Seven Excuses for HR Leaders not doing the Strategic

So what is YOUR excuse for not doing the strategic?

OK, as an HR consultant who focuses on diversity and career development programs for corporate clients, it is time for me to vent. I so often hear human resources professionals I network with discuss how important their roles are in terms of the strategic success of their companies. One key area that often gets discussed is talent retention, engagement and development. As the number of baby boomers retiring is larger than new talent coming out of school, HR practitioners are worried about a labor shortage and retaining their top talent.

But then when it comes time to invest in cost effective low-effort initiatives to retain their talent, I hear excuse after excuse after excuse.

Here are my top 7:

1) I can’t focus on that now, we are in the middle of … (you name it – annual enrollment period, annual performance review cycle, etc.) Every month there is a different urgent item or a fire to put out. HR leaders need to make time to focus on the strategic.

2) I cannot get any budget for it. Yes, you do need to show a dollars and cents business case for any investment you make, and HR needs to be better with the financials. Especially for programs that reduces employee turnover, a strong business case with excellent return on investment is quite simple to make.
3) We are in the middle of a merger or acquisition. I get this one a lot. Business does not stop simply because you are integrating a new company into an existing one. Mergers and acquisitions are almost typical in business these days. In fact, a merger may be the ideal time to introduce some new programs that can bring both teams together. Read my previous blog on diversity, career development and mergers & acquisitions.

4) We just got new senior leadership. Another one I hear far too often. Again, business does not stop because new leadership is coming in. Instead of sitting on your hands and doing nothing, perhaps starting a new project that engages employees and improves morale will impress your new executive!

5) We just invested in a whole new HR system so can’t do anything else. Actually a good solution may be able to fold in well with a new HR system and may actually enhance it and drive additional employee usage. Be creative and keep your mind open about this.

6) We don’t use outside consultants. Often creative innovative solutions can be delivered by consultants far more cost effectively than hiring additional staff or overburdening your team. Plus if you are overwhelmed timewise (see excuse 1), a consultant can provide much needed help and focus.

7) This is not important to our strategy. Well – this is one excuse that can be accepted. If something does not tie to your strategy, you probably do not want to do it!

Mergers and Acquisitions: Diversity and Career Management Considerations

Mergers and Acquisitions
It seems so often lately when talking to HR leaders in several companies about my career management and diversity consulting services, I am told, “we are all tied up in the middle of integrating a newly acquired company, can you call me back in six months?” And these mergers and acquisitions can come in all shapes and sizes, for example a mega-corporate merger like American Airlines and USAir, or a multi-company strategy like a medium size local bank buying four or five smaller banks. And just last week the US Federal Government approved Lenovo’s $2.3B acquisition of a line of servers from IBM. (Link to detailed Bloomberg article)

And then in this month’s (August 2014) SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) HR Magazine, the cover article was titled “Culture Clash! How to avoid a post-merger identity crisis.” (LINK) One statistic cited was that over 25% of US employees were affected by a merger or acquisition over the past 10 years.

So what is the value proposition for my consulting services within the growing reality of mergers and acquisitions? What impact is there on diversity and career development? A great deal!

First Diversity (link to my services): When two or more companies merge, they will more than likely have two very distinct cultures and probably very different ways of looking at diversity. The corporate commitment to diversity as a key strategy could be at different levels. The companies may have different ways of defining their diversity constituencies. One company may have more emphasis on developing women leaders while the other may be focused on racial minorities. One company may have very advanced practices about the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) workplace and marketplace while the other company may not have even started on that journey.
Diversity of Thought
When companies come together, this is an ideal opportunities to expand diversity horizons by including aspects from both parties. A team can always be made stronger when the tent is widened with more diverse parties coming to the table. And finally, merging companies can immediately tackle one of the hottest new emerging areas, Diversity of Thought. (Some expansion included in past blog – link.) When two companies have differing ways of developing plans and addressing issues, bringing multiple ideas to the table, listening to and honoring various approaches and then combining the best from the various sources will lead to a winning solution.

Second – Career Development (link to my offering.) It is unfortunately when some teams view themselves as winners or losers in acquisitions and good talent that feels undervalued departs. This is the time to honor the best talent from all parties in a merger or acquisition and build a diverse yet coherent team from the best of the best. When I deploy a Total Engagement Career Mapping project with a client that had experienced past mergers and acquisitions, I request they name role models in career development for me to feature from the various original parties. This widens the various examples of career paths I can demonstrate to younger employees, plus it values the leadership coming from various parts of the business.

I look forward to engaging my clients who have experienced mergers and acquisitions in a productive way to leverage the strengths from merged companies instead of it becoming a point of contention or distraction.