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“It’s time to blow up HR and build something new”

HBR (2015)

By | Sriram Iyer | Founder & Chief Enabler at IKIGAI ENABLERS

No second thoughts when i got a chance again to read this widely discussed HBR article three years back – “IT’s TIME TO BLOW UP HR AND BUILD SOMETHING NEW” (Jul – Aug 2015). As with all HBR stories, not surprisingly, this one too remains relevant even today. Maybe, all the more relevant….The grouses against HR organisations gets stronger with every passing day, but solutions seems to be far from sight (In fact, my NUS mates probably voice the same concerns that the story has highlighted at every opportunity).

Firstly, here are some excerpts from this timeless piece on the common complaints hurled at HR teams:

  1. “The most vocal critics say that HR Managers focus too much on “administrivia” and lack vision and strategic insight”.
  2. “More and more tasks that had traditionally been performed by HR (from hiring to development to compensation decisions) were pushed onto line managers, on top of their work…..HR is now in the position of trying to get those beleaguered managers to follow procedures and practices without having any direct power over them. This is euphemistically called “managing with ambiguous authority”, but to those on the receiving end, it feels like nagging and meddling”
  3. “Though doing things the boss doesn’t want is a career-limiting strategy, too many HR managers wait to be told which issues to tackle”
  4. “HR invest heavily in many programs that lack impact.”

Now, the recommendations are interspersed over 3 articles with contributions from Peter Cappeli, Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey, Jon Boudreau and Steven rice. Though not entirely new, they are practical, incisive and requires immediate action:

  • Bring first-rate analytic minds into the HR function to help companies make sense of all the employee data and get the most from their human capital.
  • Start quantifying the impact of HR initiatives into financial benefits, the language that the leadership well understands
  • HR should bring the long view back into organisations as everyone seems to be thinking short-term. They need to do a balancing act and reconcile the immediate pressures that businesses face.
  • Three critical activities that HR teams should start doing immediately: 1) predicting outcomes, 2) diagnosing problems and 3) prescribing actions on the people side that will add value to the business. Today, other teams seems doing these while HR seems to focused only on implementation.
  • CHRO performance must be measured by outputs that are more closely linked to revenue, profit margin, brand recognition, or market share. And closer the linkage, the better.
  • Aspiring CHROs such have line jobs along the way, where they have to manage people and budgets…Make it a requirement for people in the top three layers of the company to have successfully worked as an HR leader and the function will soon become a talent magnet.

The list of recommendations is endless. But the crux of the article is that its important for HR leaders to cultivate business smarts and for business leaders to cultivate people smarts. This would go a long way in resolving some of the issues that we are facing on ground at large enterprises.

Time to truly build something new….


Originally published @ LinkedIn and reprinted with permission
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