Corporate uncertainty: the day we ‘lost’ HR


Corporate uncertainty: the day we ‘lost’ HR. You may agree or disagree, but there’s something not right in the HR role and function’s performance. Think about it in the most objective way: what would you need more as an employee?

Corporate uncertainty: the day we ‘lost’ HR

Bit of history: In the 2007-2009 period, HR departments around the globe were assigned to implement massive redundancies and restructuring programs.

These were done in a clumsy (done awkwardly or without skill) change manner. It didn’t only position HR as the ‘his-master-voice’ unit firing employees, without clear criteria (was it cost? performance? age?), but it broke apart whole organizations and company cultures.

This was the day that US and European multinationals started losing their competitive edge. The local, small-medium sized companies continued on the path that HR&O is performed by the owner himself. You can imagine the chaos…

2009-2011: the outsourcing and dilution era

Two years after, the negative trend continued for multinationals, their employees and future Talent. Company leaders realized that a) HR was an expensive hierarchy of low strategic contribution, b) they needed some expertise (and fresh perspectives). So, they migrated most fo the HR talent acquisition, development and training, and internal processes in external ‘hubs’.

Either cloud-based or call-centre-based, the company employees and leaders were served by teams located in support centres in India, Spain, China. It was the period that job posting and acquisition process was outsourced to the new, back then, digital platforms. Keywords became the criterion.

Candidate tests after tests represented a global statistical database, neglected the importance of unique Talent and the market peculiarities.

An organization can only grow and set an exemplary model for development with the help of right talent pool.

Example: the digital marketing competence and skills. How can you find the best-equipped employee, if the recruiting manager doesn’t know, and the digital talent platform has mined into the same keywords for thousands of candidates?

Workforce Planning by HR?

We’re already in 2012. The industries transformation is in an infant stage, but its speed asks for the best of the best, to fight-back post-recession, tough product decisions, and Talent. Companies are still in ‘redundancies’ mindset.

HR leaders and units lack the ‘strategic provider’ positioning and it is evident. Even CEOs confirm that they don’t trust HR leaders anymore, because they have become complacent, slow, and ‘yesmen’. Workforce planning for a 5-year plan? Talent acquisition communities? Sales & support functions excellence evaluation programs? Seriously, a lot of companies still don’t know what kind of skills and competence they need ahead, or which employee is suited for which tough task in the Transformation.

Do you want a fact-stimulus? Talent, the number-one resource for growth, is scarce across Europe and all private Businesses feel the loss, as the PwC survey shows. Is it really a talent shortage, or that the companies can’t recruit and retain the best talent? What do HR recruiters really have accomplished?

Middle management ‘neutralized’

HR is making another terrible mistake (2013-15). It not only has become ‘organization-invisible’, but it finds it hard to work actively for companies’ strategy understanding and bridge-back employees’ engagement and shared values. Companies, if you exclude 4-5 multinationals with a strong culture, aren’t in-shape and their employees are disorientated.

The middle management is “neutralized”. No Monday breakfast meetings, no openness, no strategy implementation brainstormings. Even training is a game-play of HR selected partners, without a strategic cohesion for the company’s change in evolution. It seems that HR is still influenced (and bit directed) by the financial policies of the company. The dynamic workforce can’t see the Vision…the dynamic workforce breathes life into organizations. Talent acquisition is happening case-by-case. Overall company path? Not served.

Employees’ experience?

HR used to be the internal brand ambassador in the last 20 years. But it lost the path. Although in many companies the internal communication function belonged to HR, few were implementing SharePoint programs, intranet activations, or even All Employee Meetings. Their partnership with Communications function was either competitive or low-energy. Overall company path? Not served.

To create a brand that is relentlessly relevant, companies have to shake up the way they’ve typically recruited, trained and promoted people. Employees have to be engaged as never before, chosen and deployed in ways that are directly linked to a brand’s purpose and goals.

In too many companies, even those far along in their digital transformation, HR is still a holdover from another era, focusing on requirements, benefits, compliance and certifications. When pushed on a talent strategy, HR is often a numbers game: How many of what type of person does the business need to deliver against its plan? Or even worse, they focus on the Linkedin employer brand activations, showing nice employee gatherings and pictures.

That doesn’t work anymore. The employee experience —just like the customer experience— needs to move faster, capturing new trends and changing preferences as quickly as the brand itself.

Stimuli to discuss and share


FedEx Corporation holds a track record of success, from delivery to customer service. In the early 1970s, the company developed a philosophy that still stands strong today – People-Service-Profit. The foundational belief is that excellent care of employees breeds excellent service. To track employee relations, FedEx offers an annual survey and feedback action program. Employees provide valuable feedback and management meets to discuss results. The program allows problem assessment and resolution opportunities. FedEx Corporation provides an efficient way to address problems in order to keep the community balance.


The people strategy at Prudential is straightforward – be a high-performance company and a superb place to work. According to key Prudential personnel and HR statistics, the company does not have high turnover, absence rates are low, and disciplinary procedure levels are implemented. The company attributes its human resource success to its transparency and ability to share its story. The company’s history is shared with its entire staff, discussing the highs and lows, challenges and successes, with every person. The company keeps an open mind in HR processes and welcomes change and innovation when needed. Their open mind is keeping them ahead of the rest.

