Neil McCormick Founding Member HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Neil McCormick Founding Member HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Over the past 8 years I’ve run many lectures, presentations and workshops on designing and implementing Workforce Strategy. Other than working directly with clients, the most exciting time for me is when I get questions at workshops and presentations, because  we are offering practical solutions and responding to the issues and questions that impact people’s working lives. We have kept track of  these questions and typical workshop issues, and there are consistent problems that impede the HR function or hinder the delivery of organisational objectives.

The most common question is: “Where do I start?”

This is quickly, followed by one of two core explanations:

  • “I’m just too busy with HR issues and activities on a day to day basis.”
  • “I see the benefit, but our leadership doesn’t “get it” or accept that we can add value beyond managing the day to day HR administration.

Here is how to start:

“I’m just too busy with HR issues and activities on a day to day basis.”

All HR departments are busy. Whether the busyness is focused on the correct objectives is another question. We walk through the office door every morning with the best of intentions and then the “vortex of noise”, that is the day to day crisis, urgent unexpected requirements and time focused activities, suck us in and rarely let us go.

A lot of the noise is preventable. Prevention requires analysis and effort, but it is possible to reduce the “noise” significantly. Our observation is that the HR function is predominately really bad at understanding, let alone addressing, the root cause of problems. How many of the day to day “crisis” are a consequence or repercussion from other issues and poor decisions across organisations. How often do we analyse these repercussions to discover what we really need to do to prevent them occurring in the first place or re-occurring? How often and how many times do we ask “Why?”?

While this may seem obvious, more times than not we are drawn to do the “fixing” of the problem or need. By the time we get to the potential for analysis the next urgent thing is on the radar. And, so it goes.

Initiate a root cause program for all issues as part of the process of the daily problem solving routine.

  •  “I see the benefit but our leadership doesn’t “get it” or accept that we can add value beyond managing the day to day HR administration.”

There appears to be varying leadership opinions regarding the appropriate focus of HR.

There is the minority (but growing) group that sees HR as a strategic value adding partner. The (growing) group that understands the potential of HR but doesn’t understand the “how?”  And finally, the (hopefully reducing) group that prefers HR to focus on HR activities and leave strategy to managers and leaders.

These varying opinions are understandable. While workforce is typically recognised as a key component to the successful delivery of goods or services, the function of HR is not seen as a function that impacts the delivery of objectives for those same organisations

Very rarely do we see direct links between organisational objectives and workforce (via HR).

So, if HR can’t articulate & demonstrate how it impacts the delivery of organisational objectives, how is it to convince leadership that it can add ever increasing value to the delivery of those organisational objectives?

What to do?

1. HR must first develop its own business plan that focuses on supporting organisational objectives and articulates this throughout the document.

This plan must highlight:

–      An understanding of the linkages between workforce & organisational objectives

–      a framework that supports and reports in terms of the delivery of those objectives and

–      a meaningful value proposition in terms of those objectives.

2.  Engage and educate leaders and managers with regard to the above value proposition

We need to walk managers and leaders through the business plan remembering to focus on what’s important to each of them. This will require us to change the way we present information, the information we source and the way we ask questions.

3.  Keep HR speak within the HR function.

While it’s important for HR folk to know how many resumes they have processed, people they have hired and how long it took, or that everyone has done the induction training, these measures are not necessarily significant to line managers and leaders.

4.  Communicate in terms of outcomes and objectives when dealing with the line managers and leaders.

This isn’t as easy as it seems if you use common HR measures. What value would managers and leaders anticipate if we could speak in terms of productivity improvement rather than an engagement score or a safety training completion? What about improved sales and profit rather than a new competency model and recruitment practice.

5.  Bring rigor to the table when assessing economy, efficiency and effectiveness of activities.

Use a recognised method for the evaluation of value creation rather than some form of cost comparison. Review the method in the ROI debate (link to article?) or, if you prefer, select another of the multitude of ROI structures and frameworks.

6.  Validate data and outputs.

Working in workforce analytics as we do we are always amazed at the acceptance that workforce data is unreliable. The single biggest challenge with all reporting and analytics is the validity of the base data. If base data is valid, there is a significant likelihood that managers and leaders will believe the reporting we present. Initiate data validity checks as part of the data capture process. If you already have a process in place, then enhance it!

7.  Ensure a common language and understanding of terminology.

The lack of a common understanding of terminology and “workforce language” across enterprises and sometimes even within HR is still significant. The professionalization of the HR function has helped but there’s still quite a gap. Sometimes, we expect people to understand our HR language when we have never explained what we mean.  As part of the business planning process, we can start small with a Nomenclature of the most common terms used.

8.  Be correlation hunter / gatherer and reporting experts.

When you begin understanding root cause a world of linkages will open up. Soon you will be focusing on the reasons why events happen, the correlations between events and the impact on delivery of objectives. Reporting must always reflect the impact these activities have on the organisations performance.

Reflect on the way you are analysing and reporting data. Just as importantly; what data are you reporting?

Above are just a few points to consider. Based on the feedback we are continuing to receive, it’s probably worth your time to take a few minutes and contemplate how well you address just these few.

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