Category Archives: HR leadership

The HR Leader as Anthropologist

When two of an organization’s highest-ranking individuals resign within hours of each other, it’s usually not because things are going exceptionally well.

As you’ve no doubt heard, both the president and chancellor at the University of Missouri stepped down from their respective posts this past Monday. Their resignations came in the midst of a student-led outcry over a lack of action taken by the U of M administration in response to several racially-driven incidents on the predominately white campus in recent years.

Leadership at the Columbia, Mo.-based institution—the flagship of the University of Missouri System—had been feeling the heat from all sides. Now-former university president Tim Wolfe, in particular, came under intense scrutiny for what a tweet from Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians described as his “negligence toward marginalized students’ experience” at the school.

For example, African-American players from the Mizzou football team—with the full support of their white teammates—declared on Nov. 8 that they would neither play nor practice until Wolfe was removed from his position as the university’s president.

Just five days earlier, grad student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike that he said would last until Wolfe was ousted. On Nov. 9, the Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet called for Wolfe to resign.

That same day, Wolfe obliged them, with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announcing just hours later that he would be leaving his job effective Jan. 1, transitioning to a role coordinating research at the university.

The question of how to eliminate or even curb racism on a college campus or anywhere else is one that’s entirely too large for us to attempt to take on in this space. But we can’t help but ask—from our admittedly very safe and very distant vantage point—could the HR function at the university have done anything to help prevent the tensions simmering on the U of M campus from reaching a boil?

That’s a tough question to answer from an outsider’s perspective, of course. But what’s unfolding at the school illustrates the importance of one of the HR leader’s many roles, says Dave Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“Good HR folks have a sense of what’s happening,” says Ulrich. “Sometimes HR analytics look only at spreadsheet, empirical data. [But], there is another field of analytics called anthropology.”

Acting as an anthropologist of sorts, as Ulrich explains, an HR professional should observe, listen and anticipate patterns to get a handle on how people within the organization—students and faculty members, in this case—are feeling, and how they’re relating to each other.

At the University of Missouri, he says, “it should not [have] come as a surprise that racial tension existed and persists. HR should have looked for this [tension] and then created forums for dialogue so that very emotionally charged issues could be discussed.”

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Parental Leave Enters Political Storm, Too

Paid parental leave has certainly taken over the media waves of big businesses trying to one-up each other in just how accommodating 510042321-- parents & newbornto new parents they can be. (See our most recent HRE Daily posts on large companies announcing such leave accommodations, including Michael J. O’Brien’s post just Wednesday on Amazon’s plan to up its allotted leave for new parents and allow them to share their paid time with partners not employed there.)

In addition to this race toward better policies, however, paid parental leave has entered a political-football frenzy of late as well. Just as Amazon was making its announcement Monday via a memo to all employees, newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was in the news for resisting calls to back a federal paid-family-leave law.

And this despite his outspoken desire to spend more time with his own family, according to this Huffington Post piece and this — far-more critical — piece on, as well as the fact that he provides his own staff with paid family leave.

“Because I love my children and I want to be home on Sundays and Saturdays like most people doesn’t mean I’m for taking money from hardworking taxpayers to create a brand new entitlement program,” Ryan told Meet the Press in a recent taping. He thinks offering such leave is up to employers; it’s their role, not the government’s.

Yes, that’s the common Republican stance — less federal control in favor of more individual control — but personally, says Terri L. Rhodes, CEO of the San Diego-based Disability Management Employer Coalition, the Paul Ryans of the world, as well as most all businesses and politicians from both sides of the aisle, “are all probably thinking mandated paid family leave is a good thing.”

Small and mid-sized businesses, especially, tend to be in favor of a federal mandate, she says, because they can’t necessarily afford the sweeping changes and allowances big businesses can in their attempts to stay one step ahead of their competition.

This mad race is further compounded by the fact that some states — including New Jersey,  California and Rhode Island — already offer some kind of paid family leave, and some states, and many companies, are backing paid sick leave as well.

