Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Why many HR Managers don't make it to the top

UCLA management professor Sanford M. Jacoby says in his book "The Embedded Corporation: Corporate Governance and Employment Relations in Japan and the United States" that in Japan HR departments have often been springboards to top executive postings - including CEO - as well as to board membership. Studies from the 1990s showed Japanese CEOs emerging from HR more frequently than from R&D, engineering, or overseas jobs. In addition, one-fifth of directors in Japanese manufacturing firms and one-third of those from other industries claimed past stints in HR.

HR managers in the United States become CEOs or directors only very rarely; so why have they reached the top of the charts in Japan? For one thing, the Japanese consider HR a good place to get to know leaders and managers throughout the organization. But more important, Jacoby explains, Japanese HR managers are often generalists who spend much of their careers in other functions, including accounting, finance, strategic planning, production, and sales. In other words, they are well-rounded, Jacoby says. Perceived as a narrow specialty in the United States, HR in Japan is a place to go to get ahead.
Is HR in the US indeed such a narrow speciality? Or are there other reasons why HRM managers don't make it to the top in the US?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

HR is not a narrow specialty. It has elements of every other G&A function and when done well can add enormous value to the business. Proof you ask?

Unfortunately many HR leaders spend much of their time reacting to the CEO's agenda or managing up and never really getting ahead of the curve. Possible root cause: many HR leaders/functions have not figured out how to use data in a meaningful way to help solve real business problems AND/OR they don't know how to translate much of the simple data they already have (e.g., attrition statistics) into potential impact and actions the business should take.

Result: CEO ends up asking "what have you done for me lately?" and HR leaders don't have answers backed by hard data. Not the kind of execs that get promoted or moved (ie, developed) into other functional positions...

So...many CEOs in the US probably PERCEIVE human resources as a narrow specialty. HR orgs with data to the contrary seem rare.

6:40 AM  

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