Last week, we sold, and pretty hard at that, the case for the Organisational Effectiveness (OE) Tsar. Companies were encouraged to re-look at the art of running business via a new lens. It can’t be business as usual.
However, we all have to address one problem before getting excited by the OE Tsar narrative. The OE specialist that we are fronting for in this new OD. configuration has a mandate not very different from the orthodox HR function. And faced with the latter situation, we have to ask the question: if the OE Tsar’s mandate is similar to that of our HR friends, do we still need the HR function?
Well – straight on to the issue we believe has compromised the HR mandate at the modern firm, leading many to question HR’s usefulness: ‘HR has missed, and severally, seizing the opportunity to not only put in a word or two when discussing core organizational business and ensuing direction, but to change how organizations organize value-creation.’
HR is the ever-present and reliable organizational child, willing to go in the direction OD. winds are blowing – East, West, North, or South, traditional HR is ever present and good to go. HR is the ever willing follower that obeys the diktats of those from above. It’s rare for HR practitioners to work, and feel at ease, in OD. environments that manifest ‘cross-wind’ environments. They aren’t always comfortable with OD. turbulence.
As a matter of fact – HR is perceived and indeed deployed as the turbulence neutralizing entity. And in playing the latter role: HR has not always asked the right questions, has not been willing to sell what is uncomfortable and unorthodox, is too close to the bosses running the very system whose effectiveness the OE Tsar, or a ‘changed’ HR, should check and correct. HR is too close to the establishment to be the harbinger of bad and often unwanted news.
While we don’t want to paint a bad cop image for the OE Tsar, as a matter of fact, the Tsar should seamless integrate into teams; it’s also true that traditional HR is too close to the establishment to check it effectively. And with automation eating up routine HR jobs, one has to ask what is left for HR to do, without a redefinition of the function
We know that many of the readers, more so our HR friends, may not agree with us on the above statement. Therefore, below, we put our case of what HR should do to avoid functional displacement by the OE Tsar. It’s a case of HR fighting off the OE Tsar coup-de-tat
What HR should do to become relevant again:
- Shift conversations beyond individual appraisal and organization climate, to overall organization-health reviews; taking a hard look at the organization’s strategic metrics, the system’s readiness to deliver the latter and ultimately, whether the strategy is being realized or not
Has your HR generalist done the above? Even if they wanted to do so, have they been allowed the space to act as they wish? And even more important, do they have the business-analysis skill set required for this kind of task?
- HR seniors partake in the setting of the organization’s objectives; while we know that they are invited to strategy making events, it tends to be in the spirit of the ‘nice to have around you’ team.
So, has your HR generalist been granted the space and mandate to push the organization’s bosses on what’s important, evaluate outcomes, and avoid the ever-present over-abundance of initiatives and KPIs? And again, if that space were granted, are the HR friends wired to think that way?
- HR evidence for influencing decision making at work is mostly paper-based, and for all intents and purposes, linear. It’s usually contract management, discipline protocol, payroll, etc. The new mandate in one and two above requires a different kind of approach. Mastering, and in good detail, organization value chains, delving into analytics to seek and analyze evidence to inform the overall delivery of effectiveness at the organization
Has your HR generalist done things like Internal and external scanning and analysis, to identify performance and development drivers, provide evidence to prioritize areas for decision and action, and challenge conventional thought? Yes, challenging conventional thought? Are they not the top-bosses darling? And if they are, can they dare ‘annoy’ their work darlings, and vice-versa?
- We always tell friends that – whether it’s a charity organization or for-profit, without money, no company has a future. Charities should actually pay more attention to matters finance than the private sector. Now, HR has to get its fingers dirty in regards to finance analysis and identifying relevant organization finance metrics and how they influence sustainability. The latter, from identifying opportunities and quantum to invest, to improvement of specific and critical skills areas (digitization at work, cyber threats, gig-economy work skills, etc.)
Again, how many times has your HR generalist stimulated a compelling narrative about sustainable value creation from insightful, robust data about people and capability? The story behind the financial figures. By the way, I am not even sure that our finance work-cousins would ever allow HR near the finance toolbox. The latter is in itself an OE matter
We can go on and on but let’s leave it at that and opine that:
The HR function, for all its efforts to embrace higher level OD. ground and engage in matters related to strategy at organizations, it still has not fully seized the opportunity. And as a result, even as mundane HR tasks continue to be taken away by the relentless automation revolution, HR practitioners continue to hold on to the old and increasingly non-human tasks. The HR function has invited HR coup-de-tat on itself
Should colleges/universities not change the way HR is taught? How can the orthodox HR specialist reinvent and ably perform the ‘new’ HR function [read OE]? Is it a matter bigger than the HR function?
Food for thought!