“For big multi-state or global companies,” says Rhodes, “they can afford to figure how all this fits in with their policies and costs.” They can find a way to make it all work. But for smaller and mid-sized businesses, it’s much more complex “when it comes to considering provisions and accruals” and such.

“If we had a mandated paid leave,” she says, the playing field would be leveled more in terms of “what is expected; it would be more cut-and-dried.”

What’s more, she adds, many large corporations may espouse more liberal parental-leave policies, but don’t actually “support the policy that’s just been announced” when it comes to the corporate culture. The actual taking of the leave may still be frowned upon internally, but the external employer brand comes out smelling like a rose.

The sad reality — in the United States, anyway — is that “having a family still isn’t looked on as a great career path,” Rhodes says. “That’s a problem for everyone” — big business, small business … and Paul Ryan.

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Six HR Leaders Inducted into NAHR

From left: Alexander J. Ogg Jr., Laszlo Bock, Tracy Keogh, Mary George Opperman, Mark Bieger and Joseph A. Bosch.

From left: Alexander J. Ogg Jr., Laszlo Bock, Tracy Keogh, Mary George Opperman, Mark Bieger and Joseph A. Bosch.

The National Academy of Human Resources inducted its 2015 class of Fellows at its annual dinner and installation ceremony Thursday night in New York.

Six HR leaders were recognized by their peers in the academy for their level of achievement, including Mark Biegger, chief HR officer at Procter & Gamble Co.; Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google Inc.; Joseph A. Bosch, former executive vice president and chief HR officer at DirecTV; Tracy Keogh, chief HR officer at HP Inc.; Alexander J. Ogg Jr., operating partner at Blackstone Group; and Mary George Opperman, vice president and chief HR officer at Cornell University.

NAHR Chair Kathleen S. Barclay, who retired from her post as senior vice president of human resources for The Kroger Co. the previous week, pointed out to those attending the Yale Club dinner that the new Fellows have distinguished themselves through their extraordinary leadership.

To date, with the addition of its 2015 class, 163 individuals have been named Fellows in the academy.

Mark Biegger of Procter & Gamble has held various manufacturing, engineering, business services and human resources posts during his career, working and living in both North America and Europe. He’s managed HR in functions, business units and regions—including P&G North America. Biegger, who works closely with P&G’s board on leadership development, has implemented changes to long-standing HR practices within P&G, including a significant transformation of the organization’s performance-management system and major interventions to accelerate progress in talent development and diversity.

Under Laszlo Bock’s leadership, Google Inc. has been recognized more than 100 times in the past five years as an exceptional employer, including being named by Fortune magazine the No. 1 Best Company to Work For in the United States and in 16 other countries . Bock joined Google in 2006 from GE Capital, the financial services arm of General Electric with more than 35,000 employees, where he held various executive-leadership roles. Earlier this year, he  authored a book titled Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. He was also named HRE’s HR Executive of the Year in 2010.

Joseph Bosch served as the executive vice president and chief HR officer at DirecTV for the last five years. In addition to global HR responsibility for DirecTV’s 33,000 employees, he was responsible for internal communication, corporate citizenship and social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion. As a corporate officer, he reported to the chairman and CEO and played a key role in the successful negotiations and ultimate sale of DirecTV to AT&T last July. Bosch, who was also named to HRE’s HR Honor Roll last month, previously served as the chief HR officer for Centex Corp. and Tenet Healthcare.

Tracy Keogh most recently served as executive vice president of HR for the Hewlett-Packard Co., where she leads HR for the company’s workforce of more than 300,000 employees across 170 countries and more than 600 real-estate locations. After Hewlett-Packard’s separation into HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise on Nov. 1, she was named chief HR officer for HP Inc., which generates $55 billion in revenue and employs more than 50,000 employees in more than 50 countries. Under her leadership, Hewlett-Packard’s HR department redesigned all aspects of the company’s people agenda and revitalized the company’s culture. Keogh, who was also named HRE’s 2015 HR Executive of the Year last month, previously served as senior vice president of HR at Hewitt Associates.

