HR, Workforce Readiness and Organizational Glue

Ready. . . set . . . go!

Wake at the very last moment (after hitting the snooze button 4 times), jump in the shower, slap on some clothes, drive as if you are NASCAR qualified, show up right at 8 a.m. and you are  ready to begin work.

Stop. Wait a second. It is not that simple. And whoever thought “it” would be is in complete denial. 

What am I talking about? Workforce Readiness.

I recently accepted a Human Resource consulting project for a startup company. I am not just any Human Resource consultant, I am the company’s first human resource presence. And I am thrilled to be back at work.  My thoughts, opinions and knowledge are being sought after, listened to, valued and executed upon. I am a walking, talking and breathing workforce readiness poster! 

All right, I will not go that far, but I was ready (nervous but ready) to tackle the new challenges that awaited me. While in transition I prepared myself by staying abreast of my profession, volunteering, reading trade journals and every other imaginable method to be workforce ready – and it paid off.

The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) defines workforce readiness as,

Having new workplace entrants prepared to enter the workforce with the requisite knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes in order to engage in endeavors that will be required in their respective occupations.

In other words, workforce readiness means showing up. Not just literally showing up at 8 a.m., but showing up fully engaged in mind and in spirit.

I was initially hired to fill a couple of key hires and my presence has been slowly revealed. I have been fortunate to sit at the table and have my voice heard when it comes to key hires and when coaching management in the fine art of Human Resources. When an organization becomes aware of the Human Resource presence, they reach out to as the voice of reason, equity and fairness. 

When an organization views Human Resources as a basic but crucial function, wonderful things begin to occur.  The organization begins to flourish, human capital is developed, forward thinking change occurs and genuine character emerges.  But, when an organization views Human Resources as a transactional and an operational function, the organization can find itself stagnated, not allowed to develop at any level and Human Resources becomes nothing more than a request processing center.

So what is the secret? 

Well, I affectionately call it Organizational Glue. Let’s face it, human resources is a company’s Organizational Glue. “Organizational” is synonymous with configuration, establishment, composition or institution and “glue” is defined as any substance used as a strong adhesive. Put a fully engaged, workforce ready human resource team in place and you have the strong adhesive that bonds the establishment together. 

The moral of this story is this – an organization knows the value of a first rate Human Resource team and you really begin to comprehend and see the significance of Human Resources – your organizational glue – and when Human Resources is not present, underserved or undervalued well, it might just be too late.  It’s up to the human resource team to be workforce ready.

Is your HR Organizational Glue ready . . . set . . . go?

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Michelle McLaren

Michelle McLaren, PHR is a Human Resources Business Partner for Wincor Nixdorf, a Global IT organization and has over 18 years progressive human resources experience. She is the Chair for the Austin HR Management Association Certification Committee, blogs regularly for AHRMA on various HR topics and lends her talents to other HR projects and initiatives. You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.



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There are different kinds of glue. Are you on the factory floor every single day making “widgets”? Nope. Then you, as HR, are not a glue that is used on the factory floor.

You know that one guy who is really the guy who fixes that one machine that is key to the production process, the one you fired last week. The folks who, on paper, bragged for doing his job but can’t, are now facing a line-down situation. What made that possible? Is it evil? nope. Is it stupid? Maybe, but more like people not knowing the limits of their own lack of insight into the human system. Has it cost ten thousand companies each at least ten thousand dollars to fix, and most of the folks in the place go into “cover-your-butt” mode? You betcha. What made that possible? Human glue, and the difference between theory and practice. Did the presence of “capable” HR help? They might have actually made things worse, not because they had any failing, but because everyone started being about the paper-trail for advancement, the theory, instead of creating the actual value, the practice. This is where a metric becomes a target, and stops being a metric. It is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, where when you measure a system you perturb it in some significant ways, and transform it.

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are different.

There are a few ways to fix it. About 10% of one is “mbwa”, or management by walking around. I believe in 1 week per quarter every manager or director at every level should work 1 entire shift as a production person. If they can’t make the “widget” end to end, or at least 90% of it, then they have no place claiming they understand the product, or the system that creates the product. You should call it “management by getting hands dirty”. If the restaurant manager is too good to wash dishes, buss tables, take orders, or god-forbid cook, then they might be nominal, but they aren’t world-class. Doing those things doesn’t make them world class, but it does make them able to become world class.

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Dave Ryan

Yes HR is the glue that holds the org together when it works right, but i can also be the glue that keeps thing bound up and from unraveling when it needs to sometimes. I enjoyed your fun lively post!


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