When Jack Welch speaks, people listen. Being a former and long-standing chairman and CEO of General Electric gives one such clout. According to his Wikipedia page, at GE, Welch was famous for being a leadership development factory of his own, teaching and growing batch after batch of leaders. Jack also generously taught seminars to CEOs all over the world.
With such credentials, it may not seem much of a surprise to see Jack Welch, who, along with his wife, best-selling author, popular television commentator, and noted business journalist Suzy Welch, offer a set of thought-provoking musings on the subject of what is considered the company’s greatest assets – human resources. What comes to mind when one thinks of HR? For them, it’s more of a lament on HR not being able to “do their real job” considering the magnitude of their duties and responsibilities:
...if there is anything we have learned over the past five years of traveling and talking to business groups, it is that HR rarely functions as it should. That’s an outrage, made only more frustrating by the fact that most leaders aren’t scrambling to fix it.
The reason for such state of affairs, according to the Welches, is the propensity of leaders to prioritize other matters rather than people. Though the company line suggests that employees are a valued commodity, the current situation leaves more to be desired due to a number of factors. These include HR heads yielding significant sway in shaping people’s careers negatively, and departments that do not contribute value-added practices, which speak of a crying need to further improve HR by giving it the proper focus.
As always, the cure begins at the top by prescribing leaders that Jack and Suzy label as being in the “pastor-parent mold”. These are the leaders that have a positive agenda in mind: a great interest in nurturing and seeing their personnel succeed. By doing so, these rare HR leaders see their organization flourish, along with HR being able to forge a dynamic atmosphere where people would want to stay with the company and through transparent and consistent communication to its stakeholders.
Pretty lofty standards right? How far is your company’s HR department from this model? Feel free to share below. But perhaps these heights are reachable when folks strong on the people factor are hired and enabled. Possibly by then, an organization may witness a shift towards the right direction in terms of how and what HR can really be. It’s a start to make your HR “the most important function in the company”, according to Jack Welch himself.
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