Latest Thoughts and News From Sera Business Advisors

Is Crisis the Brand of Your HR?

Trailing considerably in the polls, a Bolivian presidential candidate turns desperately to the services of a troubled, but talented, political strategist for help. After several misfires to get her candidate back in contention, she has an epiphany. “Our brand is crisis!” she exclaims. On a dime, she turns the campaign into one that persuades voters her candidate is the safest choice in a very unstable environment.


This, of course, was not a real election, but the synopsis of “Our Brand is Crisis,” a recent film starring Sandra Bullock. Yet, it probably feels all too real to anyone practicing HR.

Who doesn’t feel like your brand is crisis!

We often hear the battle cries for HR getting “a seat at the table” or being seen as a “business partner,” but typically these campaigns fall short. Why? Because all too often, HR execs are consumed putting out fires and responding to emergencies. There’s no time to be strategic.

Let’s back that claim up with some research. A recent study looked at the four major roles that HR practitioners have to fill. They include:

  1. An Emergency Responder – a firefighter who focuses on issues management, reacting to events/issues and resolving them;
  2. An Employee Mediator – a judge and jury who solves problems and manages conflict;
  3. An Operations Manager – a construction contractor who puts the game plan in motion and analyzes and develops new strategies as situations evolve; or
  4. A Strategic Planner — an architect who plans, innovates and designs for the future, hedging risk along the way.

Guess which one usually gets the most attention?  You got it, the emergency responder. In our experience, about 50 percent of an HR practitioner’s time is spent in reactive mode, dealing with the crisis of the day. Meanwhile, only about 5 percent of their time is dedicated to designing for the future and thinking strategically.

Instead of a seat at the table, we usually find ourselves with a seat on the Titanic!

So, how do we transition the HR field from a brand of crisis to a brand of strategy? Consider these tips as a starting point.

Find your balance.  It doesn’t matter if you are a one-man-band or you have a fully-staffed HR team at your disposal. You must be intentional about changing your own reality. It starts by winning the day. Be proactive and purposeful with how you spend your time. Find ways to commit bandwidth to strategic pursuits. Examine where your time is spent. Look for opportunities to balance your work, as well as opportunities to improve your internal processes and procedures.

Plan with the end in sight. See the big picture. This is particularly important in talent management activities so that you properly address priorities such as workforce planning, engagement management and succession planning. Being a forward thinker requires you to connect the dots across the organization. You must anticipate future problems and hedge the domino effect. (See our recent blog for more info.)

Know the business. If you want to set down the firehose, you have to flex your strategic muscle. This means you have to be smart about the business. You need to have an enterprise AND industry view. If you don’t understand the ins and outs of how your company operates, as well as the business environment that is impacting it, how can you expect to shift into a more strategic role? In other words, approach your job like a CEO.

Embrace data. Being data fluent is the secret sauce for success. Today, data is king.  It’s the language of your leadership.  It’s the basis for major decisions throughout your company.  You must track, understand, think, speak, write and be knowledgeable in data to bring forward effective HR strategies that benefit the business.

These keys help end crisis mode. By leveling up your competencies, you can transform your Human Resources approach from hair-on-fire to calm, cool and collected.

I don’t know about you, but I’d vote for the proverbial table over the Titanic. I’m not buying what Sandra was selling. Neither should you!


Is your HR brand Crisis? If so, how do you rate your department in terms of balance, forward thinking, business savvy and data fluency? 



Connecting the Dots – How HR Can Eliminate Confusion, Chaos and Costly Mistakes   

Every executive knows how critical it is to break down siloes, to connect all areas of the business and ensure alignment across the organization. We call this process “connecting the dots.” I think we can all join hands and agree that companies need to ensure consistency in their messaging, business objectives and operational delivery models to ensure success.

So, why is it that most organizations struggle with the left hand having no idea what the right hand is doing? Why is it so common to see companies wrestling with disconnects and discrepancies?  If connecting the dots is really a business imperative, why are so many organizations only providing lip service to it?

Read more…