As a long time HR leader, I have been a part of driving “HR” processes throughout organizations for years. As I think through the many programs and processes we ask leaders to take on, it is clear to me that something with HR led programs is breaking down at most companies. HR’s vision of what the organization needs and wants can be very different than what the leaders think they need. While the answer likely falls somewhere in the middle, many leaders do not truly “own” many of these activities and often times they are viewed as more cumbersome than value add. It has become clear to me that pushing process is not the way to accomplish what I strive to accomplish as an HR leader. Leadership teams need to embrace tools and guidance from the HR leaders, but they need to believe in what they are doing and make it apart of how they lead every day.
There are no easy answers on how to change the things. In large companies, and companies that thrive on the “command and control” leadership style, the mode of operation often includes HR pushing programs out to the business. This can be difficult to change. In smaller companies and emerging companies, there is still a lot of opportunity to shift the thinking and accountability from an HR push to part of the culture and everyday leadership agenda.
While many HR leaders focus on policy and process, this is not where you can truly help make a company great. HR leaders need to spend time coaching leaders on being better leaders, talking with employees and finding prescriptive programs to put in place, not cookie cutter programs. People programs need to be jointly owned by the leaders and the HR team.
Here are some things to think about:
The CEO has to make sure that all things people are not just the responsibility of the HR team. Accountability for hiring, developing and retaining people need to rest with the entire leadership team. If there is an incentive system, all people leaders need to be measured on people metrics. It should be a key accountability within the organization.
The Board of Directors must demand accountability for a productive culture. Companies often say people are their most important asset, but often little time is spent talking to the board and the top leaders about culture and people. This especially happens when business is great and success is often taken for granted. A great BOD has a pulse on the business and the people. The Board should have an open relationship with the HR leader and discuss culture and people with the leadership team on a regular basis.
Leaders are busy and more and more time is spent in meetings. Leaders need to challenge themselves to spend ongoing time focusing on coaching, education and stewardship of the culture. The following areas are “event driven” in most companies. They must become as integral to the company as looking at the P&L is.