It’s Time for HR to Finally Get Serious About Becoming Strategic

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Jul 6, 2016

Let me state right up front that I’m a huge fan of yours, HR. But it’s time for you to get serious about making some very long-overdue changes.

I’ve spent the better part of my career as an advocate and unabashed champion of the HR profession, and nothing has changed there. What you do is important, it matters, and your work likely impacts your organizations in profoundly positive ways, whether your leadership acknowledges that or not.

But that’s precisely the problem –- too many CEOs and senior leaders still question your strategic value to the organization. In fairness, many leaders do appreciate your role and have come to understand your value, but they’re still in the minority and you have to take responsibility for that.

There’s no more finger-pointing or denying it any longer; HR is in its current uncertain state because HR professionals allowed it to happen.

This is the harsh reality of your profession, and I implore you to pay serious attention to that reality –_ not to hurt you, but in order to save you.

Brutally defining the problem

Research from CEB forecasts that fully 50% of you currently in the profession will be gone in five years. Not transferred to another HR role – gone.

Advances in technology will eliminate some of your roles. Re-defining and re-aligning the profession will cost more of you your jobs. And the largely unanswered pleas from frustrated CEOs to be more strategic will result in even more of you being asked to exit the profession.

This begs the questions – are CEOs not making their expectations for HR clear? Are the conversations not happening? Is HR unable – or unwilling – to address what they’ve been told?

Whatever the case, CEOs are losing patience. Research from Deloitte found that 40% of new CHROs now come from departments other than HR.

Most of you are keeping your heads down and focused on administrative tasks, when CEOs clearly want you to raise your sights to strategically impact larger segments of the business. Why are you not racing through the door you’ve worked so hard and so long to pry open?

If you don’t significantly course-correct soon, it may be too little too late.

What needs to change – now

Given that much has been written about (and endlessly presented at HR conferences for years) the need to transform from HR leaders into business leaders with HR expertise, the failure to step up to the challenge is disheartening.

At SHRM’s recent conference, one of the prevailing themes was having the courage to take action on making a broader impact throughout the company. Speakers encouraged HR to stop devoting time and resources to activities that didn’t deliver organizational impact. SHRM’s CEO, Henry Jackson, spoke of HR’s inability “to escape the forces that are dramatically reshaping work,” and urged HR “to influence change and weigh in on the strategies that will keep your company competitive today and in the future.”

Fence-sitting is no longer an option, nor is passively waiting for the change to come to you.

You must take charge in a definitive leadership role once and for all, or resign yourself to forever ceding control of business issues to others. You can’t expect to save yourselves if you don’t become more proactive and strategic…. soon!

This post appeared in a somewhat different form on

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