As an operating partner, Sandy Ogg serves the nearly 100 portfolio companies across the different asset classes managed by Blackstone Group. He assists deal teams in the selection and formation of management teams and boards to deliver on investment outcomes. Ogg joined Blackstone in January 2011, after serving for eight years as the chief HR officer for Unilever, based in London. At Unilever, he spearheaded the company’s Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which has become a standard for businesses trying to “do well by doing good.” Prior to joining Unilever, Ogg served as senior vice president for leadership, learning and performance at Motorola.

Mary George Opperman heads HR at Cornell University, which has approximately 20,000 staff and faculty members. Since joining Cornell in 1996, Opperman has grown her portfolio to include oversight of the Division of Human Resources, Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, Environmental Health and Safety, Campus Police, Emergency Management and the Center for Regional Economic Advancement. Prior to joining Cornell, she spent 13 years in the HR function at Harvard University. Under her leadership, Cornell has received numerous workplace awards. These include being named AARP’s top U.S. employer for workers 50 and older two years in a row. She was selected by the editors of HRE as one of the 15 most influential women leaders in HR.

At the dinner, winners of the 2015 NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest were recognized. Taking top prize were Suetta Miller, a student in the masters of HR management program at Houston Baptist University and Brenda A. Barros-Rivera, a Ph.D. student in the HR and organizational-behavior program at Texas A&M. Their paper, titled In the Game—A Contingency Framework of Public Policy, explored HR’s role in influencing public policy.

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Employees as Social Ambassadors

Though the 2015 18th Annual HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas is behind us now, and early plans are already under way for next 488576383 -- social mediayear’s conference in Chicago, one session from Las Vegas that didn’t get written up on this site deserves to be.

In a Tuesday (Oct. 20) afternoon session, titled Tapping Employees as Social Ambassadors to Strengthen and Grow Your Workforce, Laurie Zaucha, vice president of HR and organizational development for Rochester, N.Y.-based Paychex; and Joe Schaeffer, Paychex’s social-media program manager, double-teamed on a pretty interesting story about how their company turned its employee-engagement levels and employer-brand awareness around with social media.

About five years ago, the term “Paychex Proud” was a little-known theme of an internal company meeting, one intended to grow engagement levels — or at least start the conversation about doing so — but one that wasn’t getting enough attention.

That all changed in early 2014, when Paychex’s HR and marketing forces launched their first small-business jobs index by taking over the Times Square Nasdaq tower in New York and asking employees to do simple show-and-tells (postings that were then aired) on the tower about what made them “Paychex Proud.”

The effort, said Schaeffer, required a good bit of encouragement. Like in many companies, he said, “people didn’t even think they were allowed to go on social sites,” let alone submit posts during business hours.

But submit some did. And as more caught on, and saw the images of Paychex employees broadcast for all New Yorkers to see, posts started flowing in, resulting in 200 overall and reaching 300,000 users.

“The goal was to get that word out,” said Zaucha, “that people at Paychex truly do have fun, that we’re a fun place to work.”

Next on the agenda was the company’s 2014 Paychex Sales Conference, where Zaucha and Schaeffer and their teams were able to enlist the social-media posting energies of HR and marketing staff, and attendees — again, to tell their stories and champion their company as a fun place to work — to the point where, by week’s end, the campaign boasted 2.5 million impressions and more than 1,400 posts.

By encouraging postings about Paychex on all social-media sites, including even Pinterest, said Schaeffer, “we’re seeing our sales people actually becoming more educated about our company; they’re now following us on Twitter and it is a happening.”

Through these two efforts, not only have engagement figures skyrocketed (from 56 percent of people saying they were highly engaged in 2012 to 63 percent saying the same in 2015), but the company’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter followers have also multiplied exponentially.

