Citigroup has seen it’s stock drop some 30% in the last month due to ‘exposure’ related to subprime mortgage debt issues. Last weekend, the CEO, Chuck Prince stepped down as a direct result of the losses. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud owns about three and a half percent of Citigroup. In an interview for Fortune, Prince Alwaleed comments:
“It is a pity what is happening, but I hope that a big lesson is learned in the board of directors and the management of Citibank.
Q: What is that lesson specifically?
A: The lesson is that, No. 1, this management has to be at the highest class possible. No. 2, they have to have a succession plan. You can’t have a company that size without a [successor] ready. And No. 3, you need a professional who has run a bank.”
Fascinating to see succession planning highlighted as a take-away for the board in light of write-offs approaching US $15 billion, yet I wonder how realistic it is for a company like Citigroup (or Merril Lynch, who are in the same position and presumably courting some of the same candidates) to have someone- internal or external – primed and ready to step up when the going gets weird. Jockeying for the top can be such a socio-political struggle that I personally can’t imagine modeling a plan to contain it.
So anyway, the job is apparently still open if anyone’s interested. Didn’t see it listed on careers.citigroup.com, though.
Many of the portals I’ve worked on have had a complete lack of attention to the HR practitioner. The generic scenario is an enterprise intranet, often driven by an underlying portal technology, with a static and outdated HR presence oriented towards policy and benefit information and links. These organizations are motivated to improve their HR offering and there’s no lack of energy around ESS and MSS integration, and plenty of thinking around how to balance centralized vs. decentralized employee programs.
When I recommend optimizing the experience for the HR professionals I find this has been given little to no thought, and that’s reflected in the environments I have seen for HRs, typically a password-protected sub-site with some stale documents and an unused discussion forum purported to be an exciting ‘collaboration’ space to share a handful of sensitive documents, with little thought to making it easier for HRs to work together (“Test Message” and “Hello World” seem to be the common subjects).
A couple of things – first, it’s generally acknowledged that the ERP user experience is sufficiently difficult to require supplemental front end work at a portal interface layer, yet the expectation is that HR professionals ought to be able to deal with it. Why is that? Frequent/’power’ users of an application stand to gain a lot from optimization, and I frequently interview folks who demonstrate tasks that require high numbers of clicks, screen changes, data fetching from other sources, etc. Training doesn’t make awkward processes efficient.
Second, the value proposition of leveraging collaborative technology in the HR space hasn’t been connected to the ongoing transformation programs in place at most large enterprises. I commonly hear from professionals out in the businesses and regions that don’t have a good sense of what’s going on in Corporate, and they often feel that their local dynamics are either unknown of ignored. Corporate people often expresses that they feel disconnected from the field and have little visibility into who does what, where. Often HR operations is under pressure to reduce operating costs, making it appear counter-indicative to provide practitioners additional IT effort on top of the ERP systems that are already in place.
Contrast this with sales. Here’s a function with similar needs: to rely on ERP but in this case a recognition that there is also a supporting data, historical information and a need for awareness of ongoing work efforts among their teams. Sales has always had a tacit social knowledge network supporting a set of individual practitioners performing against personal and group goals.
The big difference is that sales generates revenue and HR is an expense, and as such it’s managed quite differently.
The HR Professional portal should provide a functional workspace with information and tools that can be managed by a distributed workforce, centered around the areas that align to the business and corporate HR strategies and moves the value proposition away from the administrative formula. I’ve yet to see an organization that doesn’t get an ‘ah-ha’ moment when we talk about it but I have seen those that just can’t get it either funded of adequately staffed and developed. Where we are building them, they are in their infancy but I feel they will have high value as HR emerges as a strategic business partner over the next decade.
It’s always a pleasure when Dubs is in town and we get together over dinner. Last week was one of those times, we met at one of the great barbecue places in Manhattan, R.U.B. – the acronym stands for Righteous Urban Barbecue. The place is owned by Paul Kirk, a bona fide Kansas City BBQ master – he’s won many awards in the competitive barbecue circuit, but the food speaks for itself. Go there.
While we attacked a preposterous amount of food I talked about some challenges I’ve been having with a client whose HR organization and programs are in a state of disarray and neglect. I said it had occurred to me that because of that exposure I must be sounding pretty cranky in my recent posts and comments lately, and he went big-eyed and said something like, “I was wondering what was going on!”
Art can reflect life, and my life has clearly been rubbing off on my art. I’m an extremely pragmatic person – I recall a psychological assessment I took as part of a leadership program that landed me dead center between strategic and tactical. I love being a futurist but I also need to get things built and out the door, in today’s terms. I get great satisfaction in connecting those points.
My client needs us to help them stop the bleeding and get the fundamentals straightened out. We’re all over that, but we’re also providing tools to help get them past the pain and make their platform something that will let them act strategically moving forward. That’s where the success will be, not in the tactical part.
In an impressive one-two combo, Jim points out how re-evaluation of HR-to-business alignment and priorities is an ongoing job, and then, hardly pausing for breath, he expands the recent discussions on HR-to-business alignment by reminding us of the CEO’s responsibility to invest strategically in HR. Spot on, we’ve indulged in a lot of HR bashing of late (and I’ve been one of the bashers). True, there’s solid grounds for highlighting disconnect between business goals and HR strategy but it’s also a truth that HR is ofttimes funded as a shared administrative service to be run using a low-cost model. This generates contradictory demands, like mandates to use common platforms and processes while insisting that regions and business units be flexible and responsive to local dynamics.
