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Four HR Directors enter a pub…

Four HR Directors enter a pub.

The first HRD says… “Do you know what, I’ve come to realise that my HR function is ineffective. In fact I couldn”t even tell you what our purpose and values are. What should I do?

The second HRD says… “I think my HR function is effective and we’ve defined our purpose & values. However, I’ve no way to evaluate our effectiveness. What should I do?

The third HRD says… “Do you know what, I’m kind of with the second HRD. My biggest trouble is that I’m flying blind much of the time as I don’t even have any decent management information. What should I do?

You are the fourth HRD. What could you do to help?

No Joke

This post was unwittingly inspired by an exchange on Twitter with my friend Simon Heath about the value & usefulness of the data population in this article published in Personnel Today. He’s since written this piece putting the statistical perspective on the survey.

What I’m really curious about is what would other HR professionals do if a colleague confessed these failings to you? I believe that in any profession, good practices are created through visible role models, peer support & shared learning.

So what could you do to help?


3 thoughts on “Four HR Directors enter a pub…

  1. Reblogged this on Organisational Learning and Development and commented:
    David, has posed a great little thought experiment here. Have a think about the question for yourself and I think that you might learn something.


    Posted by pauldrasmussen | June 3, 2013, 6:41 AM
  2. Obviously I’d be more tactful and patient but….

    First HRD – wow, what have you been doing with your time? Are you sure that you are an HR Director? How long has it taken for you to realise that you have been claiming your salary until false pretence? Everyone else assumed that you knew what you were doing. Anyway, all due credit to you for noticing that your department isn’t even running about like a headless chicken but is lolloping about like a sedated chicken. Since you have identified gaps in terms of purpose and values why don’t you start there – and if you have a clear outcome in mind you might be able to give your people a shot at making progress towards it.

    Second HRD – You really have no way of evaluating effectiveness? Your other directors are resolutely refusing to talk to you? Nobody else in the rest of the business will talk to you? You don’t have a department you can walk around and ask people about how well they feel you are delivering against your purpose, in line with your values? That bubble must be lovely, but if you get out in the outside world you might have a shot at making the nice powerpoint slide on vision that you presented to your department a reality. And don’t just power on with things…you need to check if the purpose is still relevant, check it is understood, check how open people are being with you…. In some ways I’m more worried about you than HRD1 who admitted they didn’t have a clue. You have half a clue and are a genuine headless chicken. Take stock before you do anything.

    Third HRD – do you really need MI? It’s trendy to be reliant on, it but think about the size of your business and whether you will genuinely increase insight and buy in – or just slow things down by waiting on numbers to confirm your decisions. MI is easy to come about these days – but before you plunge in be fully aware of both its limitations and its temptations. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a little data posing as knowledge can be deadly. Ask yourself: where do I need MI to do this better and where do I need it to make myself more comfortable? They are different things and having the top job isn’t about your comfort, it is about the business performance.

    And all three of you get out of this pub now, moping around isn’t getting any of this sorted.


    Posted by David D'Souza (@dds180) | June 3, 2013, 7:42 AM
  3. I am HR Director 1.

    You know all the bad stuff people say about HR? That we are the policy police, bureaucratic, aren’t strategic, process everything to death, tell people what to do rather than engage. You’ve heard them all and so have I. Well this is the HR function I work in, for now. But not for long. I am writing this response to David’s question anonymously, only out of respect for the people that work for me, who are trying very hard to do a good job with what they have, what they have had.

    What was HR’s purpose in this organisation? I’m not sure the HR team knew, and neither did anyone else. We were the last to know anything, seen as something to work around rather than with, misunderstood, and worse, sometimes irrelevant. We weren’t effective in a number of ways. Firstly, we had lots of processes but they didn’t meet the needs of the business; we didn’t even really understand what those needs were. We were personnel. Out of date and out of touch. Secondly, we put up barriers. Made it hard to do business with us. We had lost the people touch, channelling our engagement with people through emails and the intranet. If people knew who we were at all, ours was not an office you would want to visit.

    You will notice I am shifting to past tense. As I write this, we are in transition. The most important thing? A good team who knew things needed to improve, were engaged in making those changes, and prepared to roll with a departmental manager who has turned everything upside down. The challenges outlined above will not be solved overnight. We know that, and we know we have a hill to climb. But we have taken the first step.

    So we have a plan. We’ve worked through how we want to be seen, where we can add the value. We have collectively agreed our purpose. Now we have to show it. To David’s question, what would you do to help another HRD in this situation. Firstly, engage your HR team. If they are not with you, your battle will be harder. Take some time to define the type of HR department you want to be. Be radical, brave, remix it a bit when deciding what this looks like. And then go for it. As Doug Shaw says: proceed until apprehended. Be the HR leader you want to be. No one else is going to lead for the change but you.


    Posted by Anonymous | June 3, 2013, 9:42 PM


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