I get questions from the field on the best way to approach HR and talent issues from time to time. I’ve never been a Q&A type of guy with my blog or this column, instead preferring to write on areas in the HR domain that interest me (and you too, I hope). I still try to answer all the questions I get to the best of my ability, but rarely post the discussion. After all, I’m not Ann Landers or Dr. Phil, and you don’t care about other people’s HR problems, right?
But the question that follows is different, mainly because of the glittering buzzwords used. I love it when people ask the best way for HR pros to be “strategic and aligned” with the business, because it tends to get me all cranked up about the difference between buzzwords and action. Here’s the question from an HR friend of mine over in India:
“Kris—what’s the best way for our company to ensure our HR Team is aligned with the business?
“Here’s the situation: Our company grew fast and enjoys huge success and visibility. During happier times, everything seemed fine with the HR team, but during the recent challenging times, cracks in the surface have emerged. There is a feeling that things are not the same as they were. HR in our company is perceived to be bureaucratic, arrogant and void of all consulting and service skills.
“The senior management team of my company now wishes to evaluate if HR is measuring the right things to measure their contribution and progress. Some of the things we are looking at include cascading goals and widely known HR competencies. We’re looking for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which might include things like employment engagement, employee satisfaction, turnover, etc.
Thoughts? How about stop talking and start doing? How’s that for an opening salvo?
I can tell you that all the measurements listed above are nice measures, and important on some level to the big picture. Here’s the problem: None of them by themselves, or perhaps even together, cause HR pros to be aligned with the business. It’s indicative of what I call the “command and control” chromosome within the HR DNA strand. Many in our profession specialize in creating process rather than true value.
Now I’ll simplify it for you. You want alignment with the business? Make sure every HR pro you have on your team, from your HR coordinator to the EVP/Darth Vader of HR, is A RECRUITER in addition to whatever else they do. If you want alignment, there’s no better way to get it than to force everyone in the department to recruit for the client group they serve.
Don’t agree with that? Work with me: Think about what’s included in filling a job for a hiring manager and how it causes you to automatically be more aligned with the business needs of your organization. I count the following six outcomes of recruiting as great reasons for HR pros to stop talking to one another about alignment and start talking to candidates about jobs:
1. You find out what the hiring manager must have (needs analysis): Good recruiters have to understand the talent your organization needs in order to find it in the marketplace. Guess what that means for the HR pros in your organization if you force them to recruit? They have to have real conversations about the jobs they’re recruiting for with the managers they serve. This conversation is really a moment of truth. The process-driven HR pros will struggle to seem credible in these conversations because they’re not really consultants. That’s a difficult issue, but we’re talking about true alignment, not self-preservation.
2. You have to find out where the talent is and go get it (market research and sourcing): Traditional HR administrators use the “post and pray” method, placing jobs on a big board such as Monster or CareerBuilder and hoping that someone applies who will satisfy the hiring manager. True talent pros (that’s you, HR, or it should be you) get networked into sources of talent that can help them fill openings with new hires that make a difference to the business. You’ll know you’re aligned when the hiring manager tells you you’re different from the other HR pros he has worked with, because they didn’t do squat to help him find a candidate that could make a difference. You did. That means you’re aligned.
3. You become the expert to your managers on what talent costs (compensation analysis): The hiring manager wants to pay $50,000 to fill the position in question. By being tuned in to the market and (gasp!) being aggressive with candidates on compensation issues, you’ll be able to tell your manager what skill A, B and C is going to cost in the open market and be able to back it up. Kind of beats the hiring manager bringing printouts from Salary.com and telling you what the market reality is, doesn’t it?
4. You know why it didn’t work out with the last three hires (employee relations reviews): Why did the last person leave? Why didn’t Johnny work out? Recruiting gives the savvy HR pro a perfect reason to dig into the realities of the client group in question, from performance expectations to team dynamics to managerial style. Asking open-ended questions in these areas in the context of the recruiting process is the perfect way to be viewed as a street-smart consultant who “gets it.” Feeling the alignment yet?
5. You will understand that the only onboarding that matters is recruiting: I know, I know. You went to that onboarding conference and brought back the slides for the team and tweaked your new-hire process as a result. The biggest change you made? You’re now calling it onboarding and have Jimmy from the mailroom doing a presentation on the value of the nine-digit ZIP. If you want to make sure the people you hire get aligned with the business quickly, then get involved in finding and presenting them to your managers. Then tell Mailroom Jimmy to get back to work.
6. You will learn to be a closer: If you want your HR pros to be part of the show, make them get on the phone and sell the company and help close deals. Granted, some will struggle, but if it’s alignment you seek, there’s no better way for your HR team to remember how hard business is than to make them sell the company, all while trying to exceed the hiring manager’s expectations.
Recruiting can be a humbling experience. Many of the HR pros in your organization aren’t ready for it. Many of you will say, “But Kris, there’s so much to do and I need most of my team doing other things.” It’s OK if you say that. Just remember that what you’re really saying is that you have “process” to create, which is another way to say that you’re drifting toward bureaucracy and the “command and control” chromosome within your HR DNA strand. (Every time my “command and control” chromosome kicks in, I correct it by refusing to follow any process in our department with more than two steps.)
If you want alignment, make your HR pros recruit. It’s the quickest way to cut through the BS and get to what’s real.