“If you can figure out a way to harness the art of marketing [into your HR efforts] and have highly engaged employees,” Schaeffer said, “they really can be ambassadors for the company.”


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Keeping the CHRO in the C-Suite

Human resources is rarely appreciated for providing thought leadership.

At least, that’s according to Lynda Spiegel,  who wrote “Why HR Belongs in the C-Suite” on the Wall Street Journal‘s The Experts blog today.

Spiegel, who spent 15 years as an HR professional, writes that most companies hire a senior HR professional to report to the COO or the CFO, trivializing the profession into a function “rather than an overarching discipline” integral to incubating corporate success:

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for chief executives whose understanding varied with respect to how human resources contributes their companies’ growth and productivity, but they each initially viewed human resources as a nonrevenue producing function limited to personnel management. Some came to recognize the need for a chief human resources officer to provide strategic direction alongside the CFO, COO and CMO. One CEO, however, memorably invited me to the c-suite only once. And that was to discuss the annual holiday party.

But, she continues, CHROs belong in the C-suite not only for their role in managing companies’ critical asset— aka its talent—but also because they make the C-suite team more effective. “They help focus the team as a cohesive unit and by doing so, support the CEO’s mission and with their skills in organizational psychology, can arguably better manage meeting dynamics when things get rocky.”

As Spiegel concludes: “The most effective CHROs don’t necessarily come from a HR background, but they are as much strategic visionaries as their cohorts in the C-suite.”

Spiegel’s compelling argument is sound and makes great business sense. The only question is whether the other members of the C-suite are actually reading it.

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Parental-Leave Parade: Where Could This Lead?

At this point, I’m wondering where this parental-leave maelstrom will take us. Earlier this month, protesters of the Netflix-leave 510042321-- parents & newbornannouncement descended on that company’s headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. to demand the new program extend beyond its wealthiest workers.

Groups including UltraViolet (which I blogged about a little more than a month ago), NARAL, Working Families Party, Democracy for America, Make It Work and were out in force with picket signs and audible opinions — after collecting more than 100,000 signatures protesting Netflix’s policy that, apparently, only serves those making as much as $300,000.

Two days after that protest, Hilton Worldwide unveiled what it’s calling its “industry-leading parental-leave policies.” The benefits will be open to all new parents, not just those in corporate roles. Mind you, it’s not unlimited, but, as Hilton puts it, it’s “the best offered by any major global hospitality company in the United States and Puerto Rico.”

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, new parents at Hilton, including fathers and adoptive parents, will receive two weeks of fully paid parental leave. New mothers who give birth will receive an additional eight weeks of maternity leave for a total 10 weeks of fully paid leave.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of driving significant change in our industry … ,” Matthew Schuyler, Hilton Worldwide’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement.

I contacted Schuyler to get his take on where his initiative fits in with the other “news of the day.”

Unlike at Netflix, “we’re supporting all new parents,” he told me. “From our hotels to our corporate offices, and for hourly and salaried team members alike, these new benefits are consistent across all levels. We know the importance of bringing balance to our team members’ lives, and these enhancements will help support them and their growing families.

Mind you, the hotel industry is not the tech industry. There are different variables and realities — and income levels — involved in those two worlds. As this piece on the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog, by Lydia DePillis, puts it:

“While many still find it troubling that lower-paid workers get less paid leave than higher-paid ones, the financial calculus is clear. As competition for tech talent has heated up in places like Silicon Valley, generous leave policies have become a recruiting tool for in-demand professionals — but aren’t necessary to find people who can work a production line.”

Still, I commend Hilton, and Schuyler, for taking the lead in all things hospitality. I’m waiting for others in that industry to join the bandwagon.

In fact, I’m waiting to see just where all this parental-leave one-upmanship — if you will — will lead. And I’m eager to see how the tech industry handles the more complicated conflict the Netflix hoopla has unveiled.

In the greater scheme of all that work/life balance entails, could this new focus on working new parents help redefine the workplace a bit more? Methinks it could.

