HR Isn’t The Needy, The Nerdy Or The Girlie

Cool spring morning. Grade-school recess. A group of boys and girls gather on a damp field. Captains are called out. The usual suspects. The strongest players. Each picks his own number two. The second-strongest players. The ones they’ve done battle with before. Sometimes a girl but usually a boy.

The number twos call out names and point successively. Advise their captains who else to pick. One by one by one. Strongest to weakest. Until the last few remain. The skinny asthmatics. The uncoordinated. The needy, the nerdy and the girlie. The perennial last picked. Or the never picked.

Sometimes a teacher or a playground monitor would intervene. To encourage the kids to include the never picked. But mostly they didn’t. Mostly they just wanted to play with the best. If new kids came to school, they’d have to prove themselves worthy before becoming sought-after talent.

Those were the rules. And they always played to win. Always. Played. To. Win. You may not be old enough to remember these playgrounds of mythic Gen X and Boomer lore, before the “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Before the not keeping score and non-discriminatory team picks. Before the nearly forced inclusion and everyone getting a trophy.

I remember. I was a captain and a number two. Even early on when I was a skinny asthmatic, I broke the childhood glass ceiling with decent coordination, people skills, strategy, flexibility, energy and empathy.

Then, as with every generation since, growing up means more of the “winning” same in academia, sports and the workplace. Regulatory complexity may mandate some leveling of playing fields, especially around equal opportunity and giving everyone a fair shake, but in business we play to win. And make money. And be better. And have a lot fun doing it.

When you know the players and how well you’ve play together, as in the playground example, you can replicate your winning teams with consistency, because the players rarely change. Unless you grow up and live and work in a world where tenure is less than five years and people can be as fluid as the very air they breathe, especially when it’s stale or poison, it makes amplifying talent engagement a business imperative.

Enter the people person, the second-strongest player, the key advisor to the captain. The one who gets the game, the players, the competition and who knows what to invest when and where and how much.

Get this: The enterprise executive whose traits are most similar to those of the CEO is the CHRO.

Did you get that? The CHRO (42 percent of which are high-performing females, by the way, for those keeping score at home). Not the CFO, CMO, or CIO. The only other exception is the COO because these roles and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s, this all according to “counterintuitive” and groundbreaking research based on data from executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry and the work of Dave Ulrich, a University of Michigan professor and a leading consultant on organization and talent issues.

You can read all about it in the HBR article “Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs.” This research also clearly revealed that a CEO’s people skills, strategy, flexibility, energy and empathy (and many other business-centric attributes) closely align to the CHRO.

Forward-thinking companies understand that these skills are critical to the top roles to engage and retain top performers – and attract the best candidates to join the team in today’s highly competitive market. This is why amplifying talent engagement can and should be treated as a business investment strategy – which is what the C-suite wants, and their respective boards, investors, high performers and prospective employees and customers.

Now it’s true that the majority of HR professionals tend to be nurturers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those who come from other parts of the business have learned those other parts. They’ve also had P&L responsibility, and have also done an HR stint (or two). These are ultimately the potential leaders, the CHROs, the bright CEO-shadows aglow with talent engagement outcomes that come from their cultural investment, business investment and revenue growth strategy.

The good news is that according to a recent PeopleFluent survey, HR leaders are focused on the following top three talent engagement strategies in 2015:

  • Leadership Development
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Performance Management

And Brandon Hall Group research showed that today high-performance organizations “optimize and maximize their business performance by investing in their talent management as a true business function that powers the business strategy.”

Sound familiar? It should, because every reputable analyst firm in the HR industry validates this over and over again.

However, it’s also counterintuitive today that one of the hottest topics still being discussed is whether or not HR should be split in two – one branch that handles administration and the other to manage leadership and organization.

Research by Bersin by Deloitte underscores this because HR is swamped with administrative tasks. Nearly 50 percent of business and HR leaders surveyed said their companies are “weak” on preparing HR to deliver programs aligned with business needs.

What to do? Get the proper technology in place. Using the playground-team analogy again, growing companies just can’t scale beyond a few hundred employees without the right technology enabling HR to scale certain tasks in a way that humans never can. This means bringing efficiencies to a complex administrative process that could never be achieved otherwise.

This is exactly what we recently discussed on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, with the consensus being the right technology partner not only takes care of the repetitive administration tasks from recruiting to onboarding to learning and development to performance management and more, they become the business partner that excels in culture empowerment, talent engagement, business strategy and actionable and sustainable growth, ensuring the technology investment is sound with continuous return.

CHROs demand this partnership; and Mark Stelzner, Founder and Managing Principal of IA, a consulting service firm that has supported many of the most complex human resource decisions in the world, has told me this time and again over the years. But like me and thankfully many others, these CHROs leading the charge of change and amplified talent engagement are quite sick and tired of being treated like the needy, the nerdy and the girlie.

Because Brothers and Sisters, this winning HR team is the one you need to be on today and tomorrow.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: Finish via photopin (license)

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