Magazine article Workforce Management

Has HR FINALLY ARRIVED?

Magazine article Workforce Management

Has HR FINALLY ARRIVED?

Article excerpt

NOT QUITE, AUTHOR AND CONSULTANT DAVE ULRICH SAYS. BUT GOOD HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES CAN CREATE DEMONSTRABLE VALUE FOR AN ORGANIZATION'S KEY STAKEHOLDERS, ULRICH ARGUES, AND PROVE THAT HR IS WORTHY OF THAT SEAT AT THE TABLE.

ARE WE THERE YET? This is the refrain that children ask parents over and over as they journey to their desired destination. At times, the question gets redundant and tiring, but it still needs to be answered.

It is the same question that seems to be repeated over and over by many HR professionals. Are we there yet? Are we having an impact? Are we considered credible? Are we really partners, players or drivers (pick the metaphor) for the business?

The answer to this question lies in rethinking how we in HR approach our work. In doing workshops with HR professionals, I often start with the exercise, "Assume you have been asked to write a chapter (or give a talk) about the future of HR. What would be the theme of your thinking?" The list that is generated is often insightful and creative:

* Sourcing talent globally

* Managing demographics

* Changing a company's culture

* Building sustainability into HR

* Using technology to improve HR processes

* Building future leaders

* How HR can better meet the needs of business leaders

Each of these ideas captures a part of the "Are we there yet?" question. Each identifies an area where HR professionals and HR practices can have an impact. But, sometimes we need to see the forest rather than the trees. The meta-message of this list is the extent to which HR creates value. Too often in HR, we focus on what we do (create talent, shape culture, invest in technology, create leaders, etc.) rather than what we deliver.

To know where we are going as a profession requires starting with the premise of value. Value is defined by the receiver more than the giver. When I give my spouse a gift, she defines the value of the gift (my giving her basketball tickets did not endear me to her). Likewise, in HR we need to figure out who receives the value we create and then figure out what each stakeholder gets when we do our work well. By focusing on stakeholders and the value they receive, we determine if and how HR makes a difference.

Work that I and my fellow researchers at the RBL Group have done has shown that good HR practices (and good HR professionals) can create value for five stakeholders, both inside and outside the company. They are: employees, line managers, customers, investors and communities. As we consider the value each can and should receive from good HR, we help answer the question "Are we there yet?"

VALUE FOR EMPLOYEES

Employees receive value from HR as evidenced by employee competence, commitment and contribution. When HR works well, employees are competent to perform not only today's work, but tomorrow's work too. This requires identifying what knowledge, skills and values future work will require. It means seeing that employees have the needed competencies and are in the right jobs to deliver on them.

In the 1980s and '90s we learned how to do competencies right-by aligning individual competencies with future business requirements, by engaging line managers in articulating those competencies, and by integrating HR practices around desired competencies. Leadership consultants and Lominger International co-founders Bob Eichinger and Mike Lombardo continue to do excellent work in this area.

In the past decade, we learned that competencies are not enough and HR investments can also help employees be committed. Commitment, or engagement, is not just satisfaction, but is marked by employees who give discretionary energy and effort to accomplish good work. Now we are starting to find that while competence ensures the mind and knowledge and commitment-the hands, feet and head, if you will-we also need to capture employees' hearts and souls. …

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