22 October 2015
By Tom O’Sullivan
The CIPD is the professional body for HR. The Southern Region of Ireland recently held a thought provoking talk in UCC.
“Different!” “Fascinating!” “Food-for-thought!” “Provocative!” and “Quirky!” were words used to describe the event entitled “The Darker Side of HR”. MC Charlie Dolan interviewed Dr. Clíodhna MacKenzie on Wednesday 9th October.
First up, Conor O’Connell, Chairman CIPD Southern Region, Lindsey El Amoud, Business Development Officer Adult Continuing Education UCC, and Ronan O’Callaghan, Sales Manager RecruitIreland, welcomed the crowd. Lindsey also highlighted that over 1,000 Adult Education students will graduate over 3 days the following week in UCC’s Devere Hall. With the introductions completed, it was over to Charlie and Clíodhna, who subsequently enthralled the room.
To a large attendance of engaged HR leaders and students, Clíodhna provided some insight into her previous IT career, that she became weary of travel, returned to academia, and subsequent to her PhD focused on organisational behaviours during the financial crisis, is now known as the dark side researcher! In response to Charlie’s probing questions, Clíodhna provided the following insightful answers:
• Does HR really have a seat at the table? No. Is a participant versus a decision-maker, as validated by interesting business developments hitting the news in recent weeks where HR policies and practices contributed. With HR often listed as 8th or 9th most important function for Chief Executive Officers, legislative change is required so that Heads of HR are vetted by boards of directors just as Chief Operations Officers and Chief Financial Officers are. Even with Talent the biggest challenge, how can HR be truly-strategic until this change occurs?
• What are the key skills required in HR? Economics, finance & accounting and big data. If HR understands economics, great…if not, will be cast aside even if the biggest trends right now are big data and talent management. And don’t get me started re performance management!
• What about performance management? Stack ranking, bell curves, forced distribution, ticks against people? Can be so stressful for managers that they end up on sick leave. Companies like Microsoft and Accenture have thrown their processes out. The way forward has to be ongoing consistent feedback to drive connectivity, positive behaviour and contribution.
• And talent management? Don’t get me started on an element of this one either! With family-friendly policies viewed as detrimental by 2 years to career progression, some companies are now offering to fund human oocyte cryopreservation (egg-freezing). Is my fertility any of business’ business? There are some lines that HR should never cross, particularly when the odds after 29 further-decrease after 35. Egg-freezing should never be a perk or option.
• What countries are leading the way from a family-friendly perspective? The Nordic countries. A 6-hour working day is currently being proposed in Sweden. Ireland has some related considerations to think about here. With 160k workers of our 1.987m national total employed by US multinationals, there exists a relentless pace of “being on” for fear that that business will relocate elsewhere. This is not sustainable.
• And what about big data? Companies like Google now have HR functions that are one third administration, one third recruiting & management consultants, and one third data analysts. Sophisticated algorithms are not just measuring but also managing e.g. the impact of talent leaving, of certain organisational behaviours etc. Ultimately, big data is all about financial impact. HR need to ask more, probe more, challenge more and think re long-term impact.
Conor O’Connell, Chairman CIPD Southern Region, thanked Charlie & Clíodhna for their captivating interview re the darker side of HR, and presented Clíodhna with a gift to mark the occasion, kindly sponsored by The Irish Examiner. Sincere thanks were also extended to UCC for their support in organizing this event.