Saying you're 'commercially-focused' is fashionable, but it's hardly ever trueby
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I've been working in HR for over 20 years and the anonymity of this column allows me to voice my despair. A large percentage HR folk claim to be 'commercially focused'. From LinkedIn profiles, to the conference stage, to every single article I read it seems that everybody is 'commercially focused'.
There is such a chasm between this 'commercially-aware' self-perception and the reality experienced by most organisations that I could weep.
You would think that the recession could have been avoided given the level of HR's commercial focus and influence on the business. There is such a chasm between this self-perception and the reality experienced by most organisations that I could weep.
For those of you that think you might just be commercially focused here are some pointers:
- Cutting costs during a recession does not make you commercially focused. You had the hard conversations, but cost cutting and growth aren't the same thing. You were just doing your job.
- Of course the CEO mentions 'people being at the heart of what we do' at away days and town halls. He nods in your direction and jokes that you will tell him off if he doesn't. He read in HBR that he should care about this stuff. This doesn't mean you are commercially focused.
- An HR dashboard detailing absence levels and cost-to-hire doesn't make you commercially focused.
- Cutting training & development (because it's tricky to articulate ROI) doesn't make you commercially focused.
- Making up impressive ROI figures on the assumption that % of performance uplift is due to that coaching course does not make you commercially focused.
- That 'Back to the Floor' event you held in 2012 doesn't make you commercially focused.
- That online article you wrote where you insisted you were commercially focused, well... that doesn't make you commercially focused.
- Having Business Partners that sit on the edge of meetings and occasionally pipe up with a suggestion of 'facilitating an away day' doesn't make you commercially focused or prove you are aligned.
- Your '3 Year People Plan' doesn't make you commercially focused, even if it lines up vaguely with the company strategy if you drop in the CEO's current buzzwords into alternate sentences.
The reality is that commercial impact is an output, not a series of initiatives. Next time you are tempted to say you are 'commercially focused' you better be sure that if a stranger went and asked a decent sample of your business if HR...
- knew how the business worked
- was integral to its growth
...then they would say 'absolutely'. There aren't many organisations where that is the case.
Those that are should be applauded - those HR teams are truly commercially focused.