What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a
HS: In difficult times, HR is usually directed to reduce costs. This
means creating a downsizing plan that minimizes the organiza-tion’s
“IF YOU WANT TO BE A TRUSTED
ADVISOR TO THE CEO AND RISE
exposure to litigation and high costs. The key to escape that
TO EXECUTIVE RANKS, YOU
narrow paradigm is to take a systems diagnostic approach to un-derstand
how people have input into everything the organization
MUST GET EXPERIENCE IN THE
does, and how they can contribute to the problem and to sustain-able
OPERATIONS OF THE BUSINESS.”
solutions. The organization must reflect on how it does things
and then decide it needs to do things differently. These transfor-mations
– HUGH SECORD are difficult and too often the leaders are not willing to
make the changes. If they were willing and HR had the right tools,
the changes would be sustainable. Sustainable solutions mean
we do not have to rethink things. Over time, our organization
will be inherently flexible and nimble and will be able to rise to
What skills are important for success in HR?
HS: HR leaders need a theoretical background in their field to
bring credibility to their processes. They also need experience in
all aspects of the business and must be general managers at the
core with strong negotiation skills.
What tips do you have for new grads or those in entry-level
HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?
HS: It may seem blasphemous, but the first tip is to get out of
those jobs. They are dead-ends. If you want to be a trusted advisor
to the CEO and rise to executive ranks, you must get experience
in the operations of the business. HR is a support function and
the client will always appreciate being advised by people who have
walked in their shoes.
The HR field has been evolving. What changes excite
you the most?
HS: HR has not truly evolved as much as some people think.
In fact, one thing HR practitioners need to do is to get back to
fundamentals. However, we see many organizations today realiz-ing
that the multi-stakeholder perspective is essential to creating
shared value for all. Where we have seen an exciting leap forward
is where companies have created a portfolio of functions: HR, LR,
Aboriginal affairs, government relations, corporate social respon-sibility
and so on, under an umbrella of sustainability. I think this
represents the kind of paradigm shift that will be transformative.
What’s the future of HR?
HS: HR is going to remain a sub-function in organizations.
People management, if I can call it that, is the function that will
have the ear of the CEO and be their most important support.
However, HR leaders today need to realize that the people who
contribute to the success of the organization are not just the em-ployees
– they are the contractors and vendors in the supply chain,
they are the members of the community who provide indirect ser-vices,
/ they are others in the community who will be impacted by
Velasquez the organization for years to come. HR needs to lead the transfor-mation
Jonathan to this new perspective or get out of the way. n
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