Thursday, 5 February 2009

HR's main priority?


   HR's main priority? - It's dealing with the recession, stupid!

Well actually, no, I don't think it is.  To me, HR's biggest challenge, and opportunity, is to facilitate conversations within their businesses about if and how the way these organisations run needs to look different from now on.

My last post on the global reset suggested that businesses are now going to have to change.  As Cary Cooper, writing in Human Resources magazine explains: "The last two decades have been about the acquisition of material goods, about excess, about a ‘me-oriented' as opposed to a ‘we-oriented' society."  We're now moving rapidly towards a more 'we' focused environment.

It's not going to be easy.  HR still needs to deal reactively with the negative consequences of the recession - which is already taking up a lot of extra time.  But it needs to plan for the upturn and to take account of sweeping societal changes too - or as Ulrich phrased it last night, "In the current climate, HR is faced with a series of paradoxes and may, as a result, become confused as to whether to do nothing or everything; or to take a short-term view or a long-term view".

HR teams need to do both, but in my view, it's the long-term piece which will have the biggest overall impact (longer-term).

An example of the opportunity provide by thinking longer-term is described in the Economist this week.  Explaining the need for banking bonuses to be based on average performance over several years, the magazine notes:

"Impossible, the banks might say: our star employees will never tolerate such restrictions. But if there is ever going to be a time to reorganise the incentive structure now must be it. A threat to quit will be pretty hollow, given the state of investment banking. And few traders will have the clout to set up their own hedge funds in today’s market conditions. In any case, the greediest employees may be the ones most likely to usher in the next banking crisis. Better to wave them goodbye and wish good luck to their next employer."


The general opportunity is also expressed well by Cooper:

"This recession could be the making of HR. During this period HR will be challenged like never before...  The challenge for HR is potentially more meaningful, to ensure that we create the right organisational climates where people can flourish, where we retain and truly develop our human talent, where we humanely deal with people when the times get tough, that we don't avoid confronting senior management when we need to, on the important ‘people issues ‘of the time, rather meekly accepting top management diktat that we know to be wrong. HR should be at the forefront of our recovery, not just a compliant functional support system.  It is now time to put into practice action the often-heard HR rhetoric: ‘The most valuable resource is our human resource'."


What do you think?  Are businesses going to have to fundamentally change (say, within the next fivce years)?  Should this change be HR's main priority?  Does HR have the capability to lead this change?

I'd value your comments below, and / or I've also set up a poll on my sidebar (top right corner of my blog) for the first of these questions.  It would be great to hear your views.



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