Every year, the President of the United States makes an address to the nation. The purpose of the annual “State of the Union” address is to give an account of the year’s events and discuss the priorities of the coming months. If communicated properly, this is an opportunity to reach a larger audience, share major goals, and get buy-in from the constituency.

state-union-addressSo why don’t we give it a shot?

I think every HR pro needs to have their own State of the Union address within their own company, department, or team (depending on your level of responsibility). This is strategic HR communication at its best, and it could become a valuable tool for your leaders to peer into the inner workings of the HR team while allowing you to share your key results areas as well.

The need is there

If this doesn’t prove that there’s an opportunity here, then I don’t know what will:

Although large U.S. companies spend about 36 percent of their revenue on HR, most annual reports fail to mention HR operations and how they contribute to the bottom line. Results of a two-year analysis of the 100 largest publicly traded U.S. companies by Mercer Human Resource Consulting show that only 20 percent of these companies discuss HR in their reports to shareholders. About one-quarter provide only limited references to the workforce, and some don’t mention their employees at all. (source)

How big is your “union?”

As I stated above, depending on where you are in your organization’s hierarchy, you might only be addressing your HR teammates. Or maybe you have the ability to snag an audience with your key senior leadership team, and you’re willing to put together a short presentation for that group.

Whatever the case, the size and target audience will be different for everyone, but the tips below will still help you in defining what to discuss.

What to say

If you’ve been reading here for long, you probably have a few ideas on what you could discuss with your leadership team. (And if you haven’t, feel free to subscribe for free updates.) Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Take the opportunity to discuss a few key areas that will impact the organization in the coming year (benefits and PPACA, for example).
  • Discuss the threats, opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths of the current HR team.
  • Share your priorities for the year ahead with regard to employee relations, training, or talent management.
  • If you are not a manager or lead, ask if you can help your manager develop one for your own team.
  • Use the platform to generate early buy-in for your ideas. (Here’s a stealth communication tip)
  • Demonstrate alignment of the HR function with the overarching corporate annual goals.

What are you waiting for?

This is your chance to get in front of a key audience (whether it’s the rest of your team or another influential group) and share your message.

What are you waiting for?

Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build your Credibility, Career, and Company by Kevin Cope

Okay, I’ll admit it. I requested a copy of Seeing the Big Picture by Kevin Cope because I wanted to pick up a few tips. I have always had a weakness of working “in” the business as opposed to working “on” the business. That applies to this blog and to my day job. I get bogged down in the day to day details and never take the time to step back, look at the wider landscape, and see what things could be improved on a higher level.

I was a little skeptical that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted when the book started with discussions on cash flow and net profits. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the great content and probably took more notes in this book that I have in many others dedicated exclusively to the HR/recruiting space. And that, in my opinion, is a very good thing.

seeing-the-big-picture-kevin-copeHighlights from Seeing the Big Picture Continue reading

AKA Other people think human resources has zero value

I find neat resources now and again in my web travels (like the Netflix presentation on culture and responsibility), and the one I’m talking about today is fantastic. Most of you have probably heard about the 2005 article “Why We Hate HR” in Fast Company where the author bashes the human resources profession for a number of faults.

Well, there’s a great PDF guide I found somewhere (can’t remember where! I’ve had it downloaded for almost half a year) that is a teacher’s guide to combat the points in the article. I really enjoyed looking it over, and I bet you will find it useful as well. Here’s the link to download the PDF. I have covered some of the interesting points and quotes from the article below. The questions at the end get my blood pumping. Are you the same way? :-)

Chicken or the egg?

It is unclear what came first, the marginalization of HR by senior management or the stagnation of the skills of HR professionals. Certainly, if all senior management wants is someone to plan the company picnic and keep morale up, HR professionals would not be to blame as there is no motivation to improve their skills and attempt to have a strategic role in the company.

School isn’t helping

The work of Mark Huselid and John Delery, among others, regularly focuses on how HR practices can have an important impact on an organization\’s bottom line. The metrics exist; they are just not being incorporated into academic programs and professional continuing education certification and reading. A greater connection must be made between academic researchers and the professionals who actually practice these skills every day.

We all could use some Dilbert

In the immortal words of Alice of Dilbert fame (Scott Adams, United Feature Syndicates, Inc. 1996), who has just met a newly minted MBA who has no people skills but yet is highly skilled in finance, accounting and economics, “So, you\’re a highly qualified leader because…you\’re good at math?”

Asking the hard questions

There are some great discussion questions tacked on at the end of the guide, and I think they are worth talking about even if we ignored the rest of the article.

  • Top management does not understand what value HR departments can play in their organizations. How do we convince them?
  • What key changes would you make to HR education to ensure graduates have the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to link HR practices to business strategy?
  • How does the gender makeup of HR professionals help or hinder the perceptions of the effectiveness of the HR function?
  • What recommendations can you make to protect the company assets and minimize litigation while still allowing for individual differences and exceptions to the rule when managing diverse employees in your workplace?

Anyone have thoughts to share? Surely I’m not the only one who’s interested in this stuff. :-)