Regarding the long-suffering demand that HR be granted a seat at the table, I’d like to address this issue using my work levels goggles. Is it really about HR needing to acquire this competency or that competency, or is it about organizational structure?
I’m Talking About a Strategy Table
If we assume that “the table” is a place where strategy, not current operations, is discussed, then seats at the table must be filled with people capable of thinking strategically. Unfortunately, most competency models don’t have a valid or reliable definition of “strategic thinking capability”. I’d like to offer one.
Strategic Thinking Capability Defined
Using work levels terminology, this means people capable at level 4, i.e., those capable of mentally managing,planning, integrating, balancing and coordinatingmultiple serial pathways to deliver goals with delivery times falling betweentwo and five years.
Level Four Work Example
An example of level four work I offered in a previous post was:
Expand our sales footprint beyond the US by establishing a sales force in Mexico which should be responsible for 15% of total sales at the end of four years. (i.e. Integrate multiple serial pathways: recruiting, staffing, facilities, technology, Mexican human resource law and customs, customer identification, sales process, product offerings, marketing, advertising, operations, delivery, warehousing. etc. to deliver a four year objective)
You’ve also heard the complaint that no one will hire you without experience, but how can you get any experience if no one will hire you? HR is entrapped within this classic, catch-22 dilemma.
If your only experience with HR has been in an organization where HR was relegated tocutting paychecks, planning picnics, and offering soap to smelly people, then you might not be able to appreciate the value a strategic HR role could add to your organization. Picnic planners need not be in your strategy sessions.
We’re back to work levels, not all HR roles are created equal.
You Get What You Design and Pay For
Assuming your organization is of sufficient size and complexity to merit a strategic HR role, in order to attract strategic HR talent, you must create a strategic, level 4 HR role, embed it with level 4 work and then pay accordingly. No organization is going to pay $120K for picnic planning, and conversely, no strategic-capable HR professional is going to take a $40K, picnic-planning role.
If You Build It, They Will Come
To grab a line from the movie Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. If you built a role that was tasked with creating an integrated recruiting, screening, selection, compensation, development, performance management, managerial leadership system to build a talent pipeline capable of staffing our organization to meet our strategy 3 to 5 years down the road, you wouldn’t dream of excluding that person from the table. And your applicants fora rolethat was scoped at thislevel of complexity and specificitywould well deserve a six figure salary.
To Seat or Not To Seat
If your organization is of sufficient size and complexity to merit a structure containing a truly strategic HR role,then it would beimperative to have them at the table. If HR in your organization isn’t structured to add strategic value, save the seat for someone else.
I’m OK. You’re OK. Let’s fix the system.
Is HR in your organization strategic? Should it be?
(This statement is part of a Participation Agreement that all of the Society's core affiliates sign.I hope that you will read it carefully.Your comments are welcome. Please post comments you feel will contribute to a quality public dialogue below. You may send any questions or private comments to me personally at
While GO Society’s associates and fellows agree to support the Society’s purpose, we come to our organizational work from different disciplines, different sectors, different functions, different roles and levels of organizations, and different interests in improving organizational effectiveness.
What we hold in common is appreciation, knowledge, and experience in a systems approach to designing and managing organizations that is based on foundational concepts about understanding and organizing complexity in work settings developed by Lord Wilfred Brown and Elliott Jaques. This approach, over the years variously called “The Glacier Project”, “Stratified Systems Theory”, and “Requisite Organization” includes well-defined, researched, and tested concepts of levels of work complexity, levels of human capability, accountability, and effective managerial leadership practices.
We recognize the discovery that organizational systems have a direct and substantial impact both on the personal achievement of people at work and on the capacity of organizations to create wealth for society, and that as a consequence of this the design and implementation of such systems carry strong moral and ethical implications.
While we all appreciate this systems approach and these concepts, we again differ as to which and how many of the concepts we emphasize in our individual practices and how we may integrate them with other theories and skills that we use in our organizational work.A few examples:
In summary, we all have and celebrate our own educational foundations, skilled knowledge, and experience in improving organizations, and in this document we all agree to our common science based principles and concepts described above in general terms.
We also agree to participate in a continuing dialogue on the continuous evolution of these ideas both in a private area of the web and in face-to-face meetings, helping GO Society associates and fellows to come to broad agreement on what specifically is included and is not included in this commonly held requisite approach, and what we should encourage all Society affiliates to endeavor to master.