In Business, as in Sports, Winners Want the Ball

winners want the ballWe spend a lot of time defending HR for not “having a seat at the table” or not being strategic enough. We all know the stories – whether true or not – about HR not understanding the business, or being unwilling to hold itself accountable for business outcomes.

But what about business taking responsibility for human capital activities?

I’ve had a lot of conversations with HR leaders lately about their challenges in helping the business take responsibility and accountability for talent decisions. Ideally, all talent decisions are business decisions:

  • You want to compensate high performers differently than low performers? Here’s the data, here’s the budget, it’s a business decision.
  • You want to hire more people to support your organization? Here’s the process, here’s the cost, it’s a business decision.

But a lot of business leaders are more comfortable — particularly when it comes to compensation and labor budgets — hiding behind HR:

  • “HR gave me 3% to spread around – I couldn’t do anything about it.”
  • “I was forced to rate everybody on a curve, there was nothing I could do.”

In my book, winners want the ball. Being the one accountable in the tough situations is difficult, and something not everyone is willing to do. But winners are simply willing to do things that others are not. Being a winner when it comes to managing your business requires a lot. You have to have open and honest dialogue about performance, creating transparency around compensation and linking it to performance, justifying the financial decision around hiring new people, or running an extra shift. These are tough calls. They require a leader willing to make a decision and stand by it. And a leader willing to look employees in the eye, and look their leaders in the eye, and justify their choices in business terms.

HR does have a long way to go in many organizations when it comes to supplying the business with all the data it needs to make these business-based talent decisions. We need to get better at sharing data, and making recommendations, and educating business leaders on how to make these decisions and have these kinds of open conversations. But the business room for improvement as well. When you’re in a clutch situation, winners always want the ball – they would rather be in charge of their own fate, and take responsibility either way. No more hiding behind HR to avoid difficult conversations. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Editor’s note: Check back soon for part 3 of my series on The Risky Business of HCM. Here are parts 1 and 2 if you missed them.

Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst,
Workforce Management Practice, Brandon Hall Group

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Mollie Lombardi