Viewpoints: Why we should love our HR professionals

Dan Steininger
Dan Steininger

In speaking at an association meeting of HR professionals, I told them that as a CEO I have always loved HR professionals.

Then I asked them why they thought I felt that way. They seemed puzzled.

So, I asked them: what makes a great company or organization?

I reminded them that one of the greatest managers in baseball was asked the same question about his team and why they kept winning the World Series.

His answer was that he had great players.

So, who finds those players and the key employees of any organization? Of course, it’s the HR professionals!

But equally important to hiring the right people is that those new employees need training, mentoring, and help as they go through the onboarding process to fit within the organization’s culture, which is a primary responsibility of HR professionals

They must also prove adept at managing the ever-growing list of HR tasks that must be maintained to comply with federal and state regulations and enhance a culture that pays competitively and can attract employees. The legal challenges are myriad, whether it involves firing, promotion, or compensation, as there’s always the need for HR professionals to ensure these matters are handled professional and competently.

Most importantly, the world continues to change rapidly, impacting an organization’s culture and human resources in many dramatic ways. For example, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, people now want to work virtually and have more flexibility, yet they still need interaction with other employees.

Successful HR leaders possess high social skills, communicate well, listen carefully, and can navigate working with a dramatically more diverse workforce.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “The C Suite Skills That Matter Most: More than ever, companies need leaders who are good with people,” the authors indicated that leaders with those skills should be promoted to the position of CEO. This diverges from the traditional model, which calls for people with high technical expertise, administrative skills, and a track record of managing financial resources.

Consequently, we can look forward to promoting HR leaders to the top jobs in the coming years.

How can any HR professionals survive this constant change in the labor market and the regulations coming from Washington or state governments?

I recommend that top management meets with key HR professionals annually to review the culture and changes so that the culture aligns with the company’s values.

This annual review should drill down into questions like how meetings are conducted and whether they effectively tap the skills and knowledge of the workforce.

In advance of those annual meetings, anonymous questionnaires should be developed to test whether the company’s culture and leadership are living up to its stated values. In addition, those anonymous assessments will provide a wealth of information to see if there’s a disconnect between leadership and the organization’s employees.

The annual review with top management to ascertain potential problems and deal with them would provide the kind of great support HR professionals need to successfully implement programs and training to address the endless stream of problems and challenges that come their way.

In setting up these collaborative annual review sessions with HR professionals, I recommend the following process be followed to ensure the best results:

  1. Understand the problems. I call problems mountains that need to be scaled, and creativity is the only way they can be done. Use the anonymous survey information to start defining the most current challenges. Lay out the requirements of new federal and state mandates. Review carefully assessments of HR leaders and what they think is right or wrong about the culture.
  2. Then, use the traditional ideation session to think differently about solutions. There is plenty of access to information on how companies across the country handle the changing marketplace from an HR perspective. Google them and put the best ideas into play!
  3. Apply an evaluation matrix to the ideas to determine which meet the agreed-upon criteria for implementing new ideas. Then develop a responsibility matrix for implementing those ideas.
  4. Top management then must communicate the ongoing changes needed to improve the culture and address the workforce’s concerns.

Everyone needs to recognize that trying to create a culture that addresses the emotions of human beings is never easy. Still, people can appreciate genuine attempts to listen and learn from the information gathered on how to improve the culture.

The reward will show up in multiple ways as employee departures are reduced, hiring new prospects becomes easier, and the organization drives better results financially in a competitive world.

Dan Steininger is an author, national and international speaker, and business advisor is president of Steininger & Associates LLC, which helps companies drive innovation. He can be reached at

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Dan Steininger is the president and founder of BizStarts. He is also the president of Steininger & Associates. The firm focuses on teaching the tools of innovation to drive growth for companies in all sectors of the economy. Steininger is a former president and CEO of Catholic Financial Life and a graduate of Marquette University and Boston University's School of Law.

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