HR Leadership — Alchemy or Oxymoron??

First, my bias — I “grew up” in Human Resources, finishing my coprorate stint with successive roles at the VP/SVP HR level. So, I somewhat “know from which I speak…”

The skills required of senior HR leadership of today and the future are so incredibly different than those required in the past, that the job almost seems to be a different profession.

Gone are the days of employee advocacy, pseudo-ombudsman, and feel-good party-planners.

Present & future HR leaders must have consummate business skills, including sound, educated, financial acumen. Additionally, HR specialist managers must maintain that specialty expertise (compensation, benefits,recruiting) while learning and leading with those same skills listed above.

Organizations must be able to look to their HR leaders for financial information on the human capital efforts, emphasis, and directions. Simply determing “cost” isn’t enough — we’ll need to show, demonstrate and explain real “VALUE.” In other words, why the hell should a company give you money and resources instead of putting those same resources to work in marketing, product development, or R&D??

We cannot stress enough that future HR leaders must know — KNOW — the business. I don’t mean the HR business or profession, but the “business.” They have to get their hands dirty; be willing to take on a multitude of non-HR responsibilities and accountabilities — HR is merely a specific background for a top executive, it doesn’t define their over-arching role and deliverables.

The best example I can give is that the largest private employer in free world — Wal-Mart — selected someone with NO human resources background to lead their human resources function. They clearly needed a “leader” first, an “HR expert” second. I believe this is the future we are going to realize, and their will be many incapable of getting on that bus.

The most significant skills — bar none — that these future HR leaders must have include:

1. Real business understanding — get their hands dirty enough to understand HOW and WHY we make money,

2. Financial acumen, and

3. Talent management: identification, development and recruitment.

This train is leaving; get on, get off, or get run over. Organizations have a right to these expectations, and I believe they will insist on receiving them in the not-too-distant future.

See you around campus…


Kevin Berchelmann

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