HR is Female

HR is the only predominantly female function in the contemporary organization. It is the beach head of accomplishment in the generational move of women from home to the executive suite. While the oft-repeated stereotype is that men are HR’s decision makers, the truth is that women occupy two thirds of the HR executive seats.
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HR is Female, HRExaminer

Having an extended conversation about the essential femaleness of one particular management discipline is a challenging thing to consider in our cultural environment.

HR Is Female

HR is a 47 year old white woman. She’s married, with kids and has pets that probably aren’t cats. She has either an advanced degree or a nationally recognized certificate.

While HR is widely understood to be a difficult place to sell and do business, it’s worth considering that the problem lies with the sellers, not the buyers.The uniformity of the profession’s angst about salespeople, marketing and vendor performance suggest that there’s something really wrong with the way that vendors see their HR customers.

These are a few of the top level insights from the new HRxAnalysts report, What HR Thinks and Feels: The 2011 HRxAnalysts Psychographic Survey of HR Professionals. Based on nearly 1,000 surveys (250 questions each), the report summarizes the first layer of our enormous database of HR lifestyles, attitudes, political alignment, sales orientation, career choices and other details about the character of HR. Conducted over the course of two years, the study is both valid and reliable. The confidence interval is about 98% and the margin of error is about 2%.

HR is the only predominantly female function in the contemporary organization. It is the beach head of accomplishment in the generational move of women from home to the executive suite. While the oft-repeated stereotype is that men are HR’s decision makers, the truth is that women occupy two thirds of the HR executive seats.

It’s useful to imagine that the people who populate the HR Department are heroes. The function provides work, upward mobility and access to the heart of organizational culture for a class of people with little organizational history.

Being a fundamentally female function, HR behaves differently than other parts of the organization. It’s more networky and can be nurturing. It’s natural that development is housed here.

The essence of HR might be its ability to make clear judgments about really intangible things like personality, potential and match-making. These are stereotypical female things.

Having an extended conversation about the essential femaleness of one particular management discipline is a challenging thing to consider in our cultural environment. But, if the real difference between HR and other functions is rooted in this difference, we’d better figure out how to have the straight talk. It’s impossible to deliver really useful products and services without an unbiased vew of your customer.

Take a look at the HRxAnalysts‘ website. We are going to be deeply investigating the real character of the HR Profession. Our work suggests that things are way different than conventional wisdom suggests.

Laurie Ruettimann, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Laurie Ruettimann, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Please welcome Laurie Ruettimann to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. With over a decade of experience in Fortune 500 organizations, Ruettimann is a sought-after speaker, writer, and pundit. She received her SPHR certification in 2001 from The Human Resources Certification Institute and is an active member of The Society for Human Resources Management. Laurie is also a certified recruiter and trainer through various credentialed organizations. In addition to creating and killing Punk Rock HR, which was recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 100 blogs for women, Laurie is the co-founder of New Media Services LLC, HR Bloggers, and HRM Today, the first social network for HR professionals. Full Bio »

Job Boards Are A Failure of Human Resources

by Laurie Ruettimann

I’m on my way to San Diego where I’ll be moderating a panel for IAEWS. What the heck is IAEWS? It’s an association — like SHRM — for job board companies. (Yes, there is an association for everything. If you wear Hanes Her Way underwear and Dearfoam slippers, you can join an association. I’m the founder.)

Anyway, this is how my panel has been described.

A panel of senior level talent acquisition executives will discuss the criteria they use to select vendors for the array of recruitment products and services they purchase. They’ll explore what differentiates a vendor in their minds, which variables have the greatest impact on their decision-making, and what changes they expect in both their budgets and strategies in the next 12-24 months.

Hm. Let me ask you something. As a Human Resources professional, does it make sense to spend money on a third-party vendor to list your open vacancies? Do you really need a job board if you have a smart and talented group of Human Resources professionals who are integrated into the business and understand the world of recruiting, talent management, and technology? Do you really need an alternative website or a metasearch engine where people search for job opportunities if you have a robust recruiting strategy [sic] that — when properly executed — reaches candidates in a direct and authentic way?


