The Biggest Challenges Facing HR Today

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Apr 17, 2013

Last week, I told you what it takes to be a conference speaker. This week, I want to tell you about some of the things I talk about when I am on the road.

When a technology company brings its customers together, it’s called a user conference. They can’t just spend 48 hours talking about learning software and HRIS systems, so they bring me in for entertainment.

Sometimes, I am the main act. Sometimes, they bring in a celebrity to be the main act and I’m just an “expert” who sits on a panel.

Either way, I get paid and the cats eat. Everyone wins.

I just went down to Orlando and met with a group of HR people who were assembled to learn more about a product called Sumtotal.

What does Sumtotal do? Who cares? (Just kidding. I haven’t been paid to blog about them but the product is kind of cool. Go check it out if you want.)

Anyway, I was on a panel with Kris Dunn and Michael Rochelle to talk about the biggest challenges HR faces today. And it went something like this:

What’s the biggest challenge HR faces today?

I think HR faces a crisis of relevancy. The recession has made everyone an expert in “work.” Everyone knows how to do your job — and HR professionals are fighting against popular culture, myths about employment and fears about the labor market.

We are also working in environments that hate risk. Everyone wants innovation and speed but nobody likes lawyers. I think it is harder and harder for HR people to go out on a limb.

What’s a common trait of great HR organizations?

I learned two things from my good friend Jennifer McClure: Great Human Resource departments have business priorities and not HR priorities. They also like to blow shit up.

Those are Jennifer’s words, by the way. Not mine.

Where does HR technology fail?

The single biggest disappointment is that technology hasn’t lived up to the promise of “big data,” let alone any data.

Nobody is asking for the moon. Give me simple reports. Give me systems that talk to one another. Don’t tell me about garbage in/garbage out.

You have algorithms. Clean up the dang garbage.

And oh yeah, give it to me on my iPad.

What’s the Holy Grail of HR technology?

Better performance analytics. Tell me who sucks as soon as possible so I can fire them before they sue me.

What should HR do to be relevant to the business?

Take a look at your workforce plan and your compensation plans. Fight hard to invest in good people. Pay them more.

Wages have been flat for years. Health care premiums are still rising. People are still scared — even your top performers. It’s hard for anyone, let alone your top performers, to feel loyal and engaged if they are economically insecure.

I got a round of applause on that last question. Kris said, “Oh yeah, pay everyone buckets of money. Let’s all applaud that.”

[Don’t hate, KD.]

Even with approximately six minutes per question, I was happy to contribute my ideas on the future of HR. And I was happy to cash the check.

I think Kris and Michael really tackled some of the more strategic aspects of Human Resources, but I wanted to stay focused on the practitioner elements. People who do the actual work of HR — the ones who will never be CHROs — often get missed in these discussions.

So what did I miss?

You can find more from Laurie Ruettimann at her blog, The Cynical Girl, where this originally appeared.

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