We love our HR departments. They do very well within a business. They help with recruitment, training and onboarding. They help establish benefit plans. They help create a strong business culture and many other good things. But I have been involved with many HR managers who have crossed the line between supporting the business and dictating the direction of the business. As a CEO, you need to make sure you know when it’s happening and do everything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen, which could derail your business plan. This post will help you do just that.
An HR case study: A single veto vote can topple the entire Apple bandwagon
I was once working with a client where we were establishing a new org structure in the marketing department and recruiting a couple of new employees to fill those holes. In this particular case, the company also had a bit of a “power struggle” and culture clash between some of the department heads, which needed to be fixed. My role as interim CMO was to fix this problem and get the company on the right course and growth trajectory as dictated by the company’s business plan as created by the team.
When I finalized the organization chart for the marketing department structure that I thought was the ideal solution to achieve the company’s goals and growth objectives, it ruffled some feathers among the department’s current middle managers, as it would have meaning giving up some control. about the departments they currently supervised. But that was part of the problem with this company: the middlemen lacked experience and did too many tasks in one role. The new structure would lighten his burden and make the company more efficient and focused. The current middle managers proceeded to defend their territory and ran to the HR department for support.
At the same time, the new organizational structure would result in a shift in reporting tasks, with people potentially getting a new boss in the process. And those middle managers didn’t want to change who was managing them. Again, these staff members ran to the HR department for help.
And finally, when we were recruiting new team members, we were trying to recruit really smart team members who could help move the company culture in a more entrepreneurial and agile direction, unlike some of the entrenched processes that were slowing down current thinking and operations. And when these new candidates were interviewed within the organization, again, those same middle managers in the department felt threatened by the new people, as they were made to look stupid, hindered their ease of promotion, or forced to change the way you do your work. So what did they do; they ran back to the HR department to help them.
Now comes the guts of this post. When I presented this recruiting and organizational plan to the company’s CEO, he was 100% on board and gave me the green light to proceed with implementing it. But when I went to the head of HR to help me implement the restructuring and hiring, I was met with a lot of pushback. He had taken all the complaints from the middle managers, exposed to his own opinions (since many of these middle managers were his personal friends) and proceeded to try to crush the plan agreed with the CEO. The CEO was not one of the conflicts, he backed down from the original management and let the HR department change the plan. The restructuring never happened, the new hires were never hired, and the culture of the department was never fixed. This collectively ruffled the feathers of strong employees who did not want to leave the company.
I couldn’t believe what had happened: a couple of disgruntled middle managers not happy with the new plan, only to shoot down the plan with the support of the head of HR who basically got a “veto vote” on the plans high level of the company and management. And, the CEO let it happen??!!
Well, you can all guess what happened from there. Half of the marketing team I didn’t want to leave, all left for new jobs. And the company’s revenue dropped about 33% in the process, as the company’s smartest talent left and the freshest ideas that would propel the company to new heights, with the intended to grow revenue, were not implemented. What a mess!
What does this mean for your business?
For all you CEOs out there, if this sounds familiar to you, there are a few important things to remember. First, the strategic plan is the strategic plan, and if you have a smart leadership team implementing that plan, you have to let the plan run its course; don’t change direction on the whims and opinions of a single “veto”. voting” in midstream. And secondly, the HR department needs to know that they are there to support the company in executing the plans agreed by senior management, they cannot dictate management. . . always!! Yes, their views should be heard, but if they are trumped by the collective management team’s opinion, they should back down. And if your HR director doesn’t subscribe to this model, they need to be replaced by someone who is willing to march to the beat of the company’s drum, not their own.
This post is not meant to bash all HR departments or managers, as most are very good. But this post was simply inspired by the one bad apple manager who was allowed to dictate his personal agenda, which ended up derailing the company’s efforts to fix and grow its business. If any of you think your bad apples are going to go bad (and worse, hinder your business plan), don’t let it happen. Be confident in your plan and make sure all managers are beating the same drum.
George Deeb is a partner of Red Rocket Ventures and author of 101 Startup Lessons: An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.
As HR remains a critical part of any business, it is important to ensure that its goals and procedures are properly aligned with the company’s overall direction. For companies like Ikaroa, who are invested in building a modern, full-stack organization, it is essential to ensure that HR doesn’t take control of the ship and steer it in a direction that is not beneficial to the company and its goals.
First and foremost, HR must be kept separate from other departments and roles. It should not be responsible for making decisions on business strategy or developing high-level solutions. Instead, its scope should be limited to employee recruitment, retention and engagement. This allows the company to focus its energies on the tasks to which it is best suited and leave HR to handle the softer side of the company: supporting employees, creating a team environment, and assisting in day-to-day operations.
Secondly, it is important to ensure HR policies are created with input from all of the departments in the organization. If HR is allowed to become the sole driver of policy, then other departments will miss out on having their ideas heard. HR should be guiding the company in the direction it wants to go, but it should also ensure that other stakeholders have a say in the decisions that are being made.
Finally, HR should be encouraged to remain open to change and new ideas. By doing so, the company can be successful in keeping its HR strategies in line with the overall objectives of the organization. With a clear understanding of the business goals and strategies, HR can craft policies and programs that are effective in achieving them.
In order to ensure that Ikaroa and other business organizations stay competitive in today’s digital economy, it is essential to maintain HR’s focus on supporting the company’s goals, while allowing the other departments in the organization to contribute to HR policy development and strategy. With a strong HR team, a company can remain focused on its high-level objectives, while creating a workplace that is both enjoyable and productive.