology, telecommunications and other major industries. For healthcare organizations, Pinstripe Healthcare works with clients to attract the best available talent so they can deliver high quality patient care and reduce overall labor costs.
Paul Hebert joins us as a founding member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. As the Managing Director and lead consultant for I2I, an influence consultancy, he guides companies in their alignment of the behavior of their employees with the goals and objectives of the company through incentives and rewards. Full bio…
When I was a newly minted marketing professional in the late 80’s I worked at a company that jumped on the Quality Service bandwagon in the pursuit of the Malcolm Baldridge Award. The late 80’s were all about processes, procedures, documentation and control. Technology and competition were forcing companies to reevaluate the way they did business in order to reduce costs, implement best-practices and reduce unwanted variability. The mantra was control.
Fishbone charts dotted the walls. Conversations were all about creating flow charts of how the “best” process would look. Unfortunately, I think we had it so wrong.
Human Resources is All About Control
As I review what is going on the HR space today – I’m seeing some of the same discussions I was privileged (punished by) to participate in during the late 80’s. HR is looking for ways to establish systems and procedures to “manage” the work force. Some examples I see:
- Establishing specific job descriptions with little “white space” – only specific goals, objectives, tasks
- Performance review procedures and timelines
- Compensation systems that limit and reduce variability in the name of fairness
- Technology solutions with pre-set modules and workflows based on best-practices gleaned from the experience of the solution provider across many industries and companies
Can so much control work though when the resources we’re talking about after all… are human?
Henry Ford and the Future
Henry Ford is arguably the father of the industrial age – mass production and limited variability designed to bring the automobile to the masses. Famous for saying he only wanted the employee’s hands and feet but had to put up with their brains. The goal of the early 20th century organization was to limit the variability in a process in order to squeeze the maximum profit via efficiency.
We’re way past that now. Today’s workforce as predicted by Drucker is almost totally brain-based. To compete today our employees must be creative, autonomous, engaged, team-focused and diverse.
The antithesis of predictable, manageable and controllable.
Focus on Variability
When a software developer is writing code or a plant manager is planning a production line variability is the enemy of success. Variability brings error. Variability brings inefficiency. Variability brings unwanted costs.
When working with people however, variability is precisely what brings creativity, engagement, innovation, quality customer service, unexpected success.
Managing variability, it would seem, is the new must-have skill. But managing variability isn’t something that can be accomplished from an office in the HR department on the 3rd floor – or at the home office. Variability can only be managed at the point of contact – where the employee and the manager interact.
With managers as the critical factor to leading, leveraging and in some cases deliberately creating variability, what does that leave HR to do?
What if you were to spend more time training managers to be less controlling – and more focused on guiding? Could you let loose the reins of control and grab the rheostat of guidance and teach managers to accept their new role of mentor instead of controller? Imagine what would happen if you could embrace the very messy fact that humans are contradiction-prone, unpredictable, soap operas of a resource.
If your managers are hamstrung by processes and procedures – because you don’t trust them, because they haven’t received the necessary development to be a manager, whatever the reason – they won’t be able to encourage or manage the variability that will ultimately bring your organization new ideas, new processes and new successes. And it’s precisely the latitude your managers have to truly manage that is critical to allowing for variability.
Instead, create guidelines for managers that can be used to INCREASE the variability of thinking needed in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.
Please welcome Heather Bussing as the newest member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Heather has practiced employment and business law for over 20 years.She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio…
If you need a screwdriver, don’t use a mallet. Many employment policies are giant sledgehammers.
Large companies often require standardized procedures and systems to run efficiently. This thinking usually extends to personnel policies. After all, everyone needs to know what the rules are. Also, blanket policies, consistently enforced, prevent claims of favoritism or discrimination. These are valid and important considerations in having employment policies.
However, the more comprehensive the policies, the less flexibility there is to deal with people. Pretty soon, the plan defeats the purpose.
People, departments and offices do not function in a “one size fits all” manner. So every time you create a policy, you will have to make and justify exceptions when new situations arise that don’t fit the policy. As exceptions and new policies are created, your policy manual becomes a rabbit warren of rules that are often contradictory and inconsistent.
For example, most companies have broad “at-will” employment statements in numerous places throughout their handbooks. This should mean that either the company or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time for any reason. Yet often, a company will also have a 90-day “probationary” period with elaborate progressive discipline procedures. This implies that employees will continued to be employed unless they don’t pass the trial period. Also, progressive discipline implies that employees will not be terminated except for good cause and whatever steps the policy requires. So both probationary periods and progressive discipline erode the concept of at-will employment.
