“…lookin’ good!”

The September issue of HR Magazine arrived at my house yesterday…yes, I’m a big enough geek to actually read something called HR Magazine, but that’s another article entirely.

For me, the most interesting part of the magazine is the message from SHRM CEO Henry G. Jackson. In every issue, “Hank” shares with us a message from on high meant to inspire the HR foot soldiers around the globe; sets the tone of the month’s issue, aligns the current HR mindset, and probably allows Hank to check the box for “to do’s” in September. But this month, ironically enough, the message is titled “Building Innovation With Accountability” [the choking sound you hear in the background is SMFT reflux]. Dear Mr. Jackson – your timing is really poor.

As noted in my last post, SHRM recently held elections for their 2013 Board of Directors. For the first time that anyone can remember, there was a quite a bit of attention on these elections. The SMFT (SHRM Members for Transparency) highlighted several issues they had with the current BOD, including (*gasp*) a lack of accountability.

The article, for the most part, is innocuous, but it does typify the disconnect between what Human Resources professes to be vs. the reality of what many HR practitioners face in the field. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Hank was in San Diego recently speaking to a “group” of CEO’s; this does not make me like him more.
  • Hank spoke to a group of CEO’s about “culture.” A powerful Hank quote, “The full power of culture trumps strategy every time.” This is the kind of quote that leads to HR people being left off meeting invitations.
  • Continuing….”if we develop a culture that fosters innovation and embraces accountability…we can inoculate organizations from disruptive innovation.” What the what? Nonsensical is the first term that comes to mind, but also remember this diatribe comes from the head of SHRM, an organization that maintains a very secretive position regarding their own dealings. The cobbler’s children clearly have no shoes.
  • Mr. Jackson does state that HR has “shared accountability”  for the bottom-line success of the corporation. Agreed. But then he takes a few leaps that may not ring true to the HR masses: “If we separate ourselves…employee engagement will suffer. And HR executives will not have fully embraced their responsibility as keeper of the company’s most important asset, and as the most critical C-suite position.” What. The. Hell.

Human Resources does have shared responsibility for the company’s results, just as every support function within the company shares responsibility. Try as we may, HR is not a core competency of an organization. We do not sell anything. We do not buy anything. We do not process anything (salute to Lloyd Dobler). I can appreciate the spirit of the statement, Human Resources is most definitely not “there” at this point in time.

Perspective may be part of the issue here. It should be noted that Mr. Jackson is a CPA. A worthy designation, but one that doesn’t impress the SMFT, which would much rather see SPHR or GPHR as a certification for the governing body CEO.

That’s the challenge with preaching for “accountability” ~ the mirror may show a splinter in your own eye.


John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.