We are all learning as we grow.
Jay Whitehead did it again at this years HRO World Conference. Always ready to push the edge, he boldly reminded all within earshot of the late Pope John Paul IIs message do not be afraid and fondly attached it to a major need for those of us in the HRO spacelearning. Learning is especially important at a time when we are constantly seeking new ways to be effective, while constantly delving further into outsourcing.
Ironically, Jays bold reminder was just before Susan Olivers presentation. She is Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Wal-Mart. Intrigued by her prepared keynote presentation that not even once included the O word, I first wondered about her abilities and those of the leadership at Wal-Mart. From Olivers speech, it is clear that she represents a model that Wal-Mart wants for HR that recalls the traditional line/staff support approach. While this seems the antithesis of the direction that most companies are moving, it is their company and they do employ 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce, so they must be doing something right. However, the success must be coming from other areas, as I am hard pressed to see where it is coming from their proposed HR model.
Taking a completely opposite approach, another attendee at HRO World and head of HR for another big retailer was Randy Ross, SVP Human Resources from Best Buy. Entering the Best Buy suite was an otherworldly event. People were buzzing and Randy greeted everyone who caught his eye. It seemed he was going to explode with ideas and excitement if the session did not immediately commence. And what a session it was!
Here is the future of HR. Ross is a bright strategic thinker with a strong action orientation. He quickly took charge of the session while sharing the podium with COO Diane Shelgren from Accenture HR Services. She had been the senior person responsible for the completion of the outsourcing agreement. It was clear that Best Buy and Accenture are still learning after a full year of implementation already behind them. Both Randy and Diane were articulate and extremely informative. They challenged the audience to ask demanding questions and they were quick with brief and insightful responses. This is the model that offers a glimpse of the future of HR outsourcing one that includes the challenges that need to be addressed and the rewards to follow.
If these two events werent memorable enough, on Wednesday, along came Andy Stern, head of the largest U.S. union, SEIU, with a rousing keynote that was thought provoking for a variety of reasons. In case you are wondering, he did mention the O wordin fact, he mentioned it many, many times. He is the one who has challenged the second generation leadership of the AFL-CIO to think as they have never thought before, and he is the one who continues to encourage them to expand and threatened them with the possibility of a walkout by the SEIU. To think he agreed to attend the conference and to do so after appearing on the cover of HRO Today magazine led to heightened expectations from those who rose early to hear his address in person. His suggestion that employers consider outsourcing to unions is certainly a radical way of thinking and even worth considering, until one realizes that a major systemic problem facing the unions continues to be redundancies within their own ranks. The problem starts with the traditional and current union model that has always considered the basic organization to be the union local with its benefits and training functions. Union locals are basically small businesses that refuse to consolidate themselves in the interest of eliminating redundancies and gaining expertise that, in fact, HR outsourcers provide. As bright as Andy Stern is, he has yet to recognize what HRO could provide to his organization.
How to sum up this barrage of messages gleaned from HRO World 2005? Do not be afraid to learnespecially when the experts themselves are still seeking the appropriate, relevant, and effective answers.