The justification for progressive discipline is to provide employees with an opportunity to correct behavior for less serious offenses. But in truth, not having an elaborate system of second chances allows for the greatest flexibility to deal with a situation that is not working for anyone. And keeping unhappy employees usually causes far more damage in lost work and moral than terminating them as soon as you see it’s not working out.
Having advised companies of all sizes, my philosophy is: less is more. Fewer policies allows for more flexibility in dealing with individuals and their distinct situations.
How to Evaluate Your Personnel Policies
There are certain items that should be in every policy manual—EEO compliance, wage-hour, workers’ compensation. You also need basic information on the company’s business hours, holidays, paid time off and benefits. But the rest is optional.
The policies that make sense for your company depend on the makeup of your workforce and your company’s culture.
Does progressive discipline make sense for your company? This depends on whether your company emphasizes retention, learning and improvement or whether it has a fairly low threshold for misconduct or poor performance. Most companies aspire to both—but is it really possible?
When a company has progressive discipline, the managerial focus is on the relationship between the policy provisions and how the employee conduct fits the policy. There is less room for customized solutions.
When a company does not have a progressive discipline system, then the focus shifts to managing employees in connection with company needs, priorities and what is happening with the employee in that position at that time. It is a more individualistic approach that often requires more time and decision making by management. However, it also allows for the greatest agility as needs, economic factors and employee performance shifts.
Do performance reviews, complete with multi-factored forms and interviews, make sense? This is usually an evaluation of cost, time, and effectiveness. Do performance reviews actually make a difference in performance? Do they make it easier or more difficult to make salary decisions? Does the work get done better, faster or more efficiently? If the answer is no, then perhaps the process can be pared down and pieces of it eliminated.
A word of caution though – the fewer policies and procedures you have, the better HR’s relationship needs to be with the company’s employment lawyers. The focus of the relationship with the company’s attorneys should be both preventative and proactive. It is important to develop an understanding about how best to prevent problems before they appear and handle situations as they arise.
This can be a difficult transition for both managers and attorneys who are used to fixing problems instead preventing them. The lawyers may feel threatened because if they do their job well, they will have less work. But my experience is that preventing problems, finding custom solutions, and eliminating cumbersome and inconsistent personnel policies create a more efficient, effective and better place to work.
For the past six months, I’ve been using Tungle to schedule and coordinate meetings. The logistics associated with trying to work out schedule details are a time sink. It’s hard, when you do things manually, to guarantee that everyone ends up on the same page.
Tungle works well as either a plugin for Outlook or a web based interface with Google calendar integration. The service lets you propose multiple blocks of times for meetings with people, and it lets the recipients select the times that work best for them.
Instead of relentless back and forth emails and phone calls, the Tungle setup makes meeting coordination a one step, effortless event. In my setup, Tungle is integrated with Google’s calendar and my iPhone. A schedule item goes in one place and is seamlessly updated on all the others.
I also use the Tungle.me service which lets people see my availability and request meetings based on my availability. Every day, the amount of time I spend coordinating details is waning.
I have learned a surprising thing. Executive assistants hate Tungle. There’s something about the fact that the tool makes the work so simple that is threatening. I’ve had a large number of assistants refuse to use the tool to schedule a meeting for their boss.
So, while Tungle may be just the thing if you’re trying to schedule meetings for candidates with hiring managers, you might test it when you’re making executive sales calls. Inside an organization, it may be impolitic to have your CEOs assistant scheduling meetings on your Tungle. The rules of engagement vary widely. Tungle is a work in progress. In the short time I’ve been an active user, the service has rubbed off a number of rough edges.
This is a fantastic way to deal with one of the HR world’s single greatest hassles.
In the United States and parts of Europe, conventional wisdom holds that job boards are dead. Personalized recruiting generated by an array of social media powered by artificial intelligence is on the verges of wiping out the business. Social media, in that view, is a revolution of the same scale as the original emergence of the internet.
Probably not so much.
If you listen closely, you’ll see that the loudest voices are those with something to gain. It’s not much of a surprise that the proponents of the post-job board future are all social media consultants. Will there be a social aspect to future job hunts? You bet. Will it be at the complete expense of the Job Board Industry? Not likely.