Last night, respected HR pros, cutting edge blogospherists, and friends Steve Boese, Susan Burns and Jennifer McClure… et. al… discussed what needs to happen to make HR work—for realz—moving forward. The conversation happened on Steve’s awesome show HR Happy Hour (listen to Episode 53 here).
Issues they dove into included such things as:
- What does it take to get corporate culture right?
- What does it take to hire to your company’s values?
- What does it take to get a company to acknowledge—outright—what it’s talent philosophy is… as opposed to what it’s aspirations are?
- How do you hire for lifestyle match as opposed to skill match?
All of which is great. In theory. (And on internet radio.)
Here’s why it breaks down in reality:
- Culture starts and ends with leadership, not with HR. The minute HR says, “Gee, culture sucks, we should take the ball here and run with it,” there has been a tacit acknowledgment that leadership has dropped the ball. Which means the battle for corporate culture is already lost.
- HR is not having the right conversation. HR is very, very good at heady discussion. a/k/a navel gazing. What’s needed here, though, is SALES. HR wants to drive? STFU and GO TAKE THE HELM. Don’t drive from HR, drive from a leadership position. Become the missing leadership… go get the line and finance and all the other areas of the company and sell them on your vision. Tell them what to do differently and dare them to say no! Follow Trish McFarlane for an example of someone who’s getting it right.
- On a practical level, too many organizations under-hired in their HR teams. Which means they simply don’t have the talent to execute. The circle of talented, “get it” HRians connected online is way, way… way… too small.
- We don’t yet know how to measure the impact of culture in a clean, isolated way… which means that trying to explain the importance of talent is no different than trying to explain the importance of trust or friendship or love. Have you ever run the numbers on dating? Or marriage? Or having kids? In a debate about where to invest company dollars, culture will continue lose to more transactional projects in all but the most enlightened organizations.
- Short term goals don’t require relationships… or at least they don’t appear to on the surface. And that’s about as far as most people look.
- We are still way too damn litigious in our society. The risks of empowerment are way too scary for many companies that don’t have the resources to fight an employee with a grudge.
- HR, as a rule, is too preoccupied with formality to get talent right. Remember Star Wars? Obi Wan didn’t worry about not having all his formal Jedi training Powerpoint slides before engaging Luke Skywalker. Yoda didn’t bitch about Obi Wan’s lax methods when Luke showed up on Degoba, either. They just all got to work.
- HR likes to make people experts in HR. How many times have you heard an Industrial Psychologist teach you how to work with a “sensing” or “feeling” individual? NO ONE GIVES A HOOT. Tell me what to look for, and what to do when I find it. That’s what people need. Like when finance gives you an expense report: they don’t teach you how your numbers turn into debits and credits, they just give you a form.
- People are cheap. Many companies want to pay more for quality talent about as much as people want to pay more for organic food. We might know the benefits, but at the moment of decision, it comes back to, “Do I really want to spend an extra $2 for a dozen eggs today?”
- We live in a marketing world. It’s all about branding. And personal branding. And being famous. And maintaining appearances. And what brands we put on our bodies (have you looked at your sunglasses recently? I bet they have a big logo on the side). It’s going to be very difficult to build genuine organizations with smiley stock photography as readily available as it is.
Which leads me back to the titular question of this post:
Noble idea. But then again, so was tilting at windmills.
Rather than shout into the wind, I suggest we focus on the little things every day that improve culture.
Like picking up paper clips off the floor or saying hello to your coworkers.
Now can we get to work?
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.