Strategic HR Weekly "Sales" Tip #13
"HR and Profits? They don't go together."
That's a direct quote I received from a supervisor at Marriott, 3 minutes before I started a keynote presentation to the Baltimore chapter of SHRM at their Spring Conference a few years ago.
So I used it as my opening line to the 350 attendees, as a stark reminder of the challenge they face, all as HR practitioners trying to take their profession to a higher level, both from a recognition perspective and from a true impact perspective.
A bit more detail on the full occurrence of events: The title of my 90 minute keynote was 'Make Yourself Indispensable: How To Create A Strategic HR Mindset that Drives Profits'. The hotel staff was helping me get set up, and Tom (his real name), the Marriott supervisor overseeing our conference hall, looked up at the screen I was focusing the projector on and said totally seriously, "HR and Profits? They don't go together. I mean you never think of the P&L and HR at the same time." And I replied, "Yeah, unfortunately, many businesses don't. But those that do can be more profitable. That's why I'm here for these folks." And he replied, "Boy I really wish I could stay for your presentation, because that mindset would certainly help us here."
The answer to doing this successfully will ultimately land on one's eventual ability to "look down on HR from the top of the business value pyramid", rather than "look up from the HR weeds at the bottom of the business value pyramid to the distant goal of profitability". The principle is identical to that in Michael Gerber's E-myth book where he talks about the most successful businesses having management that works "on the business" rather than "in the business".
Even in small businesses, even a small increase in "the strategic HR mindset" can be very valuable. However, until we, as a profession, decide to go there more than where we're currently at, we'll continue to be struck craving that "seat at the table". In other words, if we keep doing the same 'ol things, we can only expect to keep getting the same 'ol results.
Not every HR person can be or wants to be strategic. And that's okay. It's like every other department in a business. Finance has a strategic CFO, a tactical Controller, and functional AP and AR clerks. Some people will be clerks forever. IT has a strategic CTO, and then more tactical and functional technicians "doing the tasks". Some will be technicians forever. But the more all those folks at all levels start working with a clear "mission focus", the more impactful their results become. And for those HR folks with a true goal of having strategic business impact, until they stop working "in HR" and move to working "on HR", CEOs will continue to have the same knee-jerk reaction that Tom at the Marriott had: "HR and Profits? They don't go together."