Last week, my (hopefully still!) good friend and twitter sparring partner, @TheHRD posted his frustration regarding HR’s annoying habit of talking irrelevant tactics when they could do a lot better by getting with the strategic program. The business strategic program. I know where he is coming from, but I took issue with a couple of things: Firstly the generalisation of HR in a tactical sense and also that his tweet hinted that the post held the secret to strategic HR, which it didn’t! So disappointing. Anyway, after my comment on the post which you can see on his original post and some twitter banter, we agreed to write and publish guest posts, expanding on our point of view. Below is Theo’s grovelling apology… NOT! More chest puffing below. Read my guest post on his blog here.
So I’m taking it you didn’t like my post last week on the lack of strategic thinking in HR? That’s ok we all have different views. But after our exchange of tweets I thought I’d try to explain myself further….to win you over to my way of thinking.
Lets get one thing straight at the get go, being tactical is necessary, I grant you that. There is nothing wrong with a bit of tactical intervention and we all need to do some of that from time to time. A lot of any job is based on tactical activities. But staying in the trenches permanently will not and cannot take the HR profession forward. If we want to make advances we need to tackle the issues that are important to our businesses, not the issues that are important to HR. And we needs to be strategic, not hope strategic.
I made the comment that we ought to be discussing topics such as, “maintaining margins in an environment where inflationary pressures need to be balanced against a squeeze on consumer spending”. You described this as a tactical business issue. I completely disagree, as I see it the only thing tactical is the way in which you are approaching it.
When margins get squeezed, businesses tend to react to protect them by cutting costs. Where do you find some of the biggest costs in the business? The people. So immediately we are into areas of organizational design, we are into the areas of talent management and succession planning. We are looking at the way in which you reward and recognise. Tactical interventions that stem from a strategic imperative. Issues that you can either be proactive and forward thinking about or sedentary and reactive to.
The moment we start talking about HR strategies, or strategic HR we introduce a first degree of separation. One that we will not and cannot get back.
Ultimately private companies exist to make money. They exist to make a profit and I am not and never will be ashamed to support that. But in order to do that properly as an HR professional you not only need to deal with the bread and butter – that goes without saying – you also need to contribute to the strategic direction of the business. THAT is the added value. And that means thinking ahead, understanding and setting the business agenda, being a cross functional leader and anticipating the people implications so that you can intervene and plan strategically. Which in turn means addressing the issues that are important to your CFO and CEO, not the issues that are important to the HR press. Without that you are merely pissing in the wind.
I stand by my original post. I hear a lot of guff about how we need to tackle this or that or the other mainly from people who are no longer in the profession or in some cases never were. None of the things they talk about are forefront in my CEO’s mind and frankly nor should they be. Not because we don’t take people seriously within the organistation, but precisely because we do. And we don’t treat them as commodities to test out the latest fad or HR trend on.
I don’t care what people call me, whether it is HR, Personnel or the Devil’s spawn because the job that I do and that I ask my teams to do will remain the same. We won’t be having away days talking about our strategic people initiatives and our HR plan, we’ll be talking to the business about how to maximise its results.
To do anything but that would be negligent and short sighted.