An HR Journey: Touching People's Lives

By Matt Davis Aug 2, 2017
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In his role as retired president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, in his work at corporations such as Ford, Sperry and Unisys, and through his extensive career as a consultant, Michael R. Losey has accumulated a wealth of stories about how HR leaders touch people's lives—for better or worse. He recently discussed his book Touching People's Lives (SHRM, 2017) with the HR Magazine Book Blog:

Your book has a refreshingly different take on advocacy. How do you define advocacy?

I define advocacy, within the overall concept of leadership competency, as a leader or individual taking a position on a controversial subject and making things happen in a positive and corrective way. Unfortunately, management tends to be characteristically hesitant to change policies and practices. Too frequently, managers do not see the future, are comfortable with what they know, and have adapted to current policies and practices. Sometimes they simply want to be seen as team players and avoid "rocking the boat." They can easily live with policies and practices that a person with a different perspective or experience might assertively challenge.

What's the most important part of management?

Anticipating the future and knowing how to adjust to future requirements, including competitive, technical, social and legislative challenges.

How does accurately anticipating the future help leaders touch people's lives?

Corporate actions, and inaction, can not only negatively affect the future of the business but also negatively impact employees' lives. For example, IBM's failure to fully adjust to changes in the computer industry cost [Mr. Akers], the CEO, his job, and many employees were negatively impacted, too. By contrast, Apple's Steve Jobs was terminated but then brought back to revitalize the company and to successfully address major changes in the industry.

What can HR professionals do when they discover something is wrong in their organization?

Make sure your position is correct and unbiased; recommend changes that are necessary to address the problem; and, if you're unsuccessful, appeal. Remember, senior management wants executives who aren't afraid to tackle problems and make things happen. If your analysis and recommendations are correct, you will eventually prevail.

How can HR professionals help create quality leadership throughout their organizations?

They can create an environment in which employees are recognized and appreciated for their initiative, innovation and competency and in which specific behaviors, such as strong moral principles and good interpersonal skills, are modeled and rewarded.

What are some of your proudest moments as SHRM CEO?

Helping people—members and employees—maximize their contribution to the organization.

How can HR professionals take a career inventory?

Don't postpone or ignore your own personal career planning. Start with a career inventory and appraisal to identify what you like and dislike about your current job. Conducting a career inventory and its related assessments are useful tools, especially for high-potential individuals. This process can help you determine how your interests, skills and values fit into specific occupations and match an employer's needs. The most important factor about self-development is to start now. Good leaders don't wait for some possible future company training program that may or may not meet their needs. Have a clear understanding of your own aspirations and the requirements necessary to achieve them.

You write that resumes are for rejecting, not hiring. Please explain.

In the current business environment, Web-based job boards and tools provide an employer with many more job candidates than it needs or can effectively evaluate. Therefore, HR staff or hiring managers usually review resumes not to see whom the company can hire but whom it can cull in order to reduce a pile of a hundred resumes to 10 or less as soon as possible. Employers need a reasonable number of qualified candidates to make an effective selection, so the process is frequently more of a rejection process than an employment process.

Matt Davis manages book publishing at SHRM.

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