HR: A Business Help, Not An Obstacle Book Review

The Trouble with HR: An Insider’s Guide to Finding and Keeping the Best People

By Johnny C. Taylor and Gary M. Stern, AMACON Books, New York, Aug. 2009, 256 pages, $27.95.

The title of this new book will provoke nearly everyone to recall a bad business experience. HR typically is the organization that everyone loves to pick on -“ HR demands too much paperwork; HR makes us do meaningless performance appraisals; HR never helps us get our job done.

The primary focus of the authors is on that last complaint. A critical part of any manager’s job is finding and keeping the best people. The failings of HR in this arena are real, and the authors offer help for business leaders in avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Johnny C. Taylor and Gary M. Stern deliver sound suggestions on improving the selection and retention process in any environment. Taylor brings solid experience in both legal and HR functions to bear on the issues. Stern is an experienced author and observer of HR matters.

The core issues are surfaced in the first chapter. The authors lay out 10 major mistakes made in hiring decisions. For each mistake, a solution is identified and explored.

-¢ Some are procedural -“ basing hiring decisions only on resumes and referrals rather than a rigorous analysis of what each candidate may offer.

-¢ Others are strategic concerns -“ hiring a replacement instead of looking for a long-term opportunity to improve and grow the business.

The critical notion raised by the authors is that to grow a business, the HR hiring process must shift from filling open slots to a process aimed at long-term talent acquisition to strengthen the organization.

The authors advocate a five-step approach to acquiring talent:
-¢ Examine the business cycle and labor market trends.
-¢ Understand and articulate the corporate culture.
-¢ Design a strategic plan for hiring the needed talent.
-¢ Build an employment brand for your company in the marketplace.
-¢ Develop a sales mentality and rewards program for your talent acquisition professionals.

Once really good people are brought into the company, the authors make it clear that HR must focus its attention on creating a sound retention plan. They offer some solid ideas on training, development, and related efforts deliberately designed to get people to “fall in love” with the organization.

Fortunately, in chapter six the authors take a wider look at the things an HR manager must do to get past “The Trouble with HR”. A successful company must have an HR function that is not focused on HR. Rather, HR professionals must be as knowledgeable and engaged in the business as any of the operating managers. Flawless execution of administrative functions is a given. An effective HR group will be building an environment where the energy of everyone is directed at moving the organization forward.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.