I understand that the topic I am about to talk about can be a very sensitive topic, but it has been a topic that I have been discussing extensively amongst my professional circles, and it is due to the interesting increase of incidents where the head of the Human Resources function is either an MBA graduate with a leadership course from one of the universities/programs coupled with 2-3 years experience in a different function or a seasoned professional who decided that Human Resources would be a nice place to unwind after a “tough” career span in an operational role.
Let me be clear, I am not arguing against competent leaders, I am very sure that some people have innate leadership capabilities, and some develop themselves to be great leaders,,, My argument is basically as follows: Not understanding the complexity of the Human Resources function, and going in with the same style as going to any other support function.
The decisions HR leaders take on are usually related to people’s well-being in one way or the other. The dynamics of the politics within an organization needs to be second nature to that leader, making any decision that revolves around change needs to be confronted in a methodical and organized way to avoid any potential backlash or risks that may arise from the sudden change element/agent.
Another major aspect of HR is data and confidentiality. Impactful HR leaders deal with enormous amounts of data that are multi-layered and diverse and compartmentalize it and strategize accordingly, without understanding the intricacies of the HR function and the causality of its processes, it could lead to misunderstanding of the data or even worst, mishandling of the confidential data.
A different angle of this topic is having the head of HR from a different cultural background that may require an adjustment period depending on the socio-economical layers within the organization (and won’t be as effective as they would want to be) but the principles of dealing with people are almost the same cross-culturally, and the Human Resources leader would be very competent in those principles and their application.
We can go back and forth on this topic, and for every negative example we will find a positive because as with any topic that relates to people, and in the words of “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.”
The only thing that should be mentioned is; organizations should be very careful when selecting the person that will be the face of the organization internally… the trickle-down effect can destroy the best teams that you have.