Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why I’m Sick of Hearing About HR and that “Seat at the Table”

After reading “Survey: Leadership Confidence is Down – Especially in HR,” by Theresa M. Welbourne yesterday at TLNT, I searched Google and got approximately 263,000 results for the phrase “Seat at the Table” HR. The title of the articles ranged from the serious to the somewhat hilarious.
Here’s a sampling of some of the abbreviated titles:
  • Earning the Seat
  • How to get and keep the Seat
  • How to keep the Seat if you have it
  • 10 steps to get the Seat
  • HR needs to have the Seat
  • Beyond the Seat
  • HR from the break room to the conference room
  • Earning a Seat with the big dogs

This was all on the first page of search results. I finally just clicked away. I had seen enough and could not take it anymore. If getting a “Seat at the Table” was as easy as the articles proclaim, the phrase would be retired and never used again in the annals of HR. It would join the graveyard of other buzzwords of the past such as “Personnel Department” and “orientation.”

I, for one, am sick of the phrase. Having worked for a boss who did not want to touch anything strategic, I know from whence this came. She would call strategic projects the “fancy projects.” Regardless of my coaching and counsel, she just refused to move forward until a new CEO arrived and demanded it. She was out of the door within months.

This fate awaits a few of our colleagues in the future. The reasons for this are:
  1. Transformation of the workplace culture;
  2. The residual effects of the current economic environment; and, 
  3. The expected tsunami in the workplace once everything settles. 
The comfort zone of the old HR mindset is on its last legs. But before HR can be taken to the next level however, the thinking needs to move to the next level. It reminds me of Albert Einstein, who once said, “We can’t solve our problems at the same level of thinking that created them.”

I have always felt that being strategic had to be part of your DNA. Being inquisitive and not being enamored with the status quo are traits of people that think strategically. Being strategic is the hallmark of someone who is always looking down the road and constantly looking for opportunities. Being strategic is the sign of someone who embraces change and ambiguity, and thrives in it. Being strategic is the mark of someone who is comfortable asking “What if?”

These skills can be enhanced, of course, but to be a true strategist calls for a totally different mindset. The workplace of the future will demand it. The leadership of the future will demand it. The profession of Human Resources will demand it.

So when the Google search for “Seat at the Table” is done years from now, all it should return are archived articles from the past with nothing current in the search results — I hope.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah.....
    Ron I agree. In my family, there were two tables one for the adults and one for the kids.... generally speaking one might look at institutional/organizational structures in the same way. It all boils down to accountability.....with high turnover ...ok maybe not so much now, in light of the economy, poor hiring decisions, failure in recruitment and talent management activities, far and wide..HR in many cases is still flinging peas around at the kids table, while the adults are engaged in conversations about measurement and assessment, accountability and professionalism.

    As a M.Ed graduate of an HR and OD program, and most recently as holder of an MBA, I felt that I asked thoughtful, appropriate and engaging questions, that I was providing opportunities for solution seeking alternatives....too often, I found that change was NOT WELCOME at the tables I tried to sit at....Too many Old Guards - protectors of non innovation in an era of enterprise 2.0