Everyone Jokes About HR… These Fast-Acting Strategic Steps Will Change That

There are 20.5 million “jokes about HR,” double those in accounting and millions more than CEO’s. Don’t you wish HR could stop them?

Article Descriptors| Strategic Steps/Fast-Acting – List Of Five – 5 Min Read

Don’t Complain… Act

Yes, since Dilbert began providing readers with jokes about HR, it has become a cottage industry. However, rather than complaining that this piling on of jokes is unfair, why not take actions that will quickly reduce these criticisms/jokes? Instead, every executive and manager will talk about their “The New HR.” 

I have found that gaining recognition and visible support from executives is the fastest way to stop the joking throughout the organization. And in the case where you need that support right away. I recommend implementing one or more of the following “fast-acting steps.” That has been proven in a period of as few as two fiscal year quarters. They can quickly increase your business and HR results to the point where every senior executive will notice. 

Fast-Acting Steps For Gaining Executive Recognition And Support

After decades of HR practice and research, including serving as a Chief Talent Officer for a major tech company, I have found that nearly twenty strategic actions produce both HR and business results. However, the results and the follow-up recognition you need must come rapidly. This strategic list has to be narrowed down to these five immediate impact actions. Each one is highlighted below. And if you need more details for implementation, there is a link at the end of each step.

  1. HR accepts accountability for people management results – first, realize that executives often don’t recognize people management accomplishments. Because HR leaders almost universally refuse to accept accountability for the results of their processes. So, if HR leaders want that respect, they must learn to accept the “Captain of the ship role.” This is when a leader accepts accountability for both good and bad results, even when responsibility for the role is shared. So because HR’s designs, staffs, and monitors each of the high-impact functions like retention, recruiting, and development. Full accountability is especially necessary when HR wants full credit for producing the results. Because executives simply refuse to assign credit to leaders who don’t also accept responsibility when things go wrong. 

    Note: You can learn more about HR accepting full accountability here.
  1. A primary HR goal must be to impact business results – once HR has accepted full accountability. If you want executive recognition, you must realize executives only have time to care about business results. So, they focus on them and are not interested in the results from any individual HR area unless those areas have a direct and measurable impact on business results. Another essential step in gaining executive attention/recognition is for HR to first set a primary goal to demonstrate and then increase the business impacts from these few high-impact areas of HR (a list of these high-impact areas can be found here). However, you can also ensure that each of HR’s direct connections with business results are completely credible. HR must work directly with the offices that can accurately trace and verify these types of impact connections (i.e., the CFO’s office and the COO’s office). For example, when you hire or retain salespeople who sell 20% more, You can show that hiring/keeping all of these top performers will obviously increase your sales/revenue by the same 20%. 

    Another way to determine if HR provides the right level and quality of support to managers. Is to in an open survey, ask them where HR ranks among all support functions in contributing to their business results. By forcing individual managers to rank each support function (i.e., recruiting, accounting, security, etc.). Using their answers to this question, “Which support functions have had the most positive impact on their business results during the last six months?”. You can then easily show the cases when HR’s contribution ranks near the top. The final step is to get these two offices to estimate the dollar value of each of these identified business impacts. Converting all results to dollars makes it easy for executives to compare impacts and ROI across the many different business functions.

    Note: You can learn more about business impact HR here.
  1. HR must become a data-driven function – it’s no secret that years ago. The most powerful business functions, such as finance, supply chain, and marketing, have shifted to a data-based model. The expectation is that each major functional decision will be made based primarily on the available data. In a fast-moving global world, being data-driven allows HR to make faster and more accurate decisions. The use of data can also help HR learn how well each of its HR programs is performing and where they are failing. HR should also use data to identify the barriers that decrease productivity and innovation. And to identify and fix weak managers. Finally, if you want to have the highest immediate impact, start shifting in the retention and recruiting functions. Where possible, reveal the ROI of your most effective programs to your executives.

    Note: You can learn more about data-driven HR here and here.
  1. Reward managers for great people management – most managers simply don’t spend enough time on talent management activities. A primary reason is that fewer than 40% of managers are rewarded for producing great people management results. So, if you want managers to prioritize their people management responsibilities, you will need to measure the performance of each key manager in each of the high-impact HR areas (i.e., hiring, retention, performance management, and employee development). A final key action step is to develop a “people management scorecard” for each individual manager. Then, reward them based on their performance in each of those areas. Also, make meeting these performance standards a critical minimum when assessing a current manager for promotion.

    Note: You can learn more about rewarding managers for great people management here
  1. Prioritize and focus your programs, time, and resources – this last but not least action step. It involves prioritization, which is the cheapest and easiest of the five implementation steps. Prioritization is essential because there is never enough time or resources to do everything well. So I recommend starting by prioritizing, then loading your budget and your best HR staff into those HR programs with the highest business impact (i.e., recruiting, retention, internal movement, development, etc.). Next, prioritize and respond to the people management needs of each of your high-priority business units, locations, teams, and jobs. Finally, also prioritize your highest impact managers and essential employees.

    Note: Learn more about the importance and the impact of prioritization here and here.


Consider Trying A Pilot Demonstration To Prove Your Plan Works

Executives are likely to be cynical about trying any brand-new HR plan. An effective way to demonstrate that your plan will work is to implement a pilot demonstration of your plan in one of your more isolated business units. You can then show your executives the “before and after HR results and business impacts” of your plan. Then, if your plan produces positive results, you can roll out the plan across the organization. However, if it fails, you will have minimized the loss (as compared to a costly full-scale rollout). 

Incidentally – Are You Curious About The Most Popular HR Joke?

In my research and experience, I have found that the HR joke rated as the best by one author was also the most widely repeated HR joke. I have entitled it “The new recruit’s first-day surprise.” It goes something like this…

After the recruit completed our glamorous team and facility tour, they accepted the job. However, they were unfortunately completely surprised when they arrived on their first day and found that their working conditions were actually quite horrible. And when they asked HR about it. They replied, “Well, during the tour, you were a recruit. But now you are an employee!”

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, I often find that many well-meaning strategic HR plans fail. Not because the plans don’t contain effective actions. Instead, the initial steps in the plan take a long time to produce visible business impacts. As a result, the overall plan fails early on. So, I recommend that you populate the first elements of your plan with some of the fast-acting approaches that you found in this article. So that your plan will quickly produce enough of the visible business impacts needed to impress your most skeptical executives.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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