I’m in a unique situation: I’m an experienced employment lawyer and an expert in HR practices. I’ve had the opportunity to give more than 250 presentations to CEOs through the Vistage organization. I also ran a monthly forum for senior HR executives for four years. In this mastermind group, all members had to be SPHRs (a high-end HR designation) make more than $80,000, and report directly to their CEO for at least seven years. So, given my expert background of knowing the law, the needs of business owners, and the human resource function, what am I looking for in great HR?
To begin with, I want somebody who’s excited about the job who wants to be really good, if not great at it. Someone who’s willing to give it their best every day and not settle for mediocrity. In many organizations, the person in the HR role doesn’t have a formal HR background. The CFO, bookkeeper, or owner might be managing the basic HR functions such as payroll and benefits administration. As companies grow toward the 100-employee range, they start bringing on full-time HR executives. I know companies with 25 employees that have a full-time HR executive, and I know companies with 300 employees that still don’t have one! Regardless of whether the HR person wears three hats or one, I also want them to think and act strategically.
To be strategic, the HR manager should follow these guidelines:
- Be clear about ownership’s vision and goals for the organization. In turn, HR will work on those aspects of human resources that will help grow the company toward this vision or goal. Let me give an example: Perhaps cash is tight. There’s no forecast for hiring new personnel, at least for some time. Ownership is more concerned about survival than anything else. The main focus then becomes: How can we help our existing workforce become more productive and grow the bottom line? If survival is the primary concern of management, this has to be the primary concern of the human resource executive, too.
On the other hand, perhaps your company is in growth mode with management focused on bringing on people in the right seat of the bus as quickly as possible to service growing demand. If that’s the case, then the HR executive has to focus itself on doing the best possible job of hiring. Quickly.
- Focus on constant improvement. On average, the most educated HR executive is the best HR executive. So, the question becomes: How much time do you spend studying the HR function? If you’re doing HR full time, 50% of your educational efforts should be in this area. If you’re doing it a third of the time, then maybe 15% of your learning has to be in this area. So, while I might be preaching to the choir, how many of you read this entire newsletter every month? How many of you attend our excellent monthly Webinars? How many of the Special Reports and White Papers on HR That Works have you taken the time to read? All of the tools necessary to be a learned HR executive are readily available on HR That Works.
Learning requires discipline. I’ve disciplined myself to read a book a week, review every case that comes out in the employment law field, read the newsletters and blogs of eight different employment law firms, and read a number of HR magazines every month. I do HR full time and that’s what someone who wants to become an expert has to do. To get this volume of reading done, I discipline myself to do it for an hour a night. It’s something I look forward to, realizing that, not only do I enjoy learning, but it will have a bottom line impact on my career. The most successful executives I’ve met over the years are voracious learners. That’s exactly what I want my HR executive to be.
- Become proactive. In my experience, most HR functions are reactive: We need to do payroll, hire and terminate employees, issue a COBRA notice, etc. Proactively, we should be engaging in compliance, communication, and skills training, surveying, auditing, and similar activities that will help to strengthen and grow the department and company over time. How many proactive projects has your HR department done during the last year? My mantra is simple: Start with one proactive item a month not something you “have” to do, but something you
“should” do to help improve the company.
If you face any challenges in meeting these goals, don’t hesitate to contact me. Because I usually spend my time on hotline calls dealing with negative scenarios, I enjoy helping our Members create positive outcomes for their company and careers. Got a bright idea? Want to get your head checked? Then give me a call at (800) 2324-3304, toll free.