Matthew Hudson | October 21, 2009
My partner (and founder of Penumbra) is Jennifer Shirkani. We make a great complementary team because she loves to do the parts of the business that I do not and vice versa. She is an expert in Emotional Intelligence (we made the DVD!) and leader in interviewing and selection. While I do the corporate culutre part, she is more the expert in true human asset management.
I say this because I like to brag about her, but more to set up today’s story. Like myself, Jen gets asked to speak at a lot of conferences, especially SHRM (Society for Human Resource Managers.) I get to tag along with her sometimes - which is a real plus for me becasue I get to watch and engage with the HR leaders of today and catch a glimpse of tomorrow.
In last week’s session, we asked for a show of hands - How many HR people in the room are also the trainers for their company? In other words, how many have double duty versus how many dedicated training people were there. 2/3rds of the room raised their hands. Now you might be saying, of course, you were at an HR conference not a training conference. True, but you are missing the point. These people were saying they were the trainers; that trainers did not exist with their company.
HR is the heart of any company. Most may not like to admit it. Sales will argue they are more important, but there is no other department in the org that touches every single employee. So it makes sense that if HR is the heart and the ELT (CxOs) are the head and the employees are the hands and feet that you need HR to be as strong as possible if you want to build an engaging, sustaining culture.
But alas, the room was filled with people who were being asked to do double duty. The % of people who had actual college degrees in this field was in the single digits. The rest of the group (like much of HR in business today) got their roles becasue they are real “people persons.”
I am afraid for the future. We are not rasing up warriors and champions to serve the heart of the organization. Is it any wonder 90% of all culture changes fail? The people we are asking to do the change have no training!
The people I met at this conference were real and sincere and desirous to make a difference. But they lacked the knowelge. We have failed them. ELTs have failed them when they look at P&Ls and manage head count versus talent and they make budget decisions based on salaries versus cultural significance.
“Man, you are being very critical Matt!” (I just inserted your comments into the blog, impressive huh?) Yes, you are right. I am being critical. But as each day passes and I meet with more and more companies I am beginning to feel like I am the only one who truly cares about corporate culture any more.
It has been de-prioritized so many times and the companies have been “right-sized” so many times that the keepers of the culture and the personalities that will “Preserve the Core” as Jim Collins directs us are all gone.
All over this country, ELT’s meets quarterly and say “We need to make HR a priority!” But they never do. In fact, they never will. They do not understand culture. And when their stock fails to perform and the analysts start to move them to sell status, they will look around the room and wonder what happened.
It is true. History is just the present happening all over again.