– Why Is It Important to Human Resource Professionals?
This is a question I wouldn’t even be asking if I had spent my whole life as an accountant or half my life as a CEO. So why ask now after a lifetime spent in human resources?
Well, now, in an ever-conservative global political climate and a seemingly endless ‘non-recession’ in Australia and the greater western world, it is important to reflect. Even more prominent is the world-wide need for good leadership. Not blind “Follow me out of the trenches into no-man’s land” leadership, which is treacherous and deadly. Not even “Fanciful, wishful positive thinking” leadership – although it feels good, it usually turns out to be quite ineffective.
What we need now is thought leadership. Thought leadership is borne of reflection, ambition (who doesn’t aspire to high performance and all the rewards it can bring?) and courage. Courage to do something different. Courage to remember that even though it’s important to be successful, however, we only have one planet. Courage to remember that the 7 billion people currently inhabiting Earth may one day become 21 billion, and we are only custodians of our planet’s resources.
What has this to do with human resources? Well, everything. Is there another profession, activity or endeavour better placed to consider the interests of all people? Is there another group better suited to build capability for high performance while remaining in touch with people whose capacity to contribute to high performance has nothing to do with pure economic output?
Let’s examine that concept for a moment – high performance. Imagine if all endeavours were linked and measured by their direct economic worth. We wouldn’t have penicillin, nor any kind of art or culture. The human resource profession would be purely transactional and centred around conflict resolution without development, ascetic or higher purpose.
Obviously, HR contributes to the economic outcome, however, try convincing the board to put a dollar figure on HR’s contribution. We spend years developing positive and engaged high performing cultures where no industrial disputes occur, because it enables a more effective work environment for those who directly influence the economic outputs.
Here’s an idea. Our current economic culture clearly prefers the short term over the long term. While this approach definitely has its perks, it can also become quite dangerous – in the long term. With this in mind, it may be beneficial for HR leaders not to participate in short term incentive schemes, as their efforts can only be gauged over a number of years. Perhaps HR leaders could be rewarded with above-average long-term incentives judged in a multi-faceted way, incorporating employee engagement, retention, attractiveness of their company as an employer of choice, and sustained year-on-year superior growth.
Would it be revolutionary to suggest the same for CEOs and all senior managers? If we took the focus off yearly performance and moved to 5-year performance assessments, with incredible incentives, perhaps more executives would stay the course, and more businesses would start the journey to long term sustainability. This does not mean the elimination of a continuous performance conversation, incorporating monthly two-way feedback. In reality, this would be even more required than with yearly reviews.
Would you hire a CEO, a financial controller or a human resource leader who has been with a company for less than 4 or 5 years? How could you be sure of their track record if they haven’t been around long enough to live with the consequences of their decisions?
My challenge to HR thought leaders is to be more thoughtful. More thoughtful about their real contribution and worth, as well as that of their CEO and peer senior managers.
Remember, we are only custodians.
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