Insights from Today’s Best HR/OD Leaders: 4 Tips to Increase Your Impact

By Whitney Harper

Tuesday, June 6th 2017

It is difficult to be a prophet in your own land. This is the sentiment most likely to be tattooed on internal HR and OD professionals. Many HR/OD professionals are frustrated at being excluded from substantive discussions or passed over to lead interventions intended to improve the organization’s competitiveness. So how do you overcome this perception and generate significant impact? Five industry experts share their insights.

  1. Be a business person, not a cheerleader

“Good talent managers think like businesspeople and innovators first, and like HR people last…During 30 years in business I’ve never seen an HR initiative that improved morale…Instead of cheerleading, people in my profession should think of themselves as businesspeople. What’s good for the company? How do we communicate that to employees? How can we help every worker understand what we mean by high performance?”

Patty McCord

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“I'm not paid to be popular, I'm paid to bring in change for the better of the organisation… HR people can't whine about sitting at the top table if they can't bring a point of view. They need something to aspire to. They need to be businesspeople in HR - not HR people in business."

Michael O’Hare

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If you want to be a cheerleader, your impact will be limited. If you care about popularity, your impact will be limited. If you focus on morale, your impact will be limited. If you show up as a business leader that is involved in setting and executing strategy, your impact is limitless.

  1. Implement with the Top First

“We take a top-first approach rather than a top-down approach because that's so crucial to our culture. We always have followed the practice of leaders teaching leaders…Talent development leaders have to be relevant in the C-suite. They have to play the role of partners with our business leaders. And second, we have to implement our new performance achievement approach with them so they can model and lead it.”

Rahul Varma, Accenture

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Accenture shocked the business world by eliminating the traditional performance review process. Rahul Varma then lead the internal change effort to completely reinvent their performance approach. As Rahul mentioned, they went “top-first” as a signal to the organization that the changes being made were going to be far reaching and profound. By starting with the top, HR leaders ensure that the senior leaders are engaged, bought in, and aware of the impact this will have on the organization.

  1. Execute the tactics flawlessly

HR is largely still viewed as an administrative function. The work of paying people, providing benefits, solving people problems, and staffing is important — and needs to be executed flawlessly. Only once those tactical bases are covered does HR have the opportunity to do more.”

Renee Raming

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In today’s HR world, outsourcing and artificial intelligence is eliminating a lot of the administrative work of the HR department. That being said, it is still a necessary requirement for the business to run. Demonstrate your effectiveness by helping with the maintenance side of the business so you don’t risk an implosion due to HR structures not being in place. (Google Thinx CEO steps down). When you have the administrative side of HR running smoothly, you have the freedom to focus on other areas of impact.


  1. Stand Firm

“This is easy to write, but I can tell you from experience that it’s very hard to do. Managers hate the idea that they can’t hire their own people. Interviewers can’t stand being told that they have to follow a certain format for the interview or for their feedback. People will disagree with data if it runs counter to their intuition and argue that the quality bar doesn’t need to be so high for every job. Do not give in to the pressure. Fight for quality.”

Laszlo Bock

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I saved this one for last, because if you follow the first three points, you have earned the right to be stubborn. Prophets are often driven out of their homelands by the majority, which means if you have a fringe point of view, no matter how salient, you are going to have to fight.

To be the prophet that the dictionary describes as the one “who advocates or speaks in a visionary way about a new belief, cause, or theory,” you will need all four tips. And we believe by following these four tips you will be better prepared to both speak to and bring about the future that is best for your organization.  

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