Bain & Co

The work culture at Bain is that of hard-working people who love what they do. Bain is a magnet for top talent and employees who stay the course. Retention is low because, according to the company’s human resource department, people love what they do. Bain & Company’s HR recognition includes awards from Working Mother as the Best Company to Work For, the #1 Best Firm to Work For by Consulting magazine, and the Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality 2015 from Human Rights Campaign. The team culture allows all members to fully contribute ideas, support each other, and provide inspiration as a community. HR at Bain focuses on the complete-employee; combining training, mentoring, and flexibility among work schedules.


Resiliency is what adds BT to the list of the most innovative human resource departments. As a communications provider, it is hard to believe that this company remains a leader in human resource. But, BT is recognized as a pioneer in the way of managing an international network with a rich heritage of success. During the credit crunch, when most companies were laying off employees, BT was retaining, retraining, and redeploying existing staff. BT allows their staff to be retrained in different areas, gaining valuable experience, without being disloyal to the company. Apprenticeship programs offering flexible work schedules are available to employees who are looking for areas of movement and advancement within the company. The result? Excited employees with special interest in their career.


Ford is the car manufacturer that broke ideals when it came to hiring practices and leadership. Henry Ford is recognized as one of the best leaders the world has ever seen. His philosophies and beliefs trickled into the HR department at Ford. Today the company is recognized for its HR innovation through a highly disciplined culture, outstanding training opportunities, and strong and consistent processes. When it comes to human resource practice, the company focuses on implementing healthy communication through the removal of emotion and reliance on data. HR believes data and discipline should come first, before emotion. When the process is adhered to, a healthy work environment succeeds. Ford has consistently been named a leader in HR practice by People Management.

Corporate strategy is usually only useful if you get people engaged with helping you to make it work.

Max McKeown

Give your Culture a wake-up call

Employees are the heads, hearts and hands responsible for shaping and delivering brands, turning business objectives into reality. And for many companies, these employees are the primary reason customers stay loyal.

While company culture doesn’t live in a single department, it probably gets talked about most in HR, where typically new employees (or in career days) learn about the company’s shared purpose and values. Too often, though, this means culture gets a little sleepy, to put it politely. It is unattended and becomes less relevant to the brand, and most importantly, to the delivery of the experiences that drives business results.

“It doesn’t matter to me that my leaving will cost you money. It doesn’t matter that my space will take time to fill. What matters is that I’m happy and if you’re not willing to invest in me, then I’m willing to cost you money.”

Osayi Emokpae Lasisi

In 2017 Borrow My Brain customer audit (360 leaders and line managers) one thing was clear: many claim/pretend to be the ‘Guardians’ of integrity, innovation, responsibility and diversity in an organization, but few really execute such initiatives with employees.

Rethink HR function, we all need it

Instead of thinking of HR as Human Resources, professionals in this space need to think of themselves as being in the business of human transformation,” author, speaker and futurist Jacob Morgan says.

Why? The industries and digital transformation will not only transform company operations, market offerings, and existing models, but it will also transform employees, job descriptions, and units. Don’t these changes redefine the role of HR? Can such changes addressed by old-timers in HR? Who can introduce innovative processes in performance management? The boss?

HR function is about to address the biggest challenge ever: transform 100% talent management. Can they do it? The existing perception of job candidates and the negative ‘grapevine’ of employees say no!

Talent strategies need to move beyond job descriptions and more toward defining characteristics of the type of experience that is most relevant. Are we focusing on how to attract the new stars that will fuel the company and brand’s future?

Break the ‘silos’

Talent strategies shouldn’t just be about checking the box on requirements. They need to be directly tied to brand purpose and business goals’ performance. At many companies, these are in ‘silo’ mode. Communications and HR still fight over who’s the owner of Facebook or LinkedIn pages and how things show up on the careers page on the corporate website.

The brutal truth is they should be looking at external outreach and internal preparedness. Can HR contribute to Customer needs, Company growth and Customer Experience?

Has HR realized that Millennials or Centennials, or any specific generation have different shared behaviours, interests, preferences, expectations and values? Is the company fit to ‘accept’ those candidates or integrate them by co-creation and shared beliefs views? We are all changing, are we? Employees have to be engaged as never before, chosen and deployed in ways that are directly linked to a brand’s purpose and goals.

Bring Consumer insights into employee experience

We all leave our day jobs and become Consumers. We live a 9-5 routine. Flexible working, and just before we know it, we are back at work again. We tend to forget the Customer changes, the real human-truths they evolve with, Insights. Customer, the one pillar that keeps us in business…

If HR really wants to add value to the organization, it should work for a Culture building program, that brings Customer in the centre of employees’ attention and the company strategy understanding. Only in this way, they can bring Cultural clarity back, as the guiding blueprint for the employee experience and the pulse of a relentlessly relevant brand.

By purposefully building an employee experience, connected with the customer is the foundation for driving real engagement and culture development. No, HR isn’t there to work in the excel spreadsheets, but to drive such behavioural drivers of change. All Talent/HR systems and processes should focus there, activate employees, and evaluate performance for Customer championing.


All of the above, in part, explain the disposition of young Talent to work for legacy, big, historical companies (squeezing them in), and the discontent of existing employees, still realizing that in-house politics, hierarchy barriers, and ‘obstacles’ rule. The situation is even worse in small-medium sized companies and agencies, where the “Founders’ Syndrome” is the key obstacle for Change and evolution, both for the company and employees.

You may agree or disagree, but there’s something not right in the HR role and function’s performance. Think about it in the most objective way: what would you need more as an employee?

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