Add securing financial and program support from the corner office that reinforces the strategic partnership to the duties of the tactical-yet-strategic SHRO.
Thomas has asked us to give our perspective on a Deloitte/Economist survey indicating that a majority of business executives do not see HR as playing a role in business strategy.
No big surprise in my experience. I see a lack of understanding between the HR and business management worlds as articulated by Jason, Evil HR Lady and others. I agree that HR needs to think and speak in business terms. If there’s any comfort in shared pain, it’s not just HR that has this challenge, IT is often feeling disconnected while business management feels that IT just don’t understand what they need. Both functions end up being treated as commodities as a result, boxed in by management’s experience as to where they can extract some value from the functions.
How did this happen? It depends on the culture of an organization. Sometimes it was never there, sometimes it was skewered by solutions that were more painful than the prior methods, where transformation meant laying off generalists and claiming benefits realization on paper, while managers became less effective because they had to get out in the rain and pump their own gas under the banner of self-service.
I find business heads desperately want to understand what motivates their workforces and they tell me they need to be more agile and reactive to changing market and global conditions, only to find that policies are too slow to be changed, data is of poor quality and hard to manipulate, and HRs are simply being reactive. I see examples where workforce planning is at best an annual mechanical exercise, lacking in meaningful business dialogue that could result in partnership.
What’s an HR to do? Get out of your office and understand your business. Know the financials inside out, know what each leader is expected to add to the bottom line. Shadow managers, have long discussions with the business and sector heads. Get in their heads and under their skin. Then decide from there whether you can help them. Demonstrate your value in the P&L language they speak. They’re the bosses, and they won’t give you a seat at the table, it must be earned.
The Taleo blog reports on a report from Money Magazine on the best jobs in America for people looking for change in their careers. They present 4 meta categories that resemble daytime television programming: Young & Restless, Returning Parent (they really mean “Mom” but that wouldn’t be very PC), From the Military to the private sector, and my favorite – Over 50. I have thoughts about the selections, especially (ahem) the Over 50 category but the real issue for me is the coarse-grained categorization. Given the tensions of the journalistic format I can understand the desire to make this snappy.
What really surprises me is that this same broad brush is picked up by Taleo:
“For recruiters, this is a nice piece of research to help target a specific candidate pool. Looking for Sales Reps? Find moms looking to return to the workplace. Need a Field Service Engineer? Identify someone retiring from the military, and so on.”
“Proactive, targeted candidate sourcing and the use of automated solutions can go a long way towards filling open positions with talented employees who will stay with your organization.” Link.
That’s targeting? This is the opposite of what Enterprise 2.0 promises. We shouldn’t use our tools for incredibly broad generalizations that slot candidates based on generalized demographics. These are important categorizations but by themselves they have no more depth than a sound bite. Being in the over 50 category and coming off my fresh experience in the market I’m offended when I’m contacted for positions that have no bearing on my experience or career trajectory but are the result of some sloppy match based on a single data point about me. At least no one suggested (yet) that I should consider teaching, pension administration or medical records coding – all great choices for an Old Guy, apparently.
TechCrunch reports on Useless Account, an amusing little bauble that gently spoofs the dubious value of account creation. It brings to mind a similar reality, that in our mixed environment we drive our users to create profiles out the wazoo. I take the unpopular opinion that we don’t have a real golden source for individual’s profile info. Of course, the HRMS is the main entry point for employee data, which then feeds the data warehouse which turns around and feed anything else that is interested. But who am I today?
If I’m a candidate, I’ll create a profile in recruiting system
If I land a position I’m asked to create an application
If I’m an officer I’ll create a Talent profile
If I want internal mobility I go to recruiting and create a profile
I’m regularly asked if my directory info is correct and sent to update it as necessary
If I use the LMS I have a learning profile
It goes on and on…is there a set of shared, core data? Of course. Could they be merged? As of now, it could get ugly. Each “view” has nuances that merging them would potentially destroy. Yet it’s reasonable to expect that I shouldn’t have to do that same data entry bit over and over again.
We’re thinking about creating a new environment – for current workers it pulls in the proper bits from the various systems and lets me use them like Lego to build new composite profiles. For new hires it’s the starting point, a core set of ‘About Me’ data in an interface full of webby ease of use that hides the complexity and provides a way to peel off a copy of my basic info and model it for the intended purpose. I could keep those versions so I can reuse them as needed. This would live in the intranet context and not project a message that says “I’m an HR application, run away!”. Right now it’s a whiteboard exercise, to be followed up with a few mockups and ROI exercises to see if it floats.
We’re going to propose scrapping and rebuilding our careers site for external candidates. A few salient points:
Taleo is on the back end
Presence in almost 100 countries
Diverse business lines, languages and competencies
Some things are obvious – easy navigation to listings through multiple conceputal paths, minimal marketing text while maximizing the expression of our core values and unique opportunities, accessibility considerations…but what are the deeper insights that will make for a compelling site? I don’t have a lot of depth in recruiting but my fellow HR bloggers or readers do, so please let me know what are the must-haves and what traps we should avoid. Add a comment or email me at systematicviewpoints*at*gmail*dot*com