I do not intend a provocation. Indeed, I have great respect for those who have chosen HR as a career path. Their expertise enables organization efficacy and their skill set in service of a business’ most important asset, people, enables collective success. Like mother’s these surrogates care for and nurture the organization keeping things in balance.
Regardless, not unlike, Information Technology and Software Engineer types the best HR leaders are frequently not found within their ranks. What is needed is leadership and sound business acumen and unfortunately HR management professionals usually lack one of the two. There are exceptions of course, and there are HR professionals who can traverse the atypical policy-centric approach.
Like the Legal function in organizations, the great HR leader understands she must eliminate the perception that HR is a hurdle to be traversed to get things done. The ingredients needed for the great HR professional might then include:
- A Willingness to Learn
In my experience HR is a department prone to a “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. A good Human Resources leader is not afraid to question why. She is curious about tweaking policy but also the routine.
HR is evolutionary. New ideas emerge and new approaches abound in all the areas important to the practitioner - compensation, performance management, and retention to name a few. The good hr leader understands that she must consistently sharpen the saw to be successful.
Most HR decisions are reversible. Arguably some changes are harder to back-down on than others. But we all can agree the only constant is change. And as such the good HR leader is not afraid to experiment because she recognizes that frequently the organization can return to the tried and tested (though frequently sub-optimal way).
Strategic thinking is an under-valued skill set. When found in a HR leader it can set organization tone well beyond culture. Indeed HR works best as a strategic partner fully engaged in business decision-making. It is unfortunate that many organizations exclude HR from strategic planning, or grudgingly provide a seat at the table when unavoidable “people” roadblocks are met. In short a recognized visionary as a HR leader traverses the aforementioned struggle.
The ability to influence in an organization is akin to the power to change the organization’s course. “Culture does eat strategy every day for breakfast” – Peter Drucker. HR as a function then is uniquely positioned to exert influence on an organization. By extension the leader of the Human Resource Management team has a disproportionate ability to affect organization culture.
Like the pitchers of old,HR leaders are frequently the lowest paid professionals among the Executive ranks. The time has come for that to change too; you can’t win the game without a good pitcher. Oh and about business acumen, I believe the best HR leaders have diverse career paths that include organizational leadership in several capacities that enable development of a rigorous analytical skill set and understanding of how business really works.
Courtesy by Hayden O.