Last week, a guest poster wrote an anonymous letter that was posted on the U.K. ExpertHR blog.
This HR professional is “at the end of their tether” and writes a very transparent and poignant piece about the reasons for their massive professional disengagement and personal sadness at their lot. The publishers suggested that others might respond with guidance for the writer and the responses were numerous and detailed. The post and its responses created a robust and fascinating discussion.
And everyone – except one responder – totally missed the point. Totally.
A need to be focused on business
The discussion focused on whether or not Deeply Disengaged should “stay and fight” or quit and find a more conducive employer. Ugh!
Deeply Disengaged says that their “work every day is focused around making the workplace a better place to be for employees… To me, ensuring people are at the centre of everything you do is fundamental to being successful in all other areas. It is the foundations on which everything must be based.”
But the bottom line of the post is this: “The powers that be don’t value the work that I am doing.” The old (ugh) furniture lament. (See my post here if you aren’t familiar with the furniture lament.)
I’ll bet it’s true. I’ll bet the powers that be don’t value the work that Disengaged is doing because Disengaged doesn’t know the value of the work they’re doing.
So here’s the real, hard truth – for Deeply Disengaged and all the responders: HR needs to be focused on making the organization more efficient and productive leveraging the organization’s most costly resource, people. HR’s work needs to start with the organization’s strategic and business plans and deliver solutions that enable the successful growth of the enterprise.
In other words, HR needs to be focused on the business!
Deeply Disengaged lists a number of supposed outcomes from his/her work:
- Feedback is now two-way and things are improving fast.
- Retention of employees has increased significantly.
- Retention of candidates in the recruitment process has increased.
- Speed of work output and completion has risen.
I could talk and talk about the things I am doing and results that we have seen but you get the picture…
I have to take a step back and say: Really? You wrote some nice stuff there, but nothing quantifiable.
And I have to take a step back and ask: How do you know your outcomes if you don’t (or can’t) quantify them. And if you can quantify them and you don’t talk about them, why would a business leader listen to you?
HR’s challenge worldwide
I’m skeptical because in the entire post there was not one number. Not one. How can you talk about the value of the work you’re doing without numbers? Without percentages of increase or decrease, without dollars (or in this case, British pounds) saved, without numbers of days saved?
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And that’s the challenge for HR – all over the world:
- To leave behind “banging on about how these areas can hit the bottom line” and focus instead on providing clear, evidence-based business cases that are linked to the strategic plan.
- To leave behind doing things “because I believe it can and will make a difference” and start doing things that the business requires and be able to prove it with data – including numbers.
- To leave behind being “focused around making the workplace a better place to be for employees” and leading the effort to ensure the culture and values actually enable the achievement of the strategic plan.
I’ll bet that Deeply Disengaged is more of a business thinker than they know. If they really are working on improving business processes and outcomes the way they describe, they must know something about how business works, how business leaders speak, how business decisions are made and how resources are distributed.
The key: change the perception
The question becomes, why aren’t they stepping up to the plate to act like a business leader with deep HR expertise rather than the disrespected HR functionary that the organization has to put up with?
It’s a troubling question. And frankly, it’s one of the reasons I started the Data Point Tuesday feature at ChinaGorman.com — to provide data- and research-based sources that will help HR professionals move up from HR functionary to business leader with HR expertise.
I feel for Deeply Disengaged. Being disrespected is the pits. But quitting is not the answer – because the same thing will happen in the next job, and the next, and the next. Until the perception of HR professionals as functionaries changes to business leaders with HR expertise, this won’t go away.
And the only way to change that perception is for HR professionals to start to behave like business people, to speak the language of business people, and to become comfortable with numbers, data and research. The only way for Deeply Disengaged’s experience to change is for them to start to behave like a business person.
It’s not easy – but it’s also not hard. Because I truly do believe that most HR people really can be business people — because they do know business.
They just aren’t comfortable with that. Yet.
This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.