It’s time once again for that great furniture show in Las Vegas where everyone wants a seat at the table. Not just any old table but THE table. The Mahogany one where the real executives sit.
Yes, SHRM’s Annual Convention is this week and it will all be about the relevance of human resources during a period of economic miasma. Consider SHRM 2011 to be one big ol’ group therapy session where everyone is trying to deal with the Ethan Allen Syndrome.
Unlike the Stockholm Syndrome where prisoners feel empathy for their captors, the primary symptom of the Ethan Allen Syndrome is the unrepentant need to throw oneself at a table – really any table. The Center for Disease Control took great pains to study the epidemiology of this horrible disease that seems to run a most heinous course for those who possess the PHR and SPHR certifications. Their findings pointed to the “Typhoid Mary”, “Ground Zero” if you prefer, to be a lovely Human Resources Professional who several years ago eschewed the “Vice President of Human Resources” title at a major transportation company in favor of a more table-worthy “Chief People Officer.”
Talk about adding a spark to dry tinder.
From here, HR professionals began their anointed ascent to the Land of the Furntiturephilic where Pledge is plenty and Mahogany is Gold. Each successive attempt to land a seat at the coveted table – Chief Human Resources Officer (four letters which is “better” than CPO’s three), Strategic Business Partner, and the now legendary Thought Leader – was met with consternation (and perhaps ridicule behind the back) by the existing Knights of the Roundtable (the more informal name for group of people who sit around “the table”).
“You want to sit where?”
[pointing] “At that table…”
“Feh!” [those seated at the table chuckle and guffaw]
[turning to other HR pros] “I think that means ‘No’; what do we do now?”
Yesterday, the Recruiter Chicks suggested that HR make them sit at the HR table. Is it me or does this scenario remind you of adults sitting at the kid’s table during Thanksgiving? Nonetheless, and in spite of the mocking tone of my words, the Chicks have a point. Has HR done the right things to generally sway opinions that their table is a place where others want to sit?
No…not even close.
The session entitled, 10 things your CEO will never tell you but HR needs to know by Susan Meisinger is a clear sign that the profession is spinning its wheels in a last gasp effort to gain traction. The title alone is telling – and by a former SHRM President! Why wouldn’t a CEO be compelled to tell the head of HR what they tell other Knights of Roundtable? It’s 2011 and someone influential in HR believes there are things a CEO isn’t telling their head of HR? Why, why, why?
Because most in HR say they know strategy when in reality they don’t understand the business model!
However, there are HR Leaders (notice how these people warrant a capital “L” – and not for “loser”) who do understand and take the business into account when creating HR initiatives; they’re easy to spot because they’re criticized for being one of “them” (the balance sheet people) rather than being for “the people” – when the point is that you need to work the people into the business model and not the other way around.
The table seekers typically fail to recognize that the goal of HR is to support the processes that drive business growth. HR is not sexual harassment training, it’s not employee relations babysitting, it’s not reducing HR costs at all costs; HR is about taking down the obstacles that hinder great recruiting, impacting how new products are developed, how sales are generated, and how product is moved to and from customers.
It’s about time for HR to forget about that coveted seat at a single table and concern themselves with the architecture and function of the entire house. When this is built invite everyone to a housewarming party…
Who takes job without knowing where they’ll be ‘sitting’? I have always asked for a tour of the entire operation and asked how it operates and what the expectation would be for my impact – during the interview, with follow up questions as necessary before accepting an offer. I need to be aligned with the stars and the moon before I’ll work my butt off for anyone…. I wouldn’t go to a conference about this. Seriously.
@karlaporter I always knew you were different
“Understand the business model.” Steve, that’s the single best piece of advice for anyone who works in an organization. What’s a business model? Here’s the wiki on that: http://bit.ly/iqqgBo.
Thanks for terrific advice, several LOLs, and a great retweet — a perfect hat trick of a post!
Ah, seat vs. alignment. You got that one right, now you’re ready for the bonus round: talent or team? If your CEO is all about team over rockstar, you shouldn’t have a problem. Everyone will be about the human infrastructure, not the mahogany.
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