Does the C-suite know what good people practices look like?

One of the million dollar questions in every business is whether the CEO and the senior management team know what good looks like. Because if they don’t, how will they set standards and manage upwards to achieve better results? To compete? To grow? To survive…

There are some areas of the business that they will feel confident, are the main areas to focus on:

Product development
Customer service
Finances and financial performance
IT systems and core infrastructure
Marketing and PR.

But often it is the area of people management, HR, recruitment, the workers, the workforce and the future of work that they will feel less sure about.

In the Harvard Business Review, July-August 2015 edition, Peter Cappelli wrote about “Why we love to hate HR…and what HR can do about it” and observed that “CEO’s and operating executives are rarely experts on workplace issues”.

Many companies say to us that what they have in their HR function is OK or fine or adequate. Many HR professionals talk to us privately about clear areas that could be improved and express frustration that the business doesn’t agree.

In the above mentioned HBR article Cappelli mentioned a Head of HR at a leading corporation who had survived lots of restructurings and was asked about the key to his success. His response was “I do whatever the CEO wants”.

That can happen to HR professionals. HR can become a function more adept at being defensive than inspiring. They go into survival mode and don’t energetically tackle key issues that need their drive. Issues around culture, investment in cutting edge technology, the changing face of the workforce, identifying the workers of tomorrow and ditching the employment practices of yesteryear.

Appraisals are a fine example of an HR practice that we’d say most HR professionals know don’t work. Can you imagine colleagues in Marketing or Finance persevering with such a practice? Especially if it costs great amounts of time and money and critically, damaged their internal brand?

Individuals go into HR because they have vision, insight, energy and enthusiasm about the workplace and people practices. Many have transformational skills in the areas of coaching, recruitment, listening and reflecting that the business they work in doesn’t notice or value.

It is the job of any CEO to make sure they nurture and develop their HR team and if they need external support to help them identify what good looks like then that is a priority. The one thing the C-suite will be united on is the importance of people, innovation and competitive advantage.

Often the HR department is the last place they look or a function that is pared down to the bone, dramatically under invested in compared to other functions (that they understand better) or focusing on the wrong priorities.

Making that re-connection between HR and the business; helping develop business cases for progress and change. Re-energising that relationship by running workshops for the C-suite and HR to define what good looks like is part of what gets us out of bed every morning.

 

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