Earlier this month I wrote an article entitled “What Is It about Founders? Is It Something In Their DNA?” The point of it was that HR sees founders as hardheaded, uncooperative, arrogant and disrespectful of HR. Founder/Editor Ann Bares, commented that the door “swings both ways”. That is so true and, in all fairness, this article will look at it from the opposite perspective --- why founders/CEOs don't like HR.
Information provided here is from my own databank of experience, as well as from founders and ex-founders (now CEOs at mature companies) themselves. Some of the input was gathered in person and some from articles on the subject.
1) HR can’t tell me why they exist and how they bring value to the company
Let’s start with the legendary tale of Steve Jobs and the elevator story. We have Steve Jobs and a brand new HR hire on an elevator together. Steve asks her what her job is. No details are given on what she said, but it was bad enough to cause him to explode and say “What you do is not ESSENTIAL to our business. We are not going to need you. You are fired.”
If you can’t answer the question “What do you do?” from a founder or CEO in a clear and convincing manner, you’re not adding value or making the kind of difference you should.
Alan Collins, retired CHRO at PepsiCo says that years ago when he was starting out in HR his CHRO told him “ . . . if you’re not confident enough to look the CEO in the eye without blinking and say “The ‘X HR decision we’ve made on Y issue is absolutely the right thing for the business, and here are three reasons why…’ then you will get your butt kicked and sent to the showers early.”
2) HR doesn’t understand company financials
"HR people come to me with their hands out with no idea how the money they are asking for will impact the company financially."
If you can’t read and understand company financials and how your HR purchases will affect the company, you don’t have credibility with top management. How many times have we heard this? Ad nauseum. If you cannot show hard financial ROI with the programs you want to create, then your proposals will fall on deaf ears.
3) HR wastes my time sitting through useless and lengthy presentations
"HR expects me to sit through 2 hour presentations on why the company needs to implement XYZ policy. I cannot imagine any issue that really needs my undivided attention for that long unless it‘s an angry customer that provides 40% of our revenue or a software “bug” of ours that has infected computers up and down the entire Eastern seaboard."
It is always more difficult to deliver a short presentation than a long one. Make your presentations succinct using logic and emphasis on the positive impact for the company. Your CEO/founder has other important things to do.
4) HR always tells me “no”
A big objection that founders have with HR is that we are always telling them “no”. Founders don’t accept “no”. When they run into problems in other areas of the business, they somehow find a way to either change the circumstances or work around them. So when they hear “no” from HR, it drives them crazy.
5) HR delivers problems with no recommendations on how to solve them
Linked very closely with #4 is the all-time numero uno complaint. They go berserk when HR comes to them with a problem but no suggestions for a solution. It’s like they end up having to do HR’s job for them. They understand that the decision is theirs --- but HR should come to them having researched several alternatives and the ability to clearly state the pros and cons of each approach.
And to add insult to injury, one founder told a reporter from Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he had no idea why he had an HR person in his company. “You got me. I just know I need to have one.”
And that’s scary folks. If founders/CEOs don’t know why they have us, and if we continue to irritate the heck out of them, we just may find ourselves out on the street.
I commented in my previous article, that I would have a confession to make this time around. I know this will make 99.9999% of all HR peoples’ hair stand on end. But . . . . . . I would give a “body part” to have worked for Steve Jobs. Get past his management style. Watching his mind at work would have been awesome!
The silence is deafening.
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications. She lives in Dallas and has 3 four-legged children and one Chinese daughter (it’s a long story). She’s had a life-long love of animals and the ocean. So why is she living in Dallas?
Image courtesy: www.guardian.co.uk