I know that job boards serve a purpose. We’ve talked about this before. Some ‘niche’ employment websites act as social networks. There are job boards that operate as a CRM for small to midsize companies that can’t afford to buy technological solutions to manage the recruiting & hiring process. And some job boards work because they’ve developed great relationships and understand a company’s recruiting process better than the Human Resources manager understands it. And I know that my colleagues who work for employment websites truly feel as if they’re doing something noble — and they are. They are getting Americans back to work.

That’s more than I can say for many HR departments.

But I’m not asking if job boards should exist. I’m saying that job boards exist because HR has failed.

  • I am sick of hearing my HR colleagues complain about the lack of talent in the marketplace (even as we experience the worst economy in decades).
  • I am sick of listening to HR peeps complain about being overwhelmed by resumes.
  • And I am sick of watching HR professionals place an ad on an employment website and expect great things to happen.

It’s beyond post and pray. It’s post and whine.

And if Human Resources professionals ever wanted to prove their worth and demonstrate value, they would stop using employment websites like it’s 1999 and become employment experts themselves. It doesn’t take much — courage, forethought, and a little leadership — for HR to take ownership of the world of work. What else should HR do, anyway? There is nothing more valuable than finding the right person to work for your company. There is nothing more important than filling a vacancy within your organization. And there is nothing more meaningful in this world than giving someone an opportunity to work for your company, earn a paycheck to support a family, and shine with pride.

And call me paranoid, but there is nothing more destructive to Human Resources — and to shareholder value — than spending money on a job board when you could be spending money on training & developing your employees and improving the infrastructure of your company.


But I am still rooting for Human Resources professionals to pull their heads out of their asses and find a pathway towards relevancy and accountability through recruiting — and away from external employment websites of any kind.

That would be progress.

Kelly Cartwright, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Kelly Cartwright, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Please welcome Kelly Cartwright as the newest Contributor to our HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board.

Kelly Cartwright is General Manager of The Newman Group, a Futurestep Company and part of the Korn/Ferry International family.  In her role, she oversees the strategic direction, development and growth of the company, applying more than fifteen years of leadership experience in talent acquisition and talent management consulting. Ms. Cartwright is a trustee on the Global Board of the Human Resources Outsourcing Association and also serves on the board of the Northwest Recruiters Association, based in Seattle. Ms. Cartwright holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine. Full Bio »


My “What’s taking so long?” Talent Management List

by Kelly Cartwright

We read about them every day, and we’ve been talking about them for years. I’m referring to those high-level concepts and ideals that seem to drive business and HR talk, if not action. Workforce planning, integrated talent management, business and talent agility, the comprehensive talent management technology platform, truly global talent processes, and of course, that proverbial HR seat at the table.  They’re all priorities. But we’ve been talking about these things for years, some for decades. Why are companies taking so long to “get around to it?”

This question is a good conversation starter, but I think it’s more than that. Your answer to these issues may affect your budget, your talent management organization’s effectiveness, your company’s bottom line, and, very simply, your future.

Obviously, there is no single right answer, but I will stick my neck out and say that there are some areas where most people should agree about each of those ideals. They are important. They are easier said than done.  Some progress has been made. We have a lot of work to do. Beyond that, the details differ for each priority and best practice. So, once again: What’s taking so long? Here’s a short review of the top six (in no particular order) on my “what’s taking so long” list.

Workforce Planning

Why it’s so important: Companies are realizing that those cuts they made over the past two years have left them with workforce gaps today. Understanding and predicting workforce needs is essential for linking business strategy to talent strategy.

Why it’s easier said than done: Despite all the press devoted to the subject, workforce planning still means different things to different people. A company may refer to a spreadsheet of current headcount and predicted headcount for next quarter as “workforce planning.” To have real impact, workforce planning must be more predictive than that.

Progress and opportunity: The practice of workforce planning has matured, along with its related technology. There is a general understanding today that workforce planning is a core link to business strategy, and as companies evolve their Integrated Talent Management capabilities (see next item below), the role of workforce planning will grow.

What still needs to be done: Going beyond a one-time event and developing a continuous workforce planning process requires considerable commitment. Gaining internal support is one thing. Sustaining workforce planning in the budget over time is another. It’s no small task.

Integrated Talent Management (ITM)

Why it’s so important: Disconnected processes cause havoc and waste money. How often does a company end up recruiting external talent simply because talent acquisition didn’t have the information from learning and development about its internal talent supply? How can a company develop a coherent corporate talent strategy when different parts of talent management don’t interact with each other?

