Guest Post by Peter Lanc, F.C.I.P.D. (Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development)

We all remember our math class and those interminable equations. Well, for some of us its been a while but memories linger like perceptions! I am often asked what do you do? (You HR people!) It seems as long as I can remember I have been asked that.

Heres the thing, its a great question.

Just get a few HR folk in the same room and ask the question. I tried it once and we all said different things. Blast and they talk about alignment!

I was momentarily speechless, reflective and then passionately said, I am a culture agent, I make a business grow and design a place where people want to be and give of their best. I work on the soft fluffy stuff, which actually is the real hard stuff that is the glue to everything, and I remind my naysayers that not much fantastic happens without people all working together, enthused and engaged!

As the conversation advanced, eyes widened and I was given a curious look. I thought to myself that we have much to do (as a profession), people dont get it because we dont get it.

We need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we are going to make a REAL difference. Not by simply responding to a perception-functional role but how to fast-forward the time machine into the future state model.

I am a proud HR professional, its in my blood, and yet, the perception of HR is getting old! Why do people still think we are the welfare department or just hire and fire and work on benefits?

What is it thats old I hear you ask? Well its simply the barrage of insults the HR profession continues to get!

And I wonder are we getting the perception we deserve?

After all, we are professionals. We get diplomas and degrees and training and education and we have institutions and chapters etc. etc. So why have we not broken out of the mold?

I recently heard that the only people who go into HR are those that could not make it in business. I also heard from a fellow Twitterer that its all in the mind of the HR folk themselves!! Well that is a great disservice to our thousands of professionals out there on the front line. That view has to come from someone who is as disconnected as the current state I am seeing.

Oh no, I just had a flashback to the movie Dirty Harry, to when he gets busted and is sent to H.R. Can anyone remember those fateful Eastwood lines???

The days of being simply great at the transactional stuff are long gone and in the words of Morgan Freeman, in one of my other favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, We have to get busy living or get busy dying.

For HR it means getting busy adding value and engaging the talent in our organizations.

Its simply wrong that engagement levels in the USA are a woeful 20 something %. That means 4 out of 5 people are not giving of their best. Now that is just not right, and what are we, the people profession, doing about that (and I dont mean simply conducting surveys!)?

It has been simply too many years for us to be having the same conversation about HR being at the Leadership Table.

If we are still not there then we are not there because? (Look in the mirror!) Accountability starts with you!

I have been thinking about this for a while and thank Bob Tarver for sending me a great article on the subject of HR as Change Agents. My thought when I read it was that change has simply passed much of HR by.

Michael Lee Stallard, in his book Fired Up or Burned Out, enthuses us by talking about connections and the thrive chain. Right on!! Thanks for reminding us. Why do we need to be reminded I wonder?

Well, it's true, "Common sense is not very common and business sense is even less common. And, both are critical competencies that we share with a CEO! Stallards wisdom was consolidated when over the weekend I watched that fascinating movie Into the Wild and in the words of the young Chris McCandless, "Relationships come from everything we do not simply people- God gave us the world. The greatest leader of all time gave us a clue over 2000 years ago!

Both Stallard, and then Ulrich and Brockbank in their book The HR Value Proposition, remind us that we need to look at the value chain. They remind us that people don't pay for what they dont want! They only pay for what they recognize as valuable to them. Why do we forget that?

So I say, reverse the golden rule! I mean it works, but when I think of the golden rule I think of I will treat you like I want to be treated! Then I think to myself whoa... thats not right. That means you dont have to even bother asking me what I want or find out what my values are and assume I am like you! Methinks not!

So my plea is to treat me like I want to be treated. That means, you have guessed it, you need to ASK me what I want and what is important to me.

Another concept coming up:

Ask the customer what they want and when you give it to them you have started the process of likelihood to recommend.

Translate that message into how we serve and impact what we do for our stakeholders internally and externally including the communities in which we live and suddenly relationships and business get better! Believe me, perceptions will change and the seat at the table will become available, you will have not only earned it but they will want you to be there.

So what do we in HR need to do? Boils down to three things!

My 2010 Decade List

Ask ourselves three Questions Green Yellow and Red Lights

  1. What we are going to start doing?
  2. What we are going to continue doing?
  3. What are we going to stop doing?

Get these three things right and we will change perceptions and we will be making a difference in our professional and personal roles. Now thats something to shout about! And incidentally, it will give us the voice we seek and the leadership role we absolutely should aspire to.

So start making those lists and share them in the comments. We will do a follow up posting!!

Peter is a highly regarded, successful and personable Business-Human Resource Leader with achievements in delivering strategic H.R. and change management programs in Europe and North America. He has worked in number of business sectors including telecoms, automotive, health care, television broadcasting, lean advanced manufacturing, education and the public sector. His brand is "Turning strategy into reality". Peter enjoys life, networking and building life long relationships, reading and golf. You can tweet with him at @peter_lanc.


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