The debate about certification over the past couple of days has produced some interesting insights.
From what I’ve seen, the legal profession is coming under an even more withering assault than HR these days from clients unhappy with the pay-by-the-hour model. The fact that the legal field has changed so little over the past 200 years has more to do with their control over the laws and regulations that govern their industry (and the rest of us) than with any inherent perfection in their way of doing business.
More to the point and with accountants and architects, I think we are debating a couple of distinct subjects. Professional licensure is a fundamental requirement of working as an accountant or architect because knowledge of the building codes or tax laws are intrinsic to the practice of these professions. That said, no one hires Santiago Calatrava to make sure their staircases are the proper width. Compliance is like the steering wheel on your car: you’d better have one, and it had better not fall off, but there’s little competitive advantage to be gained by investing heavily in steering-wheel development.
Visionary talent management, in my mind, is about nothing less than understanding the role each person plays in creating value within the business, which has close to nothing at all to do with FMLA, HIPAA, EEOC, or any kindred acronym. At best, it is a process which at some point requires the advisory input of a compliance expert to make sure you’re not barking mad. In my view, talent management is quite simply one of the core disciplines of management. Now just because a person chooses to become a compliance expert does not mean they are tainted and incapable of mastering this broader domain, but it no more prepares them to do so than being a travel agent prepares one for running an airline. For the record I don’t think any particular business function (e.g. sales, product management, finance) is all that much better as strategic management is a combination of art, trade, science, and religion. They simply attract more of the kind of person who eventually grows into this type of manager.
The second issue, and one where I am at least in partial agreement, is one of respect. Bashing HR is the perennially-fashionable black of the business world. While Santiago Calatrava may not spend so much time these days thinking about codes, I suspect he has a team of people who do, and whose contribution he appreciates. The HR profession has its structural shortcomings (as do all such fields) but dismissing them as a bunch of undifferentiated paper-pushing drones is to deny yourself access to a lot of wisdom. Yes, the drones are many in number, but there are plenty of wretchedly backward sales managers, incompetent technical leads, and narrow-minded controllers, too. If you can’t find HR people with a desire to innovate and good ideas and a voice within their organization, then the problem may be you.
We’ve also had some interesting websites tossed our way:
- The US Government’s Office of Personnel Management is an interesting argument in favor of standardization and certification. OPM offers an amazing set of tutorials on basic HR practice including a pretty interesting set of hiring tools. The government’s HR workforce is mammoth and a centralized library of tools and techniques is an essential part of getting it right. It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a government wide certification process for HR practitioners.
- The US Army makes their Recruiting Manual available to the public.
- Workforce.com makes a seven year old guidebook to Recruiting available.
Mostly, however, the wisdom of the Recruiting crowd is under lock and key. While there are plenty of publicly available HR policy templates, there is precious little open source information about how to do HR.
That’s kind of surprising when you look at the enormous load of verbiage being generated by people with blogs. (Current estimates of the number of HR blogs is around 7,500). It’s somewhat surprising, given the generous nature of most HR practitioners, that there isn’t some sort of open source movement for HR practice guides.
This is the great benefit of open, conflict laden dialog. Between the poles of Tincup’s advocacy and my cynicism, Colin’s midpoint (above) is a nice balance. While name calling is entertaining, solid discourse can produce interesting results.