Friday 20 March 2009

Beatty: 'CFOs: don't trust HR' and the Employer of Choice


   I've been tracking the HR blog discussions arising from the article, Memo to CFOs: Don't Trust HR.  This described a presentation made by Rutgers professor Dick Beatty to a conference of CFOs, at which Beatty laid in rather heavily to HR.

I think these other bloggers' posts cover most of the criticisms I would make just fine, so I won't bother repeating them myself here.

However, there are a couple of areas in which I'd make slightly different points to other bloggers.  One of these is about engagement vs satisfaction, but I'm planning a short series of posts on engagement, so can deal with this then.  And another area is a response to Dick Beatty's point that  "while the language of organisations is numbers, HR isn't very good at data analytics".  Quite a few bloggers have pointed out that we're getting much better at this now, and I wouldn't disagree.  However, I think the bigger challenge to the sentence is that we should perhaps now change the language we use to manage our organisations.  But I've made this point several times before, for example, here and here (which interestingly dealt with some of the differences in perspective between HR and CFO).

So what I wanted to pick up in this post is Beatty's points about HR's "silly" idea that a company should try to be the "employer of choice":

"If you are the employer of choice, he asked rhetorically, who's going to be applying for your jobs? 'Everybody and their dog's brother,' he said. 'You want people who are excited, enthused, and understand how to contribute to what you do, as opposed to those who simply want to find a good place to hide out'."


I think this is just nuts.  Being an employer of choice has always, in the way I've understood it, being an employer of choice for the people you choose, or as Jim Holincheck describes it, the employer of choice - for top talent.

As long as we're referring to a particular type of talent here (the people with the values, competencies etc etc desired by a particular organisation), then I don't see how Beatty can argue against the phrase.

Being an employer of choice should be about being clear about what sort of organisation you're working in (its vision, values, big idea, mojo etc etc), and therefore what sort of organisational capability (human, organisation and social capital) you need, and then building your HR and management practices around this, allowing you to easily recruit, engage, develop and retain people whose own vision, values etc etc align with those of your organisation.

I actually think Beatty's probably arguing for much of same thing in the Differentiated Workforce.  So maybe his criticism is really directed at the way 'employer of choice' is interpreted in most organisations - few of which follow anything like the thinking or process that I've just described above.

Maybe he's got a point after all...


Photo credit: Morio


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