The Prime Directive: Does Your Company's HR Function Lead or Fail to Lead?

Jeff Altman

Visitors: 275

The July 17, 2006 issue of Businessweek carried a terrific column from Jack and Suzy Welsh entitled, “So Many CEO’s Get This Wrong” that describes how HR should function and the mistakes that corporate HR makes.

Responding to a question that points out the HR is often felt in a negative way vs. The Welsh’s claim that it is the most powerful part of any organization, they acknowledge that HR is often marginalized in organizations into the people who issue the newsletter, plan the company picnic or, at the other extreme, “the cloak-and-dagger society. ”

They then call for HR to be “the killer app” within a company but acknowledge it seldom is, laying the blame squarely upon the CEO who does not put HR at the table the same way as the CFO.

They recount a story of speaking to 5000 HR executives in Mexico City and asking how many of their organizations were on the same footing as the CFO and getting fewer than 50 hands to go up. They then ask whether the Boston Red Sox would be better run by the CFO or the Director of Player Personnel (as a Yankee fan, I encourage the Red Sox to try the Welsh’s suggestion and report back in a decade or two).

So what do they suggest?

Part pastor (who can hear all sins and complaints without recrimination) and part parent (loving and caring but giving it to you straight when you get off track), they are men and women with stature and substance.

Their job is not to make people warm and fuzzy. The job is to create ways to motivate and retain people; they create review and appraisal systems that let’s people know where they stand and monitor it with the rigor that is invested in SOX compliance. Third of all, they need to be able to confront charged relationships like those with unions, people no longer delivering the goods, or those with egos as large as all outdoors but who have stopped growing.

They exhort CEO’s to elevate HR to the same level of professionalism as is expected of their CFO’s while acknowledging that few organizations are currently pointed in this direction. They ask, “. Since people are the whole game, what could be more important?”

So, what’s the focus of your work? Is it attracting and retaining great people? What are you doing to put systems in place that motivate, inspire and reward (yes, reward) talent. You know, the people you say are at the crux of the organization and its achievements and success.

And what are you doing to support people when they stop growing or stop performing. How do you get them on track or get them out?

Jeff Altman

The Big Game Hunter

Concepts in Staffing

© 2006 all rights reserved.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, is Managing Director with Concepts in Staffing, a New York search firm, He has successfully assisted many corporations identify management leaders and staff in technology, accounting, finance, sales, marketing and other disciplines since 1971. He is a certified leader of the ManKind Project, a not for profit organization that assists men with life issues, and a practicing psychotherapist.

If you would like Jeff and his firm to assist you with hiring staff, or if you would like help with a strategic job change, send an email to him at (If you’re looking for a new position, include your resume).


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