When I started in HR more than 20 years ago, I didn’t have a mentor—or any guidance. I fell on my face all the time.
But along the way, I also became intimately aware of the heart-and-soul insides of each organization; all the dirty laundry as well as the inside scoop about what levers to pull to achieve the greatest successes. Most importantly, I learned what we could influence to have the greatest value in driving toward the one big number that defined each organization’s success.
In a recent conversation with Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) CEO, Johnny C Taylor, we discussed the essential role of HR management and agreed a longstanding dilemma still exists. It’s an often-overlooked truth that HR management is central to revenue-generating factors—with responsibilities such as acquiring talent, developing leaders, retaining intellectual capital, aligning people to organizational goals, and prioritizing the connections that move the business toward its objectives faster. But, too many of our colleagues still need to see—and understand—the impact they can make.
When Libby Sartain wrote “HR From the Heart,” she was right on target. HR is the heart. What we’ve been shy about is that by owning each of these areas, in a clear and defined way, exceptional results can happen. If you work in HR, you’re already the heart of an organization. But you also can use that superpower to be the brain. When I started flexing my own superpowers, here's what I learned—and what I wish I'd known sooner...
1. Acquire the Right Talent at the Right Time
(Statement of the obvious): Nothing inside an organization functions without humans doing the work. It’s important to remember that talent acquisition is not just about recruiting. A true talent strategy takes into account the strategic plan, matched to an operational map of what talent is needed, at what time, what profile will create the highest value, and how to supplement a team in a way that builds a high-performing culture throughout an organization.
To respond, in multiple organizations, my team has formed a rotational Project Management Office role(s) that can learn the organization across all functions, create operational excellence, and build executive leadership while adding value.
2. Develop Leaders Who Return the Investment Immediately
Many of us are asked to develop great leaders. If done right, our response can make the greatest impact on revenue—and create the most critical factor for future growth.
If done wrong, however, we can inadvertently create a shortage of ready leadership that can directly reduce the speed of growth. Hiring leaders from outside the organization means a longer knowledge ramp, including cultural acclimation and shifts in team-dynamics. And I think we can all agree that reading books to learn about leadership philosophy or theory rarely translates to immediate, positive business results.
A better approach is to support consistent learning for leaders, contextualized to current business goals, that simultaneously creates a playbook for success and establishes a customized path to faster ROI. Our role in HR is to drive—and facilitate–this leadership-development process
3. Hold on for One More Day
The greatest asset to a business is the intellectual capital contained inside the brains of the talented people who help build that business. Growth, however, can leave key contributors feeling disconnected from the current company purpose.
Defining and emphasizing societal norms in the form of values and behaviors can enable employees to feel included while establishing a space in which they can solve problems creatively.
4. Beyond a Tire Rotation—You Need to Drive Alignment
In Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive,” purpose, autonomy, and mastery drive most human behavior. By understanding these socio-organizational norms, and then creating laser focus around what important number drives the most value for the business, HR sits in the eye of the perfect storm that enables high-performing teams to all move in the same direction.
That direction should your most important business target, whether It’s revenue, impact, savings, or however you define success. Consider your individual role as an HR professional: What number creates the most value toward your organization’s target?
5. Connect the Dots
Every connection in an organization multiplies individual brain power and performance by 10x toward the value of the organization. As organizations find the best talent, develop leadership, retain intellectual capital, and get everyone focused on most valuable goals, what amplifies these results is found in creating the neural pathways inside the living, breathing organization.
Finding more mechanisms to communicate effectively, share knowledge, and plug into the core human condition of belonging is the superpower of the HR function. Understanding where gaps might exist, and how teams are connected, can best be assessed by you, the HR superhero.
Introducing "The Story of We.Me Series—Telling Your Own HR Stories for the Whole HR Community, and Beyond"
My first role in human resources was, literally, next to the morgue, in the basement of a hospital, surrounded by people who were not only disconnected but who also had given up on anything beyond creating file folders. It was only within the context of working my other shift inside the business that I discovered how truly critical the HR function could be.
Starting by understanding more about how we were profiling, finding, and attracting resident doctors, I started on a path of spending more time, solving problems, and removing obstacles instead of hanging out down in the basement with all those stiffs.
What's Your Story?
Aligning with SHRM's upcoming #wearework campaign, I'm excited to help colleagues, like you, find your voice and tell your stories. How has your work contributed to the value of your organization? Or has it? Like this first article, maybe you are compelled to offer advice that you wish you'd known sooner.
Please join me, and ETW, in sharing your HR insights and lessons learned along the way. Your contribution can be comical or heartbreaking; inspiring or even a cautionary tale. Share your thoughts here in the comments box below, or contact me! Want to share a video? Upload it to one of our social media platforms or let me know and we'll set up a session for you.