Despite its perpetual fascination with all types of new fads, HR has never seized the opportunities it has had to reinvent itself. We could have done so some years ago and made the total quality revolution our own. Business process re-engineering came and went with the HR function hardly noticing.
As a result, most employers never achieved all the benefits these methodologies had to offer, because they failed to harness the talents of their staff. HR could have championed these initiatives but its own contribution was often following rather than leading. There is mounting evidence that HR is failing to achieve influence at the boardroom table. We wonder why.
Now another excellent opportunity presents itself - performance measurement and management. "Oh, we've been doing that for ages," say the appraisal specialists, the 360-degree feedback aficionados and the competency brigade, all of whom believe they have something to contribute. The one factor that lets them down, however, is their inability to offer really meaningful performance measures.
The theory of competence says that competence equals performance, but rarely does anyone try to make the connection because they get bogged down in definition and analysis, while the pretty histograms produced by 360-degree software appear to measure everything except business performance.
HR is well known for its resistance to, and lack of capability in, measurement. Yet everything it does should have an impact on measurable performance improvement. We try to recruit good performers, we train staff to perform better, we want to reward and recognise superior performance and we have to deal with underperformance. So a function whose raison d'être is maximising employee performance should not only be good at performance measures, it should be the experts.
This is a fantastic chance for HR because every other function has failed to deliver the goods in performance measurement. The accountants have finally acknowledged that their measurement systems are historic and do not address the broader issues of human capital and the knowledge worker.
The operations and sales directors can no longer infer that the only measures which count are theirs. Performance measurement is at the top of the agenda and HR has the biggest opportunity ever to position itself accordingly. Are you ready to seize this opportunity?
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