Tag Archives: Future of HR

From the Archives: Memo to HR

data point tuesday_500

Until last week’s post about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, the post below from March 18, 2011 was the most read of all my posts.  Interesting.

TO:                         HR

FROM:                  China Gorman

RE:                         News flash!

Date:                     March 18, 2011

Guess what?  Your CEO probably gets it.

I know HR pros like to kvetch about the C-Suite in their organizations:

  • “My CEO doesn’t get it.”
  • “The CEO and CFO run the business like people are widgets.”
  • “I can’t get the C-Suite interested in cutting edge HR solutions.”

Those days are over, friends.  I’ve met and talked with a number of CEOs lately.  CEOs from Fortune 200 companies, medium-sized companies and start-ups.  I’ve been struck by the conversations we’ve had.  Because in each case, these CEOs exhibit many of the behaviors HR pros are looking for from their CEOs.  Here are some of the signs:

1.       Talent acquisition/development comes up early in a conversation about their top challenges.

2.       They have done reading – or in some cases, writing – about corporate culture and are actively involved in leading a change in their organization’s culture.

3.       They have embraced the research of an OD or culture expert/guru whose work they are integrating into their culture and language.

4.       Succession planning is among the top issues on which their leadership team is working.

5.       Employee engagement is critical to them.  They know the scores of their organization’s most recent employee attitude survey and are peering over the shoulders of their operations leaders to ensure the opportunities for improvement are moving forward — in line with the culture change work they’re leading.

6.       Supervisors/managers are measured by how well they manage the performance and development of their people.

7.        Diversity/inclusion enters the conversation early when talking about culture.

But here’s the thing, HR.  This is a trend.  We’re going to see more and more of these behaviors from CEOs as we experience the pending generational shift in the ultimate C-Suite in organizations large and small.

So here’s the big question:  Are you ready? Are you ready to be evidence-based in your leadership?  Are you ready to base organization and business solutions on current research and analytics?  I hope so.  Because the next generation of CEOs – as well as some in the current generation as my experience indicates – while  they’re beginning to focus on what HR would say are the right issues, they’re still the CEO.  They’re still all about the numbers.  Outcomes.  Growth.  Quality.  They still need fact and data to support their decision making.  That’s not going to change.   And if they don’t get that fact and data from HR where are they going to get it?

CEOs don’t really make critical decisions much by “gut feel” and that probably won’t change.  Ever.   Sure, some may be more spontaneous than others.  Some may be more extroverted than others.  And some may actually sound like HR professionals.  But they’re still CEOs.  They still have to deliver top and bottom line performance this quarter and next.  And they have to have a plan for the longer horizon – a plan that is based on real data and supported by the current set of facts.

Where would the average HR professional begin to source useful research data and analytics?  SHRM, CIPD, ASTD, WorldatWork – all the large HR-related professional associations are investing more and more into their research capabilities.  They all conduct and publish top notch research in every aspect of the people domain in organizations. They want their members to embrace more rigorous and sound methodologies.  Heck.  They’re pleading with their members to be consumers of relevant research because they know the day of reckoning is approaching.

Other organizations like The Conference Board, the Corporate Executive Board and Bersin & Associates all publish extraordinary research that enable HR to make fact-based decisions and to get HR metrics aligned with financial metrics.  Free sources of actionable research-based data include the SHRM Foundation, the U.S. Department of Labor,  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and innumerable non-profit organizations that cover the waterfront of issues and functions.

Since more and more CEOs are “getting” the fact that people and culture are critical to business success, is HR “getting” that in order to respond to this CEO movement in their direction, they need to be making movement into the fact and data-based world of the CEO?  I surely hope so.

It’s past time to get comfortable with research and analytics — and making them actionable.

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Urgency vs. the status quo

I’m noticing that something powerful is going on within the HR space.   It’s organic.  It’s energetic.  It feels urgent.  It’s about getting HR people more intimately connected with each other.  It’s about gaining confidence and strength through closer relationships.  And it might be turning the conference world on its ear.

HR conferences organized by groups likes SHRM (including SHRM global and its 52 state councils), ASTD, WorldatWork, ERE, LRP and others have done a very strong job of creating traditional conference experiences that provide content, continuing education credits, vendor showcases and limited networking experiences. 

