Regular listeners to the Oven-Ready podcast will know I frequently cover the more ‘humanistic’ side of HR. I regularly interview guests on topics such as employee engagement, organisational culture and purpose, and wellbeing.
These are all of course hugely important to HR practitioners but in this episode I wanted to discover what the executives of the ‘C-Suite’ are focused on and whether HR as a function is on the same page.
Andrew Bartlow, this week’s podcast guest suggests in many instances we’re not on the same page at all. He argues HR’s focus is often on ‘HR Stuff’ instead of ‘Organisational Stuff’.
Andrew is a veteran of both HR and of the boardroom. He’s participated in 11 M&A transactions, numerous business scale-ups, countless IPO and private equity exits and as HR lead for a real estate start-up business that became a $14 bn listed firm, he certainly knows his ‘stuff’.
His expertise is widely sought with Andrew mentoring a number of HR leaders. His 25 years’ HR experience also led him to co-author Scaling for Success, a book that provides an HR framework for high-growth companies.
HR is a servant [01:39]
Andrew argues that HR is really good at giving ‘customer service’ to the organisation. We’re eager to please and at every stakeholder’s beck and call but is that showing leadership?
Advocating for the business as a whole [3:35]
HR tends to be guilty of navel gazing. We tend to work on HR things that matter to HR as opposed to seeing a bigger picture and working on things that will benefit the organisation as a whole.
Employee engagement is all a bit squishy [10:21]
I mention to Andrew about how important it is for HR to build a sense of community and focus on employee engagement. Andrew doesn’t really buy that. Employee engagement for example is all a bit squishy, HR is again focusing on the humanistic element as opposed to driving business performance.
The wellbeing ‘air quotes’ [13:34]
Andrew suggests that wellbeing may be important to the organisation right now but is HR working on that at the expense of other goals such as role clarity and management training which the company also may require.
Merging two cultures [17:20]
Andrew discusses at length how you merge two different business culture that have come together because of a merger or takeover and cautions against the ‘usual’ go to slogan of bringing together the best of both worlds.
HR practitioners need to wear their ‘business’ lenses [23:22]
Andrew recommends that HR leaders throw out their HR lenses and wear business lenses instead to trust understand what your organisation needs right now.