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Paul Hebert is 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…
In order for HR to be effective in the future their current responsibilities need to be pushed out of HR and moved to the fringes of the organizations. What we currently call HR needs to be a distributed function – not centralized. Most (if not all) of the items on a typical HR practitioner’s to-do list can, and should be handled by the managers who are furthest from the hub of the organization and closest to the action.
That may sound anathema for most HR people but the reality is that HR acting as a central hub in an organization, kills the organization’s ability to be successful.
People Time and Money
The holy trinity of business – people, time and money.
Every business needs all three in various amounts. Those three elements determine how successful you will be.
Have great people – you can get by with less money and time. Have a ton of money – you need less people and less time.
But – if you have less time – you now need more people and more money.
Time reverses the equation.
Business Is Accelerating
We are all subject to time and unless we’re traveling near the speed of light we all experience it the same way. We all feel the pressure of faster, faster. Our bosses want more in less time. Our customers want more in less time. We, individually, want more in less time.
But we can’t change time.
Time is the one resource you can’t save. You can’t hold it. You can’t store it away for future use. Time is the ultimate perishable resource. Time equalizes everyone. Time is the only real constraint on business today.
And managing time as a resource requires different thinking.
Business Is War
Ask any military student and they will tell you that the best plans are those that have a broad, undeniable, clearly-stated mission that is passed down the chain of command until it gets to those that actually have dust on their boots. The military allows for decisions to be made in the moment at the point of attack based on a solid understanding of the strategy and goals of the engagement. Where military problems occur is when those at the point of engagement have to wait for input from the “higher ups.” That stalls the plan and creates failure. We’ve seen examples in recent history as diplomats tried to “manage” a war.
Successful businesses today use people as their weapons of attack. And their front lines are the factory workers, the programmers, the sales and marketing people who are working at the point of engagement. HR needs to enable those employees to make the appropriate decisions regarding people and resources.
In the future, HR will not be effective if most decisions about people need to be passed back up the chain of command before implementation. That wastes time. And time is the enemy. Or more accurately – taking too much time is the enemy.
Great HR Is About Bending Time
HR needs to first and foremost understand that time is a constraint and that “bending time” – reducing the lag between strategy and tactics is the way to enable success. A great HR person will find ways to make time work to their advantage. Think of it this way – if you are using the same processes and procedures as your competitors you both are constrained equally by time. But, if you can speed up your process – in other words – bend time – you now are more agile, more effective, faster and better than your competitors. You have taken a constraint and made it an enabler.
In order to bend time HR needs to relinquish tactical control and push their current list of activities out to the edges. Just as the military pushes decision making out to the troops in the moment, HR needs to push the day-to-day tactics out to the managers and employees closest to the day-to-day decision points.
Train Those At the Point of Engagement to Do 80% of your current job
HR needs to train those at the point of engagement about HR – the rules, the laws, the issues, the risks. HR’s job should be to equip those at the front lines of business to make good decisions in the heat of battle. HR needs to push their traditional work out to the edges where time can be leveraged not wasted.
Many of you will say – “If I push my work out to managers what do I do?”
That’s the beauty of moving more decision-making out to the edges – you now have more time to focus on the strategy and the planning of “human” resources. You are no longer burdened with making decisions for, and getting involved with, managers 2,000 miles away and four levels down in the organization. If you’ve done your job right – they are trained well to do the day-to-day HR work.
You are now freed up to work with your peers (CFOs, CMOs, COOs) to plan human resources that drive business results.
By moving more work to the edges and bending time, gives you more time for your company.
Time is a funny concept. When you bend time by allocating roles and responsibilities everything speeds up – but paradoxically – as you enable faster business processes you ultimately get more time for what is important in Human Resources.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined
Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind.)
That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal, And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope,
than, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen!
John Godfrey Saxe [1816-1887]
You ought to be going to HRDemo (December 8 and 9 in Las Vegas).
In its inaugural year, the show promises to shake up the conventional definition of a convention. HRDemo is designed for people who want to understand what’s really possible with HR Technology. Unlike other events, HRDemo gets you front row exposure to the vendor’s latest. No lines to get to the booth while the booth workers fling plastic objects.
If you talk to most industry analysts, they will tell you that HRTechnology is not very well differentiated. The past several years have seen intensified development with little growth in marketing or sales. As a result, you can barely tell one vendor from the other. They all carry the same recurring 80% of the functionality.
So, what makes them different from each other.
By now, you’ve heard my notion that software is really that thing that operates between you and the people at the vendor. Thick or thin, software is a kind of membrane that is supposed to be the nexus where all of the action takes place. Since it’s 80% the same, what matters?
Company culture. What you really need to understand when you buy technology is the vendor’s culture? Do they blame each other when something breaks? Do they get creative when there’s a problem? Do they quickly jump to tell you whether or not the problem is a scope issue? Are they more interested in your success or their own? Are promptness and accuracy the foundation of their work? Or, are they quick to obfuscate and slither with spin?
The best way to find out is to see them in action.
At HRDemo, the main thing is a series of product demos. The vendors are on stage for an hour. They get to tell their story the way they want you to hear it. There are no prearranged, prescripted scenarios to fake you with. They do their thing and you get to participate with your mind and your laptop.
What you can know for sure is that any demo that lasts an hour will encounter technical glitches. That’s when you get to see the underlying culture shine through.
You might be asking yourself, why would I go somewhere to see this? I can get demos done by webinar at any time?
At HRDemo, there will be 6 hours of programming on each of two days. You’ll be able to pick among a variety of vendors to see the stuff you want to see. Rather than arranging a dozen demos and doing all of the internal coordination, you can get it all done in one place in an intense couple of days.
Of course, there will be some fun to be had. We’re going to throw a Viva SaaS Vegas party in honor of the emerging HR SaaS Consortioum (it’s a collective of users, vendors and analysts). It should be a major moment.
If you decide to go, you can get a 50% discount by mentioning my name. Use JOHNSUMSER as the code when you register.
I’ll tell you some more in coming days.
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