But well-executed as they are, well-attended as many of them are, and well-marketed as they are, they don’t provide something that seems to be getting more and more valuable to a certain subset of HR leaders:  the opportunity to have intimate discussions with thought leaders.  And there’s a growing sense of immediacey about what’s missing.  So what’s my evidence?

Well, first there is HRevolution.  An early entrant in the HR “un-conference” space, two HRevolutions have been held and the third is in the planning stages.  Organized by Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Steve Boese and others, this grass roots gathering gets HR folks together to wrestle with each other on topics relating to the relevance of HR.  Facilitators lead discussions rather than speakers giving presentations.  It’s been given high marks for engaging its attendees, but questions of “what’s next?” persist.

The “Tru” un-conferences in Europe appear to be similar to HRevolution in that they have sprung from concerned and committed individuals in the HR space rather than from organizations in the HR space.  I’ll know more after attending the TruLondon conference in February.

RecruitFest! organized by RecruitingBlogs.com also joined the “un-conference” space, but mixed it up in 2010 with a different approach.  Instead of discussion groups, thought-leaders held conversations for the viewing audience (75 in studio; almost 4,000 through the live stream) to listen and watch.  It got the thought leader discussion piece right with some engagement of attendees and it also got high marks.  But again, “what do I do now?” questions followed.

The HRevolution, TruEvents and RecruitFest! unconferences are broad in their reach.  They engage interested professionals from all over the world to attend either in person or virtually. 

Now here’s a new twist:  the HR Reinvention Experiment held last Thursday for senior HR leaders in the state of Nebraska.  Jason Lauritsen, a senior HR executive in Lincoln asked himself “what’s next?” after attending the last HRevolution.  He assembled a small group of like minded business leaders in the HR space in Omaha and Lincoln and they gathered nearly 70 senior leaders from across Nebraska to talk with each other and begin to address challenges in Nebraska that need HR’s leadership.  And with the support of several local sponsor organizations, the HR Reinvention Experiment began to take shape.

A combination of traditional and un-conference organizing approaches, the HR Reinvention Experiment included tailored keynote presentations (me and Jason Seiden), small group discussions led by true thought leaders (Paul Hebert, Joe Gerstandt, William Tincup and Roger Fransecky) and a couple of traditional “concurrent session” topics (Chris Bryant and Greg Harris).  Limited to 75 attendees from a specific geographic area, HRRE was a day full of challenging content, discussion and engagement, all with a local focus.   

To further underscore its difference from traditional conference approaches, HRRE was held in the open spaces of the Hot Shops Art Center, an art center (and former mattress factory) consisting of working art studios, showrooms and gallery spaces.  Attendees, surrounded by the creative process, carried their folding chairs from space to space throughout the day so that gathering spots magically opened up in places like pottery and glass blowing studios as well as galleries.

Instead of PowerPoints and handouts, the HRRE organizing team hired the graphic genius of Sophia Liang (Graphic Footprints) to make a graphic recording of the keynote sessions, as well as several of the discussion sessions.  This is the recording of the lunch keynote, “The CEO Perspective of HR,” a discussion between two CEOs: Roger Fransecky and Kim HoogeveenThe additional recordings will be shared on the HRRE website soon.

It was a full day to say the least.  I participated as the opening keynoter giving the attendees an “HR Wake-Up Call” as well as attending as a participant for the full day’s activities.  The experience was challenging, fun, engaging and thought-provoking.  It brought together many of Nebraska’s HR leaders for a day of thoughtful and personal engagement and pushed them to ask new questions and assume different outcomes.

But while the “what’s next?” question persists, I have a feeling that there will indeed be a “next” in Nebraska.  These business leaders seem ready to take action.  HRRE felt like a catalyst that will start to move the discussions into action.  Time will tell, of course, but the framework exists to launch a new kind of self-driven professional community. 

Professional organizations catering to HR leaders should be taking note of the grass roots efforts to connect in new and more impactful ways.  Whether it’s learning and conferences or advocacy and membership, there are unmet needs that are becoming urgent in the HR world.  The frequency and level of innovation happening in this space suggests that the current infrastructure is becoming less relevant to a portion of the population.  And this portion of the HR population has the commitment, skills and intellectual curiosity to do something about it.  We should all stay tuned….

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Filed under China Gorman, Conferences, HR, HR Conferences, Leadership, Uncategorized