Speaking at last week’s Boardroom HR conference, Nick Starritt, former group
HR director of BP, gave a good definition of how you measure whether you’re
doing your job as HR chief properly or not. He said he always feels his pulse
when he is talking to the CEO and he knows if it is not racing then he is not
really coming up with the goods.
Other speakers and delegates talked about how HR should challenge the board.
Andrew Banks, CEO of TMP Worldwide recruitment, told senior HR people to
"be tough on your leaders". Claire Chapman, Tesco HR chief, went as
far as to say, "Be prepared to be bold and be fired."
And it seems that the enlightened CEO agrees with her. Paul Carter of Rolls
Royce Combustion Systems told the audience of senior HR people that they should
get on and do what they feel is right and justify it later. "Ask for
forgiveness rather than permission," Carter said.
In other words, the time has come for senior HR people to go on the
offensive. To be effective at the top in HR you need courage. But as people
like Starritt demonstrate in spades, you also need a lot of clarity.
The conference looked at HR outsourcing and Internet-enabled HR and there
was heated debate about the relative merits of different approaches. Certain
things can be taken for granted, as Vance Kearney at Oracle pointed out.
"The question I’ll always be asked is ‘How much more can you do next year
and how much less can you do it for?’" he said. There is one golden rule:
if your HR strategy is not aligned and integrated with business strategy then
your days are numbered. At this event, at least, there were HR people with
enough fire in their bellies to make sure that doesn’t happen.
By Noel O’Reilly