Wednesday 3 June 2009

HR’s spineless response


   I still feel a little uncomfortable about my last post – suggesting that some of my readers and potential clients may be overpaid probably isn’t the smartest business move I’ve ever made.

Still, we can at least take comfort from Human Resources’ report that HR salaries see double digit rises (even if this needs to balanced against People Management’s opposite findings that a quarter of HR and recruitment specialists have had their pay cut).

Also, I believe there is a growing need for all people in business, and particularly in HR, to be more authentic, and I’m trying to role model this approach myself.

After all, the dangers of inauthenticity are increasingly clear.  One is the sort of collusion between politicians, regulators, mortgage lenders, estate agents etc that has led to the financial crisis.  But HR has also been culpable for much of this muck.  As a really interesting report from Duncan Brown, now at the IES, notes:

“Commentators seem to all agree with the
Financial Services Authority chief executive Hector Sants
who wrote in an inquisitorial letter to his banking peers
last October, that ‘there is widespread concern that
inappropriate remuneration schemes have contributed to
the current market crisis’. One recent survey of the HR
executives involved in designing and administering
some of those schemes presents a somewhat spineless
response, along the lines of, ‘we knew there were
problems with the designs, but were afraid to act first in
case we lost our best people to competitors’.”


Spineless indeed.  But then I’ve been participating in this collusion too.  An example is my concerns about remarks made at a CIPD conference in 2007.  Although I thought the approach one of the presenters was describing was a disgrace, as I was sitting in a room of potential clients, I didn’t challenge the speaker at the time – or even in my blog till much later on.

I regret now that I didn’t challenge this more – and I can only hope that readers value my recommitment to authenticity and robustness (you may even want to try doing it yourself? – in your business – and in your comments on this post – authentic and robust comments are always welcome here!).


Photo credit: FIR0002


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    1. Putting us to the test, Jon!

    2. Jon,

      Nobody benefits from spineless HR people...!

      Sadly, I think that spinelessness may be one of the stereotyped characteristics of HR.

      People establish authenticity and authority when they let us in on their thinking processes... and nothing does this better than a revision or mea culpa.

      I enjoy your blog precisely because you often have strong, well-supported opinions. (Okay, and because I often agree with you...)

      Reflecting back on the post you referred to as one where you were a little late in speaking out, I wonder... how do you feel about ROWE now? maybe an idea for a post on a quiet day.

    3. This may be a spineless comment (feel free to agree) however, remuneration and reward are very much only one aspect of a corporate culture. Many of these decisions and strategies are made within that culture which can be difficult to dis-engage from when in the midst of it (frog in a pot anyone?)
      However, one of my biggest frustrations/challenegs is influencing strong, old school managers to look at the world differently. I play it as losing 1 or 2 battles but slowly winning the war (which I believe I am).
      Having said all that, we are definitley still accountable and I love hindsight!

    4. Thanks Jo, CV and Bill.

      I really appreciate your comments and enjoy your three blogs as well.

      I agree reward is subservient to culture (see for example,

      I'm still not keen on ROWE (results and behaviour yes, but not just results on their own).

    5. Dear Jon,CV and Bill,
      i think i was at the 2007 CIPD conference and was apart of the keynote panel where i tried to make the "lonely" point about authenticity and real people. we share the same battlefield but somewhere we seem to speak toour selves more than to the world outside - you guys have both the courage and stature to state these views at fora like the economist or the FT and perhaps the responsibility as well!


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