In a recent article in Forbes magazine online, Ron Ashkenas wrote a heartfelt piece on how essential the Human Resources function is in response to recent HR bashing. He wove a lovely story of how critical the function is, how deeply misunderstood its people are and how we should all band together to help this function succeed.
The idea that we should all club together to support a non-operational function outside both our remit and remunerative motivation is farcical. The truth is twofold: (i) Firstly, bad hires come from bad specifications. HR cannot be blamed for finding the wrong person that a business unit specified. (ii) Secondly, HR needs to force the various business units to communicate their needs proactively and pre-emptively.
There is often a lot of subtext, contextual knowledge and peripheral information which comes along with requests for a new hire. Internal HR managers need to get analytical if they are going to remain relevant and not cede their function. If they fail to grasp the cost and revenue interdependencies of various roles then external boutique consultancies will thrive. These companies will analyse, assess and source the best talent. There will be a premium on this cost and it will ultimately be funded by removing more internal HRs.
The research tells a story. In a recent survey by Mckinsey, CEOs identified the top 8 barriers to talent acquisition and management. At the top of the list was the failure of senior management to spend enough time on HR. This is not HR’s fault but that the blame lies with HR is topical. Another factor was perceived to be the failure of managers to understand that good people are good for good business. Good people execute strategy well. The secret to this is understanding (a) the structural roles which people satisfy that are vital to the effective functioning of the business, and (b) the functional knowledge which is inherent in executing those roles.
In a recent post I wrote about the likely demise of internal HR and the rise of boutique consultancies which had the skills to analyse, assess and source talent. Internal HR is better placed to deliver this role better and more cost effectively. They should know and understand the people, they should understand the dependencies, they should have a clear understanding of contextual knowledge and they should also be able to bolster the role specs with additional peripheral information. Critically, managers need to know which position which their staff play. Without this understanding businesses looks like an under-12 soccer team where everyone is chasing the ball.