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Tapping an HR Exec for That Top Job

Some of you may recall that back in June we published a cover story titled “Could You Be the Next CEO?” It was based, in part, on an article appearing in the Harvard Business Review under the headline, “Why Chief Human Resource Officers Make Great CEOs.” (University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business Professor Dave Ulrich and Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner Ellie Filler authored the piece based on study they conducted.)

ThinkstockPhotos-462411043Through their research, Ulrich and Filler discovered, to their surprise, that the traits of highly successful CHROs closely matched those of CEOs. As Ulrich explains in HRE’s cover story, “CEOs must have skills to meet financial, customer and operational requirements. The differentiator of effective CEOs in globally changing business conditions comes from their ability to manage organization issues around talent, leadership and culture.”

The story makes the point that the ideal corporate leader is one who understands the traditional guideposts of profit-and-loss statements, yet also knows how to get the most out of people—the skills that also define a best-in-class CHRO.

Both our cover story (written by Will Bunch) and the HBR piece obviously came to mind when I read earlier this week about Nintendo’s promotion of the firm’s chief HR officer Tatsumi Kimishima to president. Kimishima succeeds the late Satoru Iwata, who passed away on July 11 as a result of a bile duct tumor.

Analysts told the Wall Street Journal that Kimishima’s appointment “signals that Nintendo seeks continuity as it pursues a strategic shift begun by Iwata.” The piece quotes Tokai Tokyo Securities Co. Analyst Osamu Kamada, who notes that Kimishima has been “ ‘watching Iwata closely for a long time and therefore makes a safe choice to implement steps laid out by Mr. Iwata.’ ”

Yesterday, I asked Jason Hanold, managing director of the Evanston, Ill.-based executive search firm Hanold Associates, to share his thoughts on Kimishima’s selection.

Hanold speculated it probably has more to do with Kimishima’s relationships than the way the HR function might be viewed as Nintendo. “Often times,” he said, “the head of HR [at Japanese companies] is not a classic HR officer, but one who holds strong relationships with other senior members of the organization; who is given responsibility for HR and perhaps other aspects of the role. Therefore, while they think highly of the ‘head of HR,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean they think more highly of the HR function,” even though they apparently consider it a key functional rotation.

In the specific case of Nintendo, Hanold said, management clearly viewed HR as a key rotational assignment for executive development. “Tatsumi Kimishima was hired originally as a CFO, and then progressed through operational roles, only most recently in HR,” he explained adding that it was quite similar to Mary Barra at General Motors.

To be sure, Kimishima is going to have his work cut out for him as Nintendo’s new president.

As a recent article in Fortune noted, “[Nintendo’s] Wii U is in a distant third behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, and portable gamers who were previously willing to buy company devices, like the Game Boy or the Nintendo DS, have turned to smartphones and tablets.”

Guess time will tell whether Kimishima’s HR experience proves to be an asset as he attempts to move the organization forward. I’d like to think that would be the case.

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Report: HR Really Is Becoming More Strategic

Back view of businessman

Back view of businessman

We’ve all been hearing and talking about HR professionals becoming better strategic leaders and business partners for years, so there’s no real surprise here.

But in this report from the Cranfield Network on International Human Resource management, in collaboration with the Society for Human Resource Management and the Center for International HR Studies in the School of Labor Employment Relations at Penn State University, we do have new numbers. And they’re worth noting.

The report, Human Resource Management Policies and Practices in the United States, outlines the results of a survey of almost 700 senior-level HR practitioners in organizations with 200 or more employees.

It finds HR is more often on an organization’s board of directors or executive team and taking sole responsibility for major policy decisions than in years past.

Specifically, in terms of leadership, 70 percent of responding organizations said HR has a place on the board now, compared to 63 percent in 2009 and 41 percent in 2004. Also, two-thirds of responding organizations (66 percent) said they have a written HR-management strategy. As the report states:

“The HR department appears to be moving away from working jointly with line management in terms of where the responsibility lies for major policy decisions across a whole range of HRM activities such as pay and benefits, recruitment and selection, training and development, industrial relations and workforce expansion/reduction.

