Don’t let your HR department steer the ship


We love our human resources departments. They do a lot of good in a company. They help with recruitment, training and onboarding. They help prepare benefit plans. They help create a strong corporate culture and many other good things. But I’ve been involved with many HR executives who have crossed the line between supporting the company and dictating the company’s direction. You as the CEO need to make sure you know when it happens, and do your best to make sure it doesn’t happen, which could capsize your business plan. This post will help you do just that.

An HR case study: A single veto can overturn the entire Apple Cart

I once worked at a client where we were setting up a new org structure in the marketing department and recruiting a few new employees to fill those gaps. In that particular case, the company also had a bit of a “power struggle” and culture clash going on between some department heads, which needed to be resolved. My role as interim CMO was to solve that problem and put the company on the right course and growth trajectory, as dictated by the company’s business plan, as formulated by the team.

As I finalized the org chart for the marketing department structure that I thought was the ideal solution to meet the company’s goals and growth objectives, it ruffled a few feathers from the current middle managers in the department , as it would have meant relinquishing some control over departments they currently oversaw. But that was part of the problem with this company: the middle managers were inexperienced and doing way too many tasks in one role. The new structure would ease their burden and make the company more efficient and focused. The current middle managers went to defend their ground and ran to the HR department for support.

At the same time, the new organizational structure would lead to a change in reporting tasks, with people possibly getting a new boss. And those middle managers didn’t want to change who led them. Once again, those employees ran to the HR department for help.

And finally, as we were recruiting new team members, we were trying to recruit really smart team members that could help shift the company culture in a direction that was more entrepreneurial and agile, as opposed to some of the entrenched processes that slowed the company down. current thinking and acting. And when those new candidates were interviewed within the organization, those same middle managers in the department again felt threatened by the new people for making them look stupid, hindering their promotion or forcing them to change the way they work. So, what did they do; they ran to the HR department again to help them.

Now comes the guts of this post. When I presented this organizational and hiring plan to the CEO of the company, he was 100% in agreement and gave me the green light to proceed with its implementation. But when I went to the head of HR to help me implement the restructuring and hiring, I encountered a lot of resistance. She had dealt with all the complaints from the middle managers, voiced her own opinion (since many of those middle managers were her personal friends), and then tried to crush the plan agreed with the CEO. Not one for conflict, the CEO backed away from the original direction and had the HR department change the plan. The restructuring never happened, the new employees were not hired and the culture of the department was never established. This collectively ruffled the feathers of the strong employees that I didn’t want to leave the company.

I just couldn’t believe what had happened: a few disgruntled middle managers who were not happy with the new plan simply overturned the plan with the support of the head of the HR department who was effectively “vetoed” over the company’s high-level plans and direction. And the CEO made it happen??!!

Well, you can all guess what happened from there. Half of the marketing team I didn’t want to leave all left for a new job. And the company’s revenues fell about 33% in the process, as the brightest talent in the company left and the latest ideas that would propel the company to new heights, with the intention of growing revenues, were not implemented. What a mess!

What does this mean for your business?

For all you CEOs saying this sounds familiar, there are a few important things to remember. First of all, the strategic plan is the strategic plan, and if you have a smart leadership team implementing that plan, you have to let the plan take its course – you don’t change direction based on the whims and opinions of a single veto. selector” halfway through. And second, the HR department needs to know that they are there to support the company in executing the plans agreed upon by senior management, they shouldn’t dictate the direction. . . ever!! Yes, their views must be heard, but if they are overruled by the views of the collective management team, they must back off. And if your HR department manager doesn’t subscribe to that model, they should be replaced by someone who is willing to march to the beat of the company’s drum, not their own.

This post is not meant to bash all human resources departments or managers as most of them are very good. But this post was simply inspired by the one bad Apple executive allowed to dictate her personal agenda, which ultimately overturned the company’s attempts to recover and grow their business. If any of you think your bad apples will spoil your bushel (and worse, hinder your business plan), don’t let it happen. Have conviction in your plan and make sure all managers are beating the same drum.

George Deeb is a partner at Red Rocket Ventures and author of 101 Startup Lessons – An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.