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HR Skillz

July 12, 2011
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While relaxing over the weekend with a cup of coffee and a newspaper (virtual newspaper that is; thanks iPad), I read the following article courtesy of USA Today/ABCNews – “Jobs in Post-Recession Demand Multiple Skills.”

Now this discussion of the skills-gap is nothing new and has gained steam as one of the explanations for why we continue to have high unemployment yet employers are bemoaning the fact that they can’t fill positions.  The article highlights several companies who have, over time, combined jobs or expanded responsibilities for certain  positions and thus, now that they have open positions, are looking for candidates with totally different skill sets than in the past.

Now it’s probable that when they made the changes to the job several years ago they spent time training incumbent employees to bring them up to speed on the newly required skills.  But today that same employer may have no desire to train new employees.  They would rather scour the market looking for that precise background they now want for their enhanced job.  In fact, as stated in the article, one restaurant chain, with added requirements for its cooks, has found that their search time for new hires has increased by 20%.

And thus, people continue to be out of work and employers continue to have open positions.  At least, that’s one of the explanations.

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So the article was interesting as far as exploring the topic (pros and cons) of multi-dimensionally skilled employees.  But there was one other tidbit that intrigued me.  Take a gander:

“Many businesses across post-recession America are asking employees to assume multiple roles, transforming the nature of work. Call-center representatives who used to just answer questions or complaints are now trained to sell products or investigate problems. Many human resources managers are doing more than providing benefits information and running company picnics — they’re often revamping entire departments, saving firms the cost of hiring consultants. And engineers often must have the financial acumen to figure the profit margins of their jobs and pick materials accordingly, says David Smith, a managing director for Accenture.”

Gee.  Thanks.

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I would assume that over the years David Smith has worked with a number of HR leaders at various organizations because he’s pretty well known for his book “Workforce of One” as well as his role on the Advisory Board of the Human Capital Institute (HCI). 

So it made me wonder.  Is David Smith representative of a larger group of business leaders who don’t normally view “HR Managers” as having the responsibility for Workforce Planning or Talent Leadership within their organizations?  Did it therefore (as he was gathering his thoughts for this quote), strike him as NEW and UNUSUAL that an HR Manager would be tasked with doing more than answering benefit questions, organizing the company-wide refrigerator clean-out or planning the annual picnic?  Notice he led off this quote with a reference to roles that are“transforming the nature of work.”  Is it possible that in some corners of the business-universe it’s incredibly ground-breaking when an HR Manager can manage to assume responsibilities beyond processing new hire paperwork and scheduling drug screens?

Huh.  I guess it is.

Certainly in my world, HR leaders have always been revamping departments and “saving firms the cost of hiring consultants.”  But apparently not in everyone’s world.

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