In the October issue of the Harvard Business Review, Peter Cappelli asks some simple but striking questions. He is focused on HR neophytes, but I doubt that most HR professionals in your organization could answer these questions. This is especially critical as more and more line managers take on significant HR responsibilities.
So ask your HR director these questions. They should be pleased by your interest, not threatened by your challenge…
What are our immediate and shorter-term talent needs? What are the best schools to address these needs and how do you know? What are our turnover rates for each position? Who are our best employees for each position and how do we know? How do we track them? How do we develop others to be like them?
How should we meet our talent needs? Do we buy senior staff (incentives), build them (leadership development) or borrow them (contractors)?
How can we do a better job of hiring? What is our strategy for recruitment, selection, and winnowing down a list to avoid bias? How do we train our selection teams? Is it based on evidence or personal opinion?
How can we develop internal talent? Do we use an apprenticeship model? Learn by doing? Do we provide tuition reimbursement, as it is on their time and largely at their expense?
How can we manage employees’ career paths?
Do we have a coaching plan in place? A succession management (not planning for replacement) plan? Where can I see it in writing?
These are legitimate questions. Why are we afraid to ask them? Too often the HR manager is a “contract manager”. They know labor relations.
But are they adding strategic HR value to your organization? If not, why are they on your senior team?