What if ALL the smartest people in business came to work in HR?

Posted: September 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


Indeed, it may be many of them are already doing so and some may find themselves under-delivering due to lame processes and poor frameworks they are operating in.

Let’s look at this though. We see a lot of HR-bashing by itself and the world of leadership, academia, entrepreneurialism and beyond.

I can’t remember ever seeing the headlines from Forbes, Huffington Post, Business Insider, WSJ, NYTimes, The FT, The Economist, The Guardian etc. as follows

Why more startups need to be like corporate HR functions

HR Teams are the most productive and effective element of the corporate machine

Why your HR Director should always be your next CEO

And so on.

This is not without good reason. There are many places peope can point to that HR feels or is dis-enabling; not solving corporate problems and generally causing some degree of lag rather than drive.

OK we all know there are also some terrific examples of where HR has – quite literally – changed its game and changed the game for the business they operate in.

So let’s go with a theory that because mostly there is bad press, it is because the model isn’t effective enough.

Let’s also assume that the model isn’t changing to be more effective because many of the people involved in it aren’t super smart enough to change it and make it better.

OK it isn’t just about a few smart people but if we had ENOUGH smart people they’d work out a great model that others would take up and the HR function wouldn’t be the subject of this lame press.

In my recollection of business, IT used to be the corporate whipping boy in the 1990s and I know ‘cos I was there at the time. It was then Project Management (once the developers/coders changed their game it was then those managing the overall projects that came under scrutiny). Now it seems HR is really up against it.

So I am going to assume that smart folks have sorted out IT and Project Management as HR is the one getting the flak, the kicking and the self-flaggelation. Not entirely I know that’s not the case. But generally I don’t come across Business Posts saying “IT are holding us back” or “Project Management in crisis – where’s the next methodology coming from?” as often as I see HR bashing posts. Smoke/fire?

One caveat here is that I recognise that to many people, HR is only a small player in the culpability stakes of “corporate woes”. The C-Suite and CEOs are the REALLY dysfunctional ones.

Not disagreeing with this sweeping generalisation – that many board rooms are the scenes of crimes against good work – but that feels a little like a “let’s blame them” throw away comment.

I believe if HR ups it game, it can influence the make up and some of the ways of the C-Suite to help create a new way of leading which is more attuned to 21st Century work and life.

CEOs can be powerful and we’ve seen (Manchester United and Apple being 2 recent examples) what happens when a powerful CEO/Leader isn’t there anymore.

I don’t recall a single galvanising force behind TeamGB’s outstanding Olympic 2012 performances though, so I still don’t buy into the “it’s all one person” thing all the time. Anyway, this is not one of those leadership generalist posts.

So this “we’re not smart enough” label – I am taking it on the chin and you might have to also. I would love to change the model but it’s part scale and part I’m not smart enough to REALLY impact on the others who can change it.

I am accepting that not as a false modesty but as a fact to limit only my expectations about the scale of impact I can have immediately. With others with me, I could create that change and that’s certainly part of what I am doing (as well as earning a living). But I need to be smarter and I need smarter people with me.

So I am also labelling lots of you who are reading this in the same way. Not smart enough to change the game of HR.

If you’re narked by this I’m sorry – I mean no offence.

I guess I am saying that we are ALL to blame for the state of HR.

We are responsible for our weakest links and our inability to change the game for the better. We may have breakaway HR leaders or specialists doing brilliantly or we have people in enclaves smashing performance records all over the pitch.

But that’s not smart enough to have changed our game for the better else we would be better wouldn’t we?

I recall a quote – but not sure who – and it went like this.

The best leaders are the ones who surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. It’s a tough – but smart – admission of a strong leader to admit they’re not the smartest in the pack.

So I guess my prose here is that we NEED more of our own smartest to come through and join up and change the game (else it’s not very smart to be smart on your own) and we need MORE smartness to come into HR.

How would this work? For me it’s like this.

1.  We’d have people smarter about change, sciences, data, economics, technology to name but a few.

2. There’d then be smart people able to put others’ smarts to work.

3. We’d all learn, be smarter and do more, be better. Or realise we’re not smart in that way and find somewhere else where we ARE smart in the right ways.

I think we’re the only ones not smart enough to admit we’re not smart enough to change our own game.

I’m off to hug a scientist and dine out with an economist. See you in the new game.

  1. lisa2by52 says:

    People all round the world praised the Olympics Games Makers as well. I met the lady who was responsible for training them in great customer service and yet I don’t recall reading a single thing about what a great L&D triumph that was?
    So I’d say that HR could also do with being a bit more au fait with PR and how to blow its own trumpet from time to time to set a great example.

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