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Nov
27 2011

Time to Put HR Under a Microscope?

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

OK, if you follow HR issues at all you have to read an article with that title and the tag line: ‘we have to drive the HR professionals into making more strategic decisions’ (that’s the clip HRPA’s daily headline newsletter posted). In short, CFO magazine published this report a week or so ago that makes one a bit dizzy. It aims to summarize a presentation given by the CEO of Taleo (the Talent Management software company) at a US Conference Board event on Human Capital Metrics. The report seems to be an effort to pull out the highlights, which include a blast at companies using too many contract workers (getting less engaged employees) and the need to localize HR programs when operating globally rather than ‘drop in an American or Australian solution consultant’ into China, for instance. In the latter case, the reason pulled out by the reporter is ‘you need a local person who speaks the language and understands the cost structure.’ Admittedly these are among the reasons for wanting local help, but surely from an HR view, there are quite a few others – understand the culture, the local HR regulations, what motivates local people and more. By this time you can see a mish mash of partial ideas and wording shaping up. From here we launch into a clip of comments about the need to use social media better, emphasizing that referrals result in employees who typically stay longer. So far I’m following the reporter, a little buzzed by the quick shifts, but still puzzling about the title ‘HR under microscope’ and waiting for the major criticism. I’m guessing the headline is due to an editor creating something to sell. But no, there’s more. An interesting segue takes us through an interesting comment that HR can’t be more than an administrative function if it runs on a staffing ratio of 1 HR pro to 350 employees when (in the CEO’s reported opinion) it started at more like 1:60. Then the blast arrives. Asking reasonably whether HR at these large ratios can be expected to know more about talent than the manager of 10 people, it concludes: “Yet in exit interviews, employees say the number one reason why they leave is that they [don't like] their manager. It doesn’t make sense. We have to drive the HR professional into making more strategic decisions.” Wouldn’t logic suggest from this we need to convince senior management teams to make more strategic decisions about how to staff HR? Wow. I’m not sure what the point is here, but given that it made it into the tag line for the article, I’m sure it must seem important. Let’s see – HR doesn’t have the resources to get properly close to talent issues, so it falls to managers who are doing a lousy job. In some way that doesn’t make sense so we have to drive – great concept there: “drive” HR professionals to make more strategic decisions. Would that be strategic decisions to hire themselves more staff? Is that their fault? Or is it that perhaps they really could create a better environment at their 350:1 skinny department ratios if they just tried harder? Or am I being paranoid? All this ignores analyses from years back that HR staff ratios vary greatly due to the structure of the organization as well as sheer volume decisions (you typically need more HR per employee if you have 600 units spread geographically than if you have all, say, 25,000 employees under one roof like a big plant). But of course what really catches everyone is the facile move to turn this into blame for HR’s lack of strategic decision-making. Get the whip, let’s drive ‘em. By this point I’m not sure exactly who said what, but the result certainly seems to have ended up twisted in a familiar way. Sorry we can’t score one for CFO Magazine’s effort to make an ally of HR and mitigate inter-departmental silos. Except for the punch lines it sounded for a minute there like we were on the right track. Bookmark and share this post More »

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