Bob Corlett | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Bob Corlett | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Please welcome Bob Corlett as the newest member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Bob has worked in staffing and consulting for over 25 years. He is the founder and President of Staffing Advisors, a retained search firm near Washington DC. He developed The Results-Based Hiring Process® and is one of Washington’s best known thought leaders on staffing and recruiting. Full Bio

This is a tale of two HR leaders, pre-recession.

Frank had just become head of recruiting at a major customer service organization.  Employee turnover was epidemic, recruiting consisted of “post and pray” job advertising, the company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside staffing agencies, interviewing was wildly inconsistent and most managers bypassed HR on hiring matters.

Frank was good at what he did though. He tamed the unruly hiring process, rebuilt his internal team with skilled recruiters, and managed to cut turnover in half.  Managers began to trust HR again, fees paid to outside agencies plunged, and Frank finally had time to put some metrics in place that went beyond just looking at turnover.  He wanted to measure how his department contributed to overall company success. Then the recession hit, and Frank’s team and his recruiting budget was slashed, and then slashed again.  His metrics project was shelved, and with no metrics in place, Frank was powerless as the CFO treated his department budget as a piggybank – the place to make the deepest cuts in the organization.

At the same time Frank started his job, Lisa took over as the head of HR at a large nonprofit.  She had a team of 20 and an annual budget over $3M.  HR had been languishing for years prior to her arrival – delivering the same results in the same way for many years – nothing really new, nobody really complaining about it.   It could have continued that way for many more years, but Lisa (on her own) decided that HR needed a three year strategic plan.  She gathered stakeholders, surveyed what was needed and crafted her plan for HR as other department heads looked on with mild amusement – after all, nobody else had a three year plan, why should HR?

Then Lisa began to execute.

The essence of the executive function is to constantly allocate scarce resources to where they will make the biggest impact, and Lisa used her own strategic plan to decide where to allocate precious resources.  It was not easy, it was not painless, but Lisa achieved more in three years than had been done in the decade prior to her arrival.  She introduced changes that both reduced her budget and improved service to the organization.  Every initiative had a timeline and a budget, every proposal had a metric for success, and she could demonstrate the business impact of everything her team worked on.   Unlike Frank, when Lisa was in a tough budget battle with other departments, her initiatives got funded when others did not.  Unlike Frank, when competing priorities emerged, most of the time Lisa’s priorities carried the day.  Both managers reduced their budgets, but unlike Frank, Lisa chose where to cut her own budget.

Now, as we emerge from the recession, Lisa’s team is intact and her job is secure – while five other members of the senior management team, including the CFO, have been replaced.  Both Frank and Lisa accomplished quite a bit, but what did Lisa get right that Frank missed? And what can you do?

  • Look beyond the current problems at hand.
  • Commit – publicly – to a course of action.
  • Make a business case for your course of action (up front), and then take full responsibility for your outcomes.
  • Risk public failure every day. After all, as Yogi Berra said “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
  • Win the internal battles and get resources and funds because you have a yardstick to measure success with – your own yardstick.

If you want to beat your CFO (in an argument, that is) go get your own yardstick.

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