Strategic HR? What is the strategic part?


William Tincup posed the following question to his network: “If finance is the strategic part of accounting. Assuming accounting is mostly tactics. What’s the strategic part of HR. Assuming HR is mostly tactics of course. Workforce planning?” The question generated lots of interest and answers and sparked my thinking. His question made it clear that he didn’t want anyone to confuse tactics with strategy. The answers offered were enthusiastic and definite, but the no clear consensus. While workforce planning would seem to be strategic, the work is very different for a manufacturer or call center than for a professional services firm. Call centers are trying to optimize workers and workloads for scheduling purposes, which seems tactical to me. Professional services firms are trying to leverage intellectual capital to capture and keep clients, which is more strategic. Furthermore,  workforce planning isn’t often found within HR departments. In my experience with several large companies,(Deloitte, Motorola, Willis) workforce planning that encompassed an organizational view was done in a cursory manner by the finance team as part of the budgeting process, which is more tactical than strategic. Compensation can be strategic. Workforce development can be strategic.  Talent acquisition (aka recruiting) can be strategic. But…   Continue Reading

3 Keys to Effective Recruiting

Last summer, I had the opportunity to help a friend who was having some challenges staffing his infrastructure team. I hadn’t actively recruited for over five years, but, I thought it would be great fun to be onsite, work with smart people and play with new tools such as Jobvite and Checkster.  It seems like yesterday that I was having coffee with Jobvite founder, Jesper Shultz, as he shared his vision for a unique recruiting tool that would leverage social networks and help recruiters manage their applicant flow.  Yves Lermusi, who developed Checkster in his post-Taleo career, was a memorable speaker at one of our NCHRA meetings. I discovered (as Raghav Singh tried to tell me) that in spite of some really cool tools, the recruitment process hasn’t changed since I first cut my teeth at the Santa Cruz Operation in the 80s. I’ll stake my career (spanning leadership roles in technology, professional services, and HR) on three things: 1. Your company’s career site must function Your marketing team spends a lot of money to attract customers to your site. While they are there, they will almost always look to see if you’re hiring. Any one who becomes aware of…   Continue Reading

Picking your battles

Sign saying Please flush the toilet

Vicksburg. The Civil War. In case you missed it, we are “celebrating” the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States, aka The Civil War, which was anything but “civil.” This was the culture war of culture wars. Those who live north of the Mason Dixon line will tell you the war was over slavery. Those who live south of that line will tell you it was about states’ rights. Historians’ views are more nuanced. A couple of weeks ago, my spouse, Jim, and I took a few days off and decided to meander (he thinks any speeds under 75 are slow) south on the Natchez Trace. We stopped along the way at Meriwether Lewis’s murder site (a real cold case) and several Native American mounds. Our final destination? Vicksburg, the site of a long, grueling and determinative battle in this war. Jim, who is writing a novel about female spies in this war, is an expert. Me, not so much. In fact, except for the local Civil War sites in the Franklin, TN, area, this was my first visit to a major battlefield. A century and a half later, the site is almost pastoral, with rolling, grassy knolls (if…   Continue Reading

The “Google Earth” for Talent Spotting


The question of the “perfect” candidate is one that anyone who touches the recruiting process must eventually confront. I explained a few of the challenges in my previous blog post and I have been poking around to see what practical tools exist. I began with a long conversation with Lucia Erwin, a Silicon Valley workforce planning pioneer and HR strategist. She said that one of her biggest consulting challenges is when she wants to conduct an environmental scan for talent. That’s because often, when companies are scanning the external environment, they are looking at competitors, industry trends, governmental regulations, not the talent pool. Managers often assume that whatever they need in the way of skills will be there. This reminds me of building The Field of Dreams, if you have the jobs, they will come. This discovery prompted me to interview Greg Nicastro, CEO of My Perfect Gig. I first discovered MPG a couple of years ago while having coffee with a former colleague from SCO (The Santa Cruz Operation), John James. John listened to my impassioned rant about talent and how it’s the people who make the difference between winning and losing companies and that if you have the…   Continue Reading

Talent supply vs demand. Where are the candidates?

Empty Office

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a hiring manager make the following complaints about unfilled positions. “This position has been vacant for 9 months.” “We just can’t find the right person.” “HR hasn’t sent me any qualified people.” “I can’t find a good headhunter who can find me someone.” “We have hired the best search firm and they can’t find me anyone.” Then, when I ask, “How many people do you think can do this job?” I get answers like, “Oh, there’s only a handful that I can think of” or “I have no idea” or “I can’t take time to train someone. They need to hit the ground running.” If you don’t have a clear idea of the supply of available talent (possessing the required KSA’s, etc.) vs. the demand for that talent, you can’t possibly have an effective staffing strategy. You are basically crossing your fingers and rolling the dice. As far as I can tell, very few companies even think about it like that. Some governments (i.e., Canada and Australia are two) think about the labor supply. Industries that need large quantities of similar skill sets (e.g., call centers, manufacturing, the medical industry…   Continue Reading

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