This week’s offering comes from a 2/5/16 article appearing on a website named “ Compliance Tools for HR Professionals” and titled: “How can HR drive high employee engagement: Expert Q&A”.  The expert who is queried is Vip Shandir, the CEO and founder of HighGround, described on its website as “the first HR cloud platform designed for the employee.”

Those of you who are regular readers of this weekly feature may have noticed that the headline contains a small but important difference: the quotation marks around the word “Worst.”  They’re there because much of the content of the article is actually quite good, and to play fair, I’ll provide some samples below.

A big part of the article's reason for being this week’s selection, though, is the headline preceding it, specifically, the notion that HR can—or even should—“drive” employee engagement.  Given that attention spans are today measured in picoseconds, my fear is that CEOs may get no farther than reading the headline, breathing a sigh of relief that all of this engagement stuff is somebody else’s job, and forwarding the link to their woebegone VPs of HR.

It’s time for some of that fair play I promise.  Sandhir didn’t write the headline, so he can’t be held accountable for that.  In fact, he’s spot-on (translation: he agrees with what I said in the last paragraph) when he says that “Even if HR is responsible for implementing new systems and listening to feedback, it all starts with the C-suite. That’s because company culture begins with leadership.”

He’s also right on the money with this: “HR needs to have a seat at the table. Changing the way a business views HR is the first thing a company needs to do to increase employee engagement.” 

And with this:  “Using employee insights, management can be more confident in major decisions impacting the business. Once a collaborative feedback culture is established, leadership will know their teams’ insights ahead of time and keep them in mind. Their workforce will already have trust in management because they know their voices are heard.”

That said...

I do take issue with a few of Vip’s recommendations.   For example:  “HR is no longer about administrative work, but is focused on the actual voice of the employees. This new breed of HR puts people first. A concrete example of this change is the rise of the ‘Chief People Officer.’” 

Not to put too fine a point on things, but the idea of naming a Chief People Officer is, well, horrifying:

·      First, it’s a way to slide somebody responsible for people into that C-suite on the cheap.

·      Second, it gives rise to the abbreviation “CPO,” which suggests the Naval rank in which the “P” stands for “Petty,” which is how the role will come to be viewed.  (There was a sitcom in the 1970s set in the US Navy: “CPO Sharkey.”  Don Rickles played the title role.  QED.)

·      Worst of all, it’s a cheat.  It contradicts his statement that “company culture begins with leadership.”  Because regardless of whatever boxes-and-sticks maneuvering one might try, the capo di tutti capi is still the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), not the CPO (Chief People Officer), or the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer), or the CSWHHTEHPDIHOHLO (Chief Shmoe Who Has Had This Engagement Hot Potato Dumped In His Or Her Lap Officer).

I could also quarrel with the overreliance on technological approaches to engagement, such as so-called cloud-based solutions.  But that’s what Shandir’s company does, and it isn’t his fault that he was asked to be interviewed, so I’ll let it slide.  Fish gotta swim and all that.


Speaking of playing fair, I’ll freely admit that what follows is embarrassingly self-serving.  But there are now just 3 days left to vote for my book, Otherwise Engaged, as 2015’s “Leadership Book of the Year”.  (And if you’d like some independent proof that the nomination of my book is real, go here.) 

All you have to do is click here then scroll down and click on the VOTE NOW button.  That will bring you to a page listing all of the nominees.  Scroll down a bit more until you see the thumbnail of the cover of Otherwise Engaged, click on the radio button, and your vote will have been cast.

Thank you.  And remember: in just 3 more days, these annoying self-promotional bits will end.