A key element of leadership is to actually take the lead on something. Many people perceive Human Resources as an unchanging landscape in which the same principles apply as they did in ancient Rome. While true to some extent, enormous change is surging in and around HR all the time.
Previous posts pointed out the ever increasing need and opportunity to improve HR management by measuring and developing strategy according to what’s found mathematically. Few HR departments have paid enough attention to developing the requisite measurement and math skills in house.
A second area that’s unavoidable is social media. As with measurements, there’s an unfortunately tendency among many HR professionals to think this belongs somewhere else, in this case with legal advisors or departments or with marketing or communications specialists rather than in HR.
Of course things can be set up that way. Leave hard numbers and technical processes to finance or IT or audit, or social media to marketing and legal. Inevitably, though, HR becomes involved. As soon as you want to re-engineer some process and have to move people around or if you need to discipline staff members who breach privacy or libel rules, reveal secrets or make derogatory comments about the company or staff on the Internet, you’re smack in the middle of HR territory, areas where legal may have an opinion, but culture, past practice, performance and disciplinary systems all weigh even more heavily.
So HR can choose to leave the upfront issues of measurement or social media to others, but will almost certainly complain that they weren’t brought in early enough when things start to happen and specifically when things start to go wrong as they affect people. For HR to be in a leadership role it makes sense to walk into these territories with a view that HR should own a major chunk as well as the knowledge that no one department can develop all the answers effectively.
It’s much easier to break down silos and gain your rightful input into issues such as these if you are leading the evolution of policy and practice than if finance, IT, marketing, legal or other areas are attempting to enunciate rules and procedures and HR is simply ‘helping’ or giving input.
Essentially these are perfect areas to do cross-functional planning and discussion. Again HR has a huge opportunity to show the way rather than be hauled in as an afterthought or an add-on. These aren’t easy areas to come to grips with, the best approaches are still just emerging from the muddy surroundings. There’s lots of room for mistakes, regrets, embarrassment and more, but that’s exactly what distinguishes leaders from average managers – the willingness to stand up and be counted on important strategies, where the first mover is often criticized at least as much as lauded.
Being willing to stick ones neck out and accept criticism for a new product, partially formed, that everyone immediately wants to add their two cents worth to is a key element in seizing the first-mover advantage. Getting your policy keys in place early and offering to add in others’ is a better position than letting others lead and later trying to argue for a change to suit HR needs.
Power grows for those who exercise it. This is an area where certainly if you don’t use it you lose it because someone else will take the lead and set the basis on which the rest of a program is built.
So is there new stuff in HR? You bet, if you see it that way and grab the opportunity to step forward first, knowing there will be some criticism, but that advantages far outweigh disadvantages.