• January 2012

When It Comes to HR, We Need to Get Back on Track

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

Sometimes I think that HR professionals are so introspective that we miss what is happening around us.

We have been focused on being more strategic and “getting a seat at the table” for so long that we may have missed the bigger issue.

To get on track for 2012, I believe HR professionals need to ask themselves:

  • Can I participate with understanding discussions around my organization’s business objectives?
  • Do I constantly look for ways to improve my organization’s productivity through better labor utilization, technology, or other measures?
  • Do I anticipate challenges?
  • Do I ask the right questions to help my organization meet its mission?
  • Do I lead change when necessary?

The Future of HR and Effective Organizations

I am not alone. In their June 2011 report, The Future of HR and Effective Organizations HR researchers John Boudreau and Ian Ziskin say they believe HR’s reason for being is to make people and organizations more effective.

“This will not change in the future,” they insist. “However, it’s clear that HR needs to find ways to do its work faster, with less bureaucracy, and more business relevance. HR’s aspirations do not yet fully align with its ability to deliver.”

At the same time, the researchers believe that HR professionals must acknowledge that the bar keeps getting raised.

“HR is indeed improving and developing its capabilities, but the expectations about what HR can and should deliver are also getting bigger, in possibly unrealistic ways; in addition, the consequences of not delivering are also getting tougher and less forgiving,” the researchers write.

And so, they offer the results of an ongoing initiative by the Center for Effective Organizations (CEO) to understand the future of HR, and in particular its relationships within effective organizations in dynamic environments.

“We began with the premise that over the next five to 10 years, the future of HR work (specifically) and effective organizations (more broadly) will in many ways be quite different,” they explain. “We brought together dozens of HR leaders over the past few months to get their counsel on the issues and trends they note in their everyday work, and we took a careful look at current writing about the future of HR, as well as several current initiatives that seek to define or influence that future.”

They are not alone.

Ed Lawler, director of the Center for Effective Organizations, and professor at the University of Southern California, says that HR needs to encourage organizations to invest in talent, lead using metrics and data, and commit to innovation.

“This means we have to get ourselves up to date on what technology can do to make us more effective and to really ramp up how we use metrics,” he says. “HR professionals have a wonderful opportunity in the upcoming year to lead the changes necessary in our organizations as we look to be more productive.”

Lawler suggests we get back on track by asking ourselves some tough questions:

1. Are you making the best use of social media sites to recruit?

2. Are you investigating opportunities for using mobile technology to connect with our employees?

3. What are you doing to ensure our organizations have the right people in place to take advantage of changes in the markets you serve?

4. How well do you really know the business that you are in? Click here for more.

The Bottom Line

I am confident that if we begin to answer all of these questions, and really focus on what we need to do in 2012, we will be on track for years to come.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Mitchell by email.

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