For traditional Human Resources department (well, the kind that maybe is still needed in textile manufacturer factories in the third world) the most outstanding sign of its success can be said in terms of: being kind, payroll done on time and deliver required Wage Statements with punctuality.
However, for a Technology Company, such achievements are not enough. How different is a Software company from a textile manufacturer factory?
1. Employees are Knowledge Workers:
a. Replacing a position is very difficult. It’s not just a prescriptive position; it’s also a lot of knowledge and expertise that is lost when someone leaves the company. So Talent Management (attraction and retention) becomes the number one concern for HR.
b. Psychology of Knowledge Workers is peculiar, complex. Programmers can be Systematic, Pragmatic and/or Opportunistic Programmers. We can be more demanding in the reason and effectiveness of managerial orders or “team building” requests: We can sense easily when HR is doing activities just for the sake of doing them, or just because HR wants to show off its power. HR needs to understand Geek culture.
c. Good Software Companies move at Internet Speed; the best move faster. That kind of movement requires embracing a lot of change and innovation. That means tolerance to continuous questioning of hierarchical structures and building self managed teams. Open discussion and constructive conflict, problem understanding and coaching. Exploring new ways of doing things and anticipating risks and opportunities on a daily basis. And very importantly, HR needs to understand and appreciate the needs and aspirations of sophisticated talent. The company is not supposed to dealing with a HR that has been left behind of technology and opportunities. HR is meant to be an adviser.
d. Employees are smarter. Like saying that my readers are smarter than me (why? Visit this wonderful article), HR must have healthy perspective of her ego and thrive for collaboration and dialogue.
2. Recruiting is a challenge: Any high performance company requires the right set of skills, among others things. Not only highly talented people but also highly agile people, able to work in an agile company, able to define and follow a reached approach and willing to inspect regularly such collaborative approach. In many cases a strict description of a job position is not useful, the kind of company I’m talking about have people able to contribute beyond the prescribed position. They are resilient. Where can HR find that kind of people? What would you do if you have a product and want to reach people that fit your persona description? GO WHERE THEY ARE! Where are the talented people? Where are people that keep up with technology? Web 2.0 is helping a lot. Don’t come whining saying you are not from the Technology world and those techie fads like blogging, LinkedIn and Facebook are unbeknownst to you. That’s the way talking today, whether you like it or not. Need to have any good idea of a candidate for a position? Take a look at her profile in LinkedIn, it is updated? Is she well recommended? Has a very remarkable blog? What can you see through all that? A LOT! Sure you have to do it wisely and good timed.
3. Information sharing is vital, of course, we deal with knowledge. HR needs to foster transparency of fluid communication between teams, between teams and managers/executive board. Sharing knowledge? Blogging has smooth conversations in many ways, especially inside the company. Where can you keep all you employees’ profiles updated? Again LinkedIn is by most the proven answer. More and more I hear about companies asking their employees to update their profile in Linkedin. Intranets must reflect such willing to communicate. Facebook can be an interesting idea, but whatever the choice is, invest to have a good intranet that ease the talking through the company.
4. Compensation packages must be based on performance, ROI, and must be transparent, understood by anyone. Remember, money is not the most important motivator. I highly recommend this article of Mary Poppendieck about it.
5. HR is strategic. HR is not just coordinating parties. HR is not meant to be in charge of merely operative aspects of managing people. It could be at the highest organizational level reporting to the CEO or even the Chairman. HR is an adviser. That means a complete awareness and constant contribution of company’s strategy. That means a complete understanding of technology market and company’s product portfolio and current strategic and future needs as the company evolves.
The speed of our technology world can be daunting; the HR Manager must help the company to embrace change, must help to be agile.
Do you know any HR Manager (who fits this description) willing to work in Costa Rica? Let me know.