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  • Writer's pictureSherry

SBCo Newsletter- December 2007

Who Are You Bringing to the Table?

How do we, as senior HR leaders, begin to give the next generation the experience and perspective they need to become the HR business leaders of tomorrow? Do generational differences mean we need to reevaluate how we are developing our up-and-coming talent?

Over the last several years, SBCo has conducted a large number of HR searches at all levels. While the demand for HR professionals who can perform in a strategic, business partner-type role has increased dramatically, the supply of people who can perform in that role seems to be falling far below demand.

SBCo recently partnered with Jackie Trask, Vice President Hu

man Resources Worldwide at JAFRA Cosmetics International, Inc., in search of an early career HR manager. After reviewing over 200 resumes and speaking to a number of candidates, Jackie has given the whole topic of rising talent in HR roles some serious thought. She has some interesting observations.

Jackie stated:

As I looked at the resumes, I realized that we are seeing a mixture in the levels of experience each candidate brings, very few of whom see a total HR picture. As HR leaders, we need to empower and encourage the younger generation of HR practitioners to look at HR as core business process. We need to share with them how the pieces of HR can come together in an integrated way. Without an integrated HR process, HR will never be business critical.

While interviewing candidates, I was struck by the fact that many did not understand the very businesses they worked for and even recruited others to. They knew little about the competitive environment, the revenue and profitability of their company, or even broad industry trends. When asked to discuss issues such as: Is Asia becoming a competitor for your business? What is your company’s dialogue around outsourcing/insourcing? What is your customer promise? the majority of candidates were unable to articulate the business goals in a meaningful way. More disturbingly, many of them had not even thought about them. They seemed to think these were discussions outside the HR realm. That’s a big problem—this is our realm.

Ten years ago people seemed to understand how HR processes fit within a company. There were young- in-career, smart people who were thinking beyond their job description. Specialists thought and acted like generalists. I don’t believe that there has been a decline in “smart,” I think there has been a decline in mentoring and strategic leadership of HR.

I find this interesting because, on one hand, I can see how easy it might be for some to slip back into a “personnel” mindset and on the other, it does not make sense given the people challenges in businesses today. If we want HR professionals who can truly function as business partners, we as HR Executives need to be the first to understand the connection between the work we are doing and its relationship to the organization’s overall business needs. Developing that understanding in those we are accountable for growing is mission critical. Please note, growing someone is fundamentally different from training someone.

The day-to-day demands to develop and interpret compensation plans, develop new employee-friendly programs, provide training, etc., are very real and compelling. At the same time, we must encourage HR professionals to go back to their business partners and ask questions such as “Is this congruent with what our business is doing? Is it congruent with how our business is growing? What else can we do to make our business better?” HR Executives need to model what it means to be strategic and function as a true business partner. This is how we must frame our language, our questions and our conversation.

In an April 2007 article, Leadership and Generation X in CIO Magazine, Deborah Gilburg discusses the challenges facing executives across the entire organization to promote the next generation in their career development. “Due to generational differences, Baby Boomers have not been good about sharing their knowledge, experience and networks, and Generation X has not been good about tapping into that knowledge.”

Jackie would like to see HR Executives lead the way to change by encouraging those working in HR to read the magazines that they see business leaders reading; talk to people in marketing to learn about competitors and customers; express issues within the company in business terms so that business leaders can relate to them rather than in HR terms. Learn about the company’s financial structure, economic challenges, etc., and become dedicated to helping the organization develop its unique culture (be culture ferocious, in Jackie’s words).

If you, as an HR Executive, have a “seat at the business table,” that’s good, but not great! Great is when you sit at the table and bring others along who are also welcome to partake there.

“HR Executives must be developing those in the HR field to think in terms of how to connect business and HR. It will only amplify the value of HR as an integral part of the business realm. It isn’t philanthropic but entirely self-serving. Teach them about business; all our futures are at stake.”

More About Jackie

Over the course of a twenty-two year career in Human Resources, Jackie has led HR organizations in companies, including Triad Financial Corporation, Conexant Systems, Gateway (Director of Compensation, Benefits and Occupational Health and Safety for 24,000 employees) and Pepsico. Jackie has been a Human Resources consultant for the Hay Group and Towers Perrin, as well as a requested speaker for the Conference Board and several industry associations throughout her career. Jackie received a B.A. degree, Cum Laude from Harvard University and her MBA from the Wharton School specializing in Strategic Human Resources.

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