“In most cases, there has been an increase in either the HR department taking sole responsibility for these activities or line management taking responsibility (but at a much lower absolute level), with a concurrent reduction in the number of cases where both parties collaborated on the activity led either by HR or by line management. On average, line management is most active in the area of training and development, and least active in establishing pay and benefits policies.

“This trend implies that HR and line management roles may be becoming institutionalized, with each party focusing on its own responsibilities. The increasing regulatory environment may be playing a part here, with firms needing clear guidelines around responsibilities to ensure compliance with regulations and standards.”

This last sentence certainly underscores what we’ve been hearing lately as well!

The report also confirms the use of technology as a foundation for increased strategic HR leadership, with 83 percent of organizations using HR-information systems or electronic HR-management systems and 67 percent using employee self-service options.

Interestingly, according to the report, HR departments remain involved in the development of business strategy, either from the outset or through consultation, although their involvement has declined slightly (ranging from 80 percent in 2004 to 78 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2014/15).

Also, interestingly (and it’s hard to pinpoint what’s behind this), there was a decrease in the percentage of HR departments not consulted when the organization was going through a merger, relocation or acquisition between 2004 and 2009 (8 percent in 2004 and 4 percent in 2009); however, in 2014/15 the percentage returned to 9 percent, a level similar to that reported in 2004.

On a more positive note, though, the report states …

” … more than one half of HR departments report that they are consulted from the outset in such situations, which has remained stable since 2004 at 54 percent to 61 percent (depending on the type of organizational change), an indication that HR continues to be involved in processes vital to the success of organizations.”


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On HR Leaders and the Strength of Love

dv1080014I am feeling very compelled to share this with you at this time. I had seen this post on the HRExaminer site a while back, but what I’ve just been through personally has been bringing it front-of-mind in a very big way.

The piece, by Jason Seiden, co-founder and CEO of Brand Amper, addresses love. Specifically, as his title makes plain, “Love: Why Tomorrow’s Leaders Will Come from HR.”

If I had to interpret his overriding theme, I guess it would be that the people he knows in HR are better at real friendships and real relationships than people in any other profession he knows. And it’s because of that ability on the part of HR professionals to really connect with fellow humans who are doing, or going through, human things that the future of business rests — in his estimation — in their hands.

“They’re the best group of people you could want to be surrounded by,” he writes. “They get it: Success in business doesn’t come from technology. It may come through tech, but it comes from relationships.” He goes on:

“If you want to see the future of business leadership, look at the nexus of social HR and recruiting. I know HR gets (and often deserves) a bad rap, but the smaller circle of social HR leaders — the ones who share aspects of their lives with each other online, get together at conferences, and support one another’s businesses — have what [one] former friend and others actually crave: genuine connection.

“This HR group understands that sending a ‘happy birthday’ note on Facebook isn’t about pretending to be friends; it’s about knowing what it feels like to open your phone to 100+ birthday messages and wanting to be small part of that avalanche of love for someone else.”

We may not be HR professionals here at HRE; we may only write about your profession. But I can at least tell you Seiden’s onto something about the heart of business running on authentic relationships, not the manufactured or rhetorical ones.

The day I left on a recent extended leave to see my father through his final life journey after he bravely chose to cease all cancer treatment because it had failed, I received the kind of love Seiden describes. I did my best to leave my HRE house in order, knowing how my forethought would help my friends.

The love and support, and hugs, I received here as I set out on that heart-wrenching journey — to my father’s journey — spoke volumes to me about the power of friendship and relationships to lay enduring foundations in any environment where people work together toward a common goal.

Likewise, the kindness, patience and understanding I’ve received since my return one week ago today solidifies this sense of power that human connection has in the workplace.

