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HR blogosphere bulletin: Beatty’s memo to CFOs (don’t trust HR)

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blogJon Ingham trawls the net to provide his round-up of the great and the good of the HR blogs so you don’t have to. This week he tracks down blogs posted in response to a memo which told CFOs not to trust HR.


During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been tracking the development of a discussion about Rutgers HR professor Richard Beatty’s presentation at a major CFO conference. You may have already come across these yourself, in which case I think you’ll still be interested in the perspectives of HR bloggers on the subject. And if not, this article will give you a good understanding of the issues being discussed. Either way, it will give you an overview of the sorts of ‘conversations’ going on in the blogosphere, of which most HR professionals are unfortunately still largely unaware.

Beatty’s presentation

I first became aware of the presentation via a tweet (Twitter post) on 11 March from Jason Averbook (@jasonaverbook) linking to an article at CFO.com: Memo to CFO’s – Don’t Trust HR. I looked up the URL, had a quick read and responded with my initial comments:

“Beatty’s done some great work and written some good stuff so I’m hesitant to say too much before reading the Differentiated Workforce – which I’ve been looking forward to doing. But Beatty’s suggestion that there is ‘no evidence that engaging employees impacts financial returns’ simply isn’t true.”

Following the conversation

Since my initial response, I’ve been looking out for other peoples’ comments via my iPhone and PC. I use Google Reader on my iPhone to review the feeds of a fairly lengthy list of HR blogs, and ‘star’, ‘share’ and ‘tag’ the ones that I like, so I can come back to them on my PC later on. I also use Twitterific on my iPhone to review the tweets of people that I’m following. Often this takes me onto further blog posts, for example, see this retweet (a rebroadcasted tweet that the tweeter thinks is particularly interesting) from Lucie Mitchell @HRZone:

“RT @cathymartin Yikes, Memo to CFO’s, dont trust HR, I feel a blog coming!”

This tweet led me onto Cathy Missildine-Martin’s post on Beatty’s presentation at Profitability Through Human Capital: Here we go again.

Other inputs to the conversation have come from:

I’ve also just been using Twitter Search and Technorati to check on the tweets and blog posts I may have missed. I link to some of the posts I’ve read (I’m sure there are more I’ve not found) below.

Some of the posts

The first blog post went up very shortly after the initial tweet from Jason – Jim Holincheck’s reaction on his Gartner Blog was that CFOs should trust HR, but do have reasons to be wary. Another early contribution was posted by John Zappe at ERE.net.

A number of posts drew parallels with Keith Hammond’s article ‘Why we hate HR’, in Fast Company a few years ago. See for example, John Sumser’s post Here comes the train at Recruiting News and Views and Bob Corlett’s post, How HR can build trust with the CFO at the Staffing Advisor. Still, Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist warns HR pros not to over-react to this latest doesn’t HR suck article.

Most bloggers are critical of Beatty’s stance, and some of his arguments too. At Here We Are, Now What?, Terrence Seamon points out some of Beatty’s conflicting remarks and at 8 hours & a lunch, Deb Owen notes some differences between Beatty’s points and an earlier article of his.

There’s also quite a bit of criticism of Beatty’s point that engagement doesn’t matter – for example see this post, Does employee satisfaction = financial returns? by Matt Cholerton at Everyone Hates HR.

At Human Race Horses, Labor Guy points out that it isn’t just finances or statistics that measure the impact and value of human resources, and at ZDNet’s Irregular Enterprise, Dennis Howlett suggests HR brings a human dimension that finance lacks (Note to CFO: play nice with HR).

But not all bloggers disagree completely with Beatty. See for example InfoHRM’s post, Is it really a matter of trust? And at Strategic Workforce Planning, Stacy Chapman supports Beatty’s suggestion that organisations should plan to emerge from the current situation in a much better place re talent – and that they should do this through good workforce planning.

And discussing the issue of trust, Phil Gerbyshak at Slacker Manager points out that it’s people, not departments that make the difference to him.

Most bloggers at least agree that Beatty has stimulated a useful debate, for example, Frank Mulligan at Talent in China suggests it’s worth having in China too.

In summary

The beauty of social media and today’s technology is that none of this ‘research’ has taken that long. I use the odd five minutes here and there to try to keep up with what’s going on, and a bit longer when I get home to review again what I’ve highlighted to myself earlier on.

It’s commenting that I find takes the time, and I’ve not left as many comments on other bloggers’ posts as I would have liked. But I have finally found time to follow-up my initial reaction on CFO.com, with a proper post, particularly addressing Beatty’s points on being an employer of choice, and you can find this here.

I’d like to finish this article with what I think has been the wisest comment I’ve read on Beatty’s presentation – a tweet from Jessica Lee, editor at Fistful of Talent and blogger at Jessica Lee Writes:

“All this chatter about the CFO vs HR stuff – the more I think about it, I keep remembering to just be better. Don’t get mad. Just be better.”


See Jon Ingham’s previous HR blogosphere bulletin here.


Jon is executive consultant at Strategic Dynamics. He specialises in helping HR teams to become more strategic and to increase their impact, including through the use of social media. He has two blogs (Strategic HCM and Competitive Society), and a podcast show (Talking HR). You can also follow him on Twitter @joningham

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