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Monday, October 24, 2011

On Becoming an HR Leader

If you are an HR professional and you are experiencing the following, you are likely suffering from a lack of credibility;

  • People not taking the performance management system you launched seriously; 
  • Not much happens after you launch a training and development program;
  • Your HR programs die a natural death;
  • People do not appreciate the fact that you are spending most of your waking hours working for them; and 
  • People still call your department "Personnel" and think that all you do is keep time, arrange Christmas Parties and company outings.

The problem with HR in many Philippine organizations is not that the expectations are too high but that the expectations  are too low. It is not only due to the lack of management appreciation of what HR can do but the lack of appreciation of the  HR professionals themselves. Many of us think that our role as a support unit is to wait for orders, coordinate and implement rather than lead or take initiative. This has got to change.

Dave Ulrich and his Associates released in 2007 the result of a study called the Human Resource Competency Study that serves as a good guide for HR professionals who want to bring their organizational contribution to the next level. I'd like to talk about my take on these competencies in the next few outings. For now, I'd like to focus on one very important and  sorely lacking competency- on becoming a Credible HR Activist.

Here are a few bullet points to describe the behavioral attributes of this competency:

  • Delivering results with integrity.
  • Sharing information.
  • Building relationships of trust.
  • Doing HR with an attitude (taking appropriate risks, providing candid observations, influencing others).

What do the attributes tell you? To me it says leadership, it says taking a position and influencing others to share one's desire for better human resource development and management. To take a position is one thing, to be listened to and  believed is a whole other ball game. And to be that HR professional requires a great deal of work. Work that I wish all Filipino HR professionals are willing to do. What do I mean?

I mean deliberately and passionately understanding all HR-related works in relation to their business applications. To be able to sell a performance management system, HR must be able to distinguish a system that works and one that doesn't and  be able to choose and champion ones that work. There are just too many  HR strategies out there that people don't buy into because we fail to sell the connection between the system and the business. A good credible HR activist to me is someone who looks at recruitment, training, compensation and benefits and others not as tasks but strategies that have a great deal of impact on the business. He steps up to the platform and explains to his stakeholders the importance of partnership and taking a strategic approach to human resource management.

Aside from having a respectable amount of knowledge and skills in applying the HR tools, this competency requires that we  as HR professionals must learn to effectively communicate both in writing and orally.  We must learn the importance of ethos, logos and pathos in getting others to embrace our cause.

All the HR and communication skills are worthless of course, if we cannot muster the courage to stand up and find our voice a midst the drowning exchanges among other managers about market and product development, cost management, increasing net profit, production, etc.

Here's my call to action - Have passion, deliberately make an effort to sharpen your skills in your craft, and developing both assertive and persuasive communication skills. Most importantly be brave, have courage and find your voice.

Others will not change the way they look at HR unless we in HR change the way we look at ourselves.

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