People are, indeed, our most valued resources — an idea that’s still catching on here in corporate America, but seems to be taking hold in the United Kingdom, according to this intriguing piece posted on HREOnline today by our talent-management columnist, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli.

And this value isn’t just reflected in higher wages or paid leave, as the U.K. initiatives Cappelli talks about seem focused on. It’s reflected — at least I think it is — in workplace cultures, and in the courage of managers and HR leaders to show some heart on their pathways to becoming better business partners and leaders.

If any of you in HR are waiting for permission to lead with the love Seiden says is your strong suit, you certainly have mine.

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HBR: It’s Time to ‘Blow Up’ HR

powIt’s summer blockbuster season, with actors like Chris Pratt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson saving us from rampaging dinosaurs and earthquakes with the aid of tons of CGI special effects (and plenty of clunky dialogue), so perhaps it’s appropriate that the Harvard Business Review (subscription required) has emblazoned the cover of  its July/August issue with an icon of a ball of dynamite and the provocative headline “It’s Time to BLOW UP HR And Build Something New.”

The three related articles inside aren’t quite as explosive as the cover suggests, but  thought-provoking nonetheless. The first piece is by none other than our own Talent Management columnist, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli, who writes that business leaders tend to see HR as a valuable asset during talent crunches but as a mere nuisance when times are better. In order to get out of this rut, HR leaders need to “set the agenda,” Cappelli writes. Rather than waiting for the CEO to tell them what to do, HR leaders must strongly advocate for excellence in every process the function touches (or should touch), from layoffs to recruiting to performance management, he writes.

HR leaders also need to either deepen their own knowledge of analytics or partner with those who are experts in order to “help companies make sense of all their employee data and get the most from their human capital,” Cappelli writes. Finally, HR leaders must help their organization’s leadership “take the long view,” he writes:

How can HR bring the long view back into organizations? By reconciling it with the immediate pressures that businesses face, which those one-at-a-time projects are designed to address. … HR should also keep stepping back to study those initiatives in the aggregate: What emerging needs do they point to? How do those needs map to the organization’s talent pipeline and practices? Which capabilities need shoring up?  … That’s the kind of analytic counsel the “new HR” should provide.

The next piece is by none other than Ram Charan, the management consultant who stirred up controversy last year with an HBR piece in which he argued for splitting HR in two. Well, he’s back and this time he’s got company in the form of co-authors Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Co., and Dennis Carey, the vice chairman of Korn Ferry. In “People Before Strategy,” they argue for a new triumvirate at the top of organizations comprised of the CEO, the CFO and the CHRO. This three-person team will form a “core decision-making body” for the organization in which the CHRO will be the trusted advisor in all things people-related. “Forming such a team is the single best way to link financial numbers with the people who produce them,” they write.

The final piece is a deep dive into the work done by the HR department at tech firm Juniper Networks to make itself a vital part of that business. Juniper Networks has had to make a number of adjustments to its business over the years, write co-authors Jon Boudreau (of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business) and Steven Rice (former EVP of HR at Juniper Networks and now CHRO at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and HR has been key in those transformations. Rather than reaching for the latest “bright shiny objects,” as too many HR leaders do, they write, the JN team worked hard to understand the big picture of the company’s business, identify the most valuable ideas, apply them in context and carefully manage their impact.

The work the HR team did included working closely with business leaders to reorganize the organization to make its operating model more simple, do away with cumbersome processes that were adding little value (including a forced-ranking system that was hurting morale) and finding ways to increase collaboration and innovation.

Developing a reputation as an innovative HR organization “requires walking a fine line,” the authors write. Ideas for innovation often arise from popular talks and articles, yet if you “embrace too many of these … or apply them too superficially,” you’ll develop a reputation for fad surfing, they write. Instead, “dig beneath the surface to the fundamental scientific research and insights, and you can set the stage for true impact.”

All in all, a worthwhile series of articles — complete with the bizarre yet compelling artwork the HBR has been featuring in recent years.

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