You Have to Know Where You Are to Get There
by Paul Hebert
I see a lot of discussion in HR about where they want to be.
At the table. Strategic. Important. Critical.
HR folks are great at telling business leaders about the destination.
What I don’t see HR talking about is where they are. The beginning. That is a much harder task – and one that may require real work.
The evidence is pretty solid that human beings are the key component of competitive advantage in today’s working world. We live in an era of ideas and services. Innovation and marketing ensure continued success. These are functions squarely in HR’s wheelhouse. The human capital in your organization is where these capabilities exist. Not in software or other technological initiatives –– but in the hearts and minds of what Scott Adams of Dilbert fame calls your “moist robots.”
From that point of view, it would seem HR is the lever that should move the world. Yet the conversation continues about how to get “there.”
Destinations Are Important
Figuring out where you want to be is important if you eventually want to get somewhere. Fact.
No trip, no quest, ever began without a final destination in mind. Many will argue that HR doesn’t have a great handle on where they want to go and therefore are having trouble getting the CEO and top Execs to line up and march. I don’t think that’s the case.
I believe that HR knows where to go. And I believe CEOs know where they want to go. And I also believe they are the exact same places.
So why is HR still harping on “getting there?”
A Line Requires Two Points.
If I told you to go to Los Angeles could you get there? What if I blindfolded you and dropped you somewhere in the world and didn’t tell you? Sort of an “Amazing Race” in reverse.
Even knowing the specific destination, it would be at best difficult, maybe even impossible, to get to your destination. You not only need to know the destination – you need to know the starting point. That is where I see HR’s weakness.
Where Are You?
Too often in my discussions with HR they are very articulate and passionate about what they want – the outcomes. What they aren’t very articulate about are the starting points and the methods to get to the outcomes.
They don’t know their exact employee demographics. They don’t know what percent are degreed, advanced degreed, non-degreed. They don’t know what skills they currently have.
They can tell you turnover. They can tell you the number of open positions. They can tell you the number of departments and the number of people reporting to other people. But they can’t tell me much about the human capability they have in the organization.
HR can describe the company – but they cannot describe the human beings in the company.
If any HR person is going to get a CEO to listen – and get that oft desired (and then bemoaned) seat at the table – HR needs to very clearly articulate the starting point, the ending point and the path between those two points.
Simply telling folks we need to be more responsive, more innovative, more collaborative – is great. But knowing where you are allows you to begin creating a plan.
Give Me Some Idea You Know WHAT To Do…
CEOs want some idea of a plan. They know the destination. What they don’t know – and need HR to tell them – is “here we are – here’s where we need to be – and here’s HOW we get there.
A plan creates the illusion of certitude. And that’s what people want. That’s what CEOs want.
Go find out where you are now. Nail down the starting point. Then develop the plan that gets you to where you and the CEO want the company to be. Present that to your Executive team and I guarantee you’ll be sitting at the table for a bunch more boring meetings.