Why HR Doesn’t Count – The Touchy Feely Side of Human Resources

A hallmark feature of high performing businesses is the commercial value that the Human Resources department contributes to the organisation. In such organisations, HR has a seat at the boardroom table and even junior HR personnel are highly attuned to the commercial drivers of the business.

For example they can quote staff attrition rates and the return on investment (ROI) ratios for the most recent leadership development program. In short, they know how their role contributes to saving or making money for their organisation. In most organisations however, HR is perceived as a cost centre and serves little more than an administration function and these HR personnel struggle to communicate how they make a difference to an organisation. Which type are you?

So do organisations create high performing HR or does a certain type of HR professional help create high a performing organisation?

Through a series of lectures recently presented by OPRA at an Australian University, 100 HR Graduates were profiled using the Jung Type Indicator (JTI) published by Psytech, which is an equivalent of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The results highlighted that a significant proportion of HR Graduates profiled as being ESFJs. That is, they tend to be more outgoing and get their energy from engaging with others (Extraversion) which is useful for connecting with staff. They profiled as being quite detailed oriented (Sensors) which is ideal for developing polices and procedures and for attending to contractual or payroll issues. Furthermore, the results indicated that they are likely to respond at an intuitive level when dealing with situations, which means they are likely to be quite empathic when engaging with people (Feeler). Finally, the profiling revealed that they tend to be organised and more methodical in their approach (Judger), which is likely to translate to quality work and projects being completed.

However, it is the inherent nature of certain personality characteristics of a HR professional which might limit their capacity to make it to the boardroom. For example, profiling as a Sensor means they are naturally less likely to consider the broader or more strategic issues of an organisation (Sensors versus iNtuitors). Furthermore, the results suggest that HR professionals may be more interested in maintaining harmony, rather than critically evaluating information relating to the commercial issues of the business (Thinkers versus Feelers).

This idea was recently put to the test when OPRA was engaged to assess candidates for the position of HR Director with an ASX100 listed company (NB the 15FQ+ which is a very robust personality tool was used instead of the JTI). Even when reviewing resumes there were two clear types of candidates. There were those who quoted facts and figures, relating to strategic business optimisation projects and cost reduction initiatives. There were other candidates who did not communicate their value proposition in terms of commercial achievements, yet instead listed detailed roles and responsibilities.

Through this recruitment process OPRA also profiled the existing executive team, including the CEO and the CFO. The profile of the executive team highlighted a clear tendency to be more strategic and commercial in their approach (iNtuitive and Thinking). In the end, the personality profile of the preferred or ‘short listed’ candidates, as determined by the Panel of Board Members, was balanced overall, suggesting the capacity to be quite agile, while there was a clear propensity to critically analyse information and display sound commercial acumen. The Executive Panel was counting on the preferred candidate making a commercial and measurable difference to the organisation!

The implication for HR professionals is that a greater focus needs to be placed on assessing, translating and communicating their commercial value. OPRA’s Program Evaluation Framework should be at the forefront of HR’s ‘thinking’ before and after delivering programs, whether they be focused on recruitment initiative, leadership or outplacement. The key points of the framework include:

  1. The Purpose or Logic of the Program

This is the most critical stage of any HR initiative as it requires clarity around the purpose, the goals of the program, the desired outputs of the program, and the activities which will help to achieve this. For example, the overarching purpose for a leadership program might be to increase profitability.

  1. Analysis of Information

Given the intended program outcomes, what information will help inform the success of the program? For example, change in performance, reduction in absenteeism, percentage change in leadership capabilities etc.

  1. Stakeholders

This stage of a program evaluation requires the identification and engagement of stakeholders to provide input regarding the program. Key stakeholders are likely to include Program Sponsors, Participants, Managers, Peers, Subordinates, Suppliers etc. This stage will also help inform who should receive feedback about the program.

  1. Data Collection

What methodologies will be used to assess the program outcomes? The evaluation of a leadership program for example may include 360 degree survey results, performance data, interview feedback from stakeholders, survey results etc.

  1. Reporting / Communication

The reporting of the program evaluation is generally the final step, but one which is often given limited attention. The typical output for most program evaluations include a formal report and presentation of the program results which is intended for the Program Sponsor. Additionally, a summary report may be developed for a more generalised audience, such as a one page case study. A communication plan should also be considered so as to disseminate the relevant information in the most appropriate and effective way.

In closing, it is hoped that this article helps to challenge the ‘thinking’ of HR Professionals regarding how they communicate their value to organisational performance. It’s time to start counting the value, not the cost of HR.


2 thoughts on “Why HR Doesn’t Count – The Touchy Feely Side of Human Resources

  1. Sena

    I just saw that you guys offer JTI as one of your offered products and it seems like you used it during your Australiona University lectures. What research is this based on? I thought scientist-practitioners had long dispensed with the MBTI and its derivatives? Is there some new data I am not aware of?

    1. OPRA Psychology Group

      Thanks, Sena and apologises for the delay in responding. You are quite right. I use the JTI in my presentations to students in Australia about I/O as part of volunteer work related to career promotion in I/O psychology. We use it purely to discuss assessments commonly used in training with groups to give team a fun way to get familiar with personality. We are naturally very carefully to stress to the students assessment used for the purposes of development as opposed to selection noting the JTI’s limitation and unsuitability regarding the latter. I have attached a link to the technical manual containing research for your interest http://www.opragroup.com/images/opra/pdf/downloads/TechnicalManuals/jti.pdf. We have also done some work correlating intelligence with the various components of the JTI (note we promote them as components, placing less emphasis on the type thinking). http://www.psytech.com/Content/Research/Intelligence-2009-08-11.pdf.

      Thanks for participating in the blog. Much appreciated.


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