As anyone who has ever read anything I have written, attended a presentation, or interacted with me knows I feel we are in serious need of some paradigm shifts.
I tuned into 60 Minutes last night. I still find the show entertaining if not always entirely accurate.
Two different segments really captured my attention on last night’s show. The first was a segment about Warren Buffet and other billionaires who have signed a pledge to invest in philanthropic endeavors with a minimum of 50% of their net worth. That means the minimum buy in is a half a billion dollars – each.
The reasoning behind it was classic Buffet who said that once you reach a certain point in wealth the incremental benefit to you personally is minimal if it exists at all. When asked about whether it isn’t more appropriate to leave it your heirs he said no- that creating multiple generations who are further and further from the actual activity that generated the wealth is an unhealthy process.
I agree. I didn’t have the benefit of growing up in a family that endowed me with a large bequest upon my parents passing and neither do I plan to provide my children with such in the event I become rich and famous.
The discussion about why or why not a billionaire should turn to philanthropy and whether or not this allows the ultra-wealthy too much control was interesting as well.
The biggest reason they stated was ability. They have the financial means to make a difference. Several also talked about with humility about learning to play in a different world with a different set of metrics.
We worship wealth in this country. Even today the stock market reached yet another historical high, but have we seen a corresponding impact on the quality of life for the average citizen? I would say no.
I like the discipline that some of these business leaders have brought to the philanthropic process. I think it is okay to expect a philanthropic organization to have clearly articulated goals and for progress to be measured as to their achievement of those goals. That to me is the most important metric- are you creating measurable results?
Our society is too complicated for one sector to address all of our issues. Government has proven it can’t do it. The not for profit sector continues to struggle and businesses that see stakeholders beyond the shareholder and/or customer are still in the minority.
The second episode I saw was about an environmental engineer in Paraguay who with the help of a craftsman creates musical instruments from items they recover from trash heaps.
The miracle of this is not only the ingenuity, but the mission behind it. The community where this is taking place experiences a level of abject poverty that few of us can really appreciate. It literally was formed around a series of landfills and waste dumps serving the capital.
The music and orchestra allow both the participants and the community to experience and aspire to something beyond that miserable existence.
Juxtapose that with the children of privilege from the first segment.
I also had a chance to read a segment about the annual Peter Drucker Management Conference. Similar in some ways to the theme of the billionaire philanthropists this group feels that we shouldn’t be too congratulatory about where the stock market is and how many new billionaires we are creating annually.
They point out many of our management models are still very adversarial and poor. The distribution of the benefits of this wealth is pretty anemic. If you look at real growth after discounting for inflation and other factors the growth itself is fairly marginal.
As a change agent and former human resources executive I tend to agree.
Employee engagement has shown minimal improvement over the last decades. I am not talking about morale; I am talking about alignment between individual and organizational goals.
If you think it is a fad or to touchy feely I will point out that organizations with high employee engagement outperform their counterparts by margins as high as 100% on every key performance indicator. I am talking about real metrics like earnings per share, return on investment, revenue per employee, etc.
Oh yeah, they also benefit from lower attrition, reduced per capita health care expenditures, and other soft metrics.
We have an interesting paradox in that we have organizations howling about their inability to attract and retain the talent they need to run their organizations and the fact we lose over $5 trillion annually to employee turnover.
A great post this morning shared an anecdote where a hiring manager had spent a year looking for qualified candidates for a role he indicated you could train a person with the appropriate attitude and aptitude for in six months…
We have exchanged people for technology in many of our hiring processes looking for apps that screen people and ensure the best candidate pool. It isn’t working.
Study after study demonstrates that a foundation of trust and mutual respect are essential to sustained organizational performance, but we still refer to interpersonal and relationship skills as soft.
The last example is about a post I read this morning where a thought leader proposed that the Human Resources Department as currently constructed is obsolete.
He argues that given their inherent conflict in balancing representing the interests of employees and those of management and investment in the infrastructure of compliance that at the very least the function should be split into two distinct disciplines- human analytics and human relations.
You can only imagine the howls that emanated from the human resources community ranging from once again how management doesn’t appreciate them to the lack of understanding the average manager has for the complexities of dealing with all the regulatory requirements in our current environment.
I happen to agree with the post- in part.
I too believe that the human resources function as it is currently being practiced in the majority of organizations is obsolete.
I was a human resources practitioner for over two decades. I saw my role as fairly simple and straight forward-
- Work with the rest of management to identify and acquire the talent requirements to sustain our business model
- Create systems that reinforce and align employee and organizational goals and create line of sight between performance expectations, reward systems, and development efforts
- Provide appropriate training to all current and aspiring managers and leaders so that they were proficient in setting clear performance expectations, giving and receiving feedback constructively, taking appropriate corrective action when appropriate, and coaching employees to optimize their performance.
In my world the management of talent and people is embedded in the job of every manager, not just human resource specialists.
I agree that human resources professionals need to know their craft, the technical dimensions required to be in compliance, forecast talent requirements, optimize our investment in reward systems, and attract and retain the best talent.
We only really become partners when we create systems and proliferate the capability to manage that talent across the organization.
When I look at where we are relative to employee engagement, the retention of talent, trust in management and leadership, and developing talent it seems like human resources practitioners have ample opportunity to make significant contributions and increase their perceived relevance.
So as always I will continue to attempt to be a paradigm shifter.
How about you…?