Why it’s easier said than done: ITM is a complex effort requiring long-term commitment and coordination. Companies are beginning to tackle the challenge of moving beyond one-off technology deployments and process initiatives to create meaningful ITM strategies, but there is a lot of work to do.

Progress and opportunity: Organizations are recognizing the value of integrated talent management, and they are beginning to tackle the tricky problem of strategy development. The major technology providers understand the ITM message and are trying to deliver on it.

What still needs to be done: Companies are looking to mature their ITM capabilities and realize successes that translates directly into profitability. The business case is key to the ITM strategy. That business case will be need to be solid and backed up with early successes if it is to sustain the long-term vision.

Agility (Business Agility, Learning Agility, Talent Agility)

Why it’s so important: The term agility” applies to several different areas of business and talent management. In an uncertain economy, the ability to adapt to changing conditions is top of mind for individuals and organizations alike.

Why it’s easier said than done: Building an agile talent organization requires some level of integrated talent management structure. That is coming along slowly. Identifying, attracting and retaining learning-agile people  is a question of brand and culture as well as talent management capability.

Progress and opportunity: Organizations are gearing up to make their talent management operations more flexible by integrating processes and improving the interaction between technology solutions. Likewise, they are recognizing the importance of learning agility, particularly in areas of leadership and high-level critical talent. There are very effective tools to help them identify learning agility.

What still needs to be done: Almost everything. The quest for a more nimble organization with an agile workforce will continue to drive strategic decisions related to technology, organizational structure and every aspect of business and talent.

The Comprehensive Talent Management Technology Platform

Why it’s so important: The race to build a complete platform has been driving the evolution of the talent technology solutions marketplace for years—at least among the big providers.

Why it’s easier said than done: There’s a big difference between building a truly integrated platform of solutions that work in harmony, and cobbling together a Frankenstein’s monster of disparate niche solutions under one umbrella. Reality is somewhere in between.

Progress and opportunity: More awareness of the need for integrated functions is driving demand for more complete solutions.  Fewer and fewer people are talking in terms of standalone ATS systems. That’s progress.

What still needs to be done: Even among providers that do offer a complete “platform,” from talent acquisition to learning management, there is a recognition that the component systems need to improve their ability to work together, and there is continual improvement on that front. Add social networking and its related technologies, and you have a new universe of additional functionality needed to make that platform “complete.”

Global Processes

Why it’s so important: The world is shrinking. While companies think they’re getting away with localized disparate processes for talent management, their competition is likely to be outcompeting them for key talent, and doing a better job of retaining the talent that matters.

Why it’s easier said than done: It’s an old story—balancing the need for global consistency while accommodating regional variation is the main challenge.

Progress and opportunity: There are success stories in this area. The age-old debate between centralized and de-centralized processes has settled on something that has elements of both. With best practices established, companies can understand what it takes to implement global processes.

What still needs to be done: Combine global consistency with integrated functionality while bending to address legal and cultural variation across different countries. Plenty of work to keep everyone busy.

HR and the Seat at the Table

Why it’s so important: Many business decisions are still being made with talent as an afterthought. HR still struggles to translate its talent strategy into meaningful business strategy.

Why it’s easier said than done: Getting a seat at the table means changing a business culture that grew up with the “Personnel” department, which later turned into Human Resources, and now is emerging as Talent Management. Changing that culture requires HR to look beyond measuring its own performance and instead focus on delivering and measuring strategic impact on business performance.

Progress and opportunity: When lines of business own budgets that drive talent initiatives, the priorities and focus tend to change. This is happening in some companies today.

What still needs to be done: When the CEO becomes the first point of contact for talent management strategy development, we’ll know that HR (or talent management) has accomplished what it has set out to do.

Well, that was a lot of harrumphing.  I’m sure there will some disagreement on all this, and I welcome your view. Regardless of the detail, I think we can all agree, talent management is a field where there is a great deal of progress and opportunity. Where that opportunity leads remains to be seen.    


blindmen-and-the-elephant-hrexaminerOften, we use the parable of the six blind wise Men to illuminate the variety of opinions available on a single topic. Proximity to the problem often befuddles the judgment. Anyhow, someone was kind enough to forward it to us. We suggest you keep a copy nearby. It is particularly useful when examining the opinions of experts.

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!