Monday, March 31, 2008

Please, please give me some clout.

If you want to see HR-types assume a fetal position, bring up the subject of clout.

They'll moan about the unfairness of life and how cloddish operations managers beat them in power struggles and how they aren't given sufficient deference in executive sessions.

Boo hoo.

If you have been begging for clout, I've got a message for you: you aren't going to get any.

Clout comes with power and power is something you either take or create. Taking can be risky so instead of embarking on the workplace equivalent of the Hundred Years War, it makes sense to cook up some clout on your own. Here are the ingredients:

  1. Be thoroughly professional. If you act like a schlub, you'll be treated like one. Dress professionally and speak persuasively and confidently.

  2. Do your homework. Other departments can make mistakes and no one thinks of replacing them. The Human Resources folks blunder and people question everything else that comes of that corner. Outsourcing may dance across their minds. You cannot have clout if people are wondering why they have you around.

  3. Bearhug the departments. Have coffee with department heads. Try to find out how you can make their jobs easier. Don't dismiss them as a bunch of neanderthals. Listen carefully to their concerns.

  4. Stop treating departments as if they are enemies. Do you have to play cop on occasion? Sure, but far too many HR departments remain in that role and then wonder why they're unloved.

  5. Pick your battles. Get the lawyers to deliver the bad news about compliance requirements. If you have to cross a department head, make sure that you are on high ground.

  6. Don't engage in memo wars. They already think of HR as a nanny. Don't send them memos to confirm the impression.

  7. Quantify the problems that you've prevented. Your greatest achievements often revolve around negatives you've headed off. Calculate how much money would have been spent if you'd not taken effective action. Report that on a regular basis so upper management sees a tangible reason for your presence.

  8. Stop being adversarial with the employees. Be alert to any indication that your staff is regarding employees as nuisances. Squelch that immediately. Having contempt for your customers is not a wise move.

  9. Focus on how you can help employees achieve their personal best. You desire to find the best and develop the best. You never want the employees to believe that you don't have their welfare at heart.

  10. Quit whining. As Hannibal said, "We will either find a way or make a way." Groaning will help do neither. Clout goes to the strong, not to the hand-wringers. Your goal is to make your department indispensable. Get to it.


Eclecticity said...


Are you John Sullivan's mentor?

Michael Wade said...

I'm more in the Gilbert and Sullivan range.

Happy Employee said...

I'm thinking a lot about "strategic HR" and "a seat at the table" recently.

I'd say your recommendations are the necessary first step before anything else is possible.

Michael Wade said...

The Happy Employee,

Thanks! I believe these items are essential.

By the way, I like your blog.


Happy Employee said...

Michael, thank you very much for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Should be given to every aspiring HR Manager on the first day of HR 101!

I might rephrase it though as this is how you have fun being an HRM!

Cheers. Have a good weekend.

Michael Wade said...


That's true. Rewriting policies is one of the major opportunities for creativity.

Scott D. McArthur said...

Good post on so many levels - I am sick to the back teeth of HR moaning and others having a go at HR as a consequence. Words and phrases like "strategic HR" "war on talent" "seat at the table" etc should be firmly placed in room 101!

Michael Wade said...


It's the old rule: act like a wimp and get treated like a wimp. Too many HR departments behave as if their worth is manifestly apparent and then get upset when others don't play along.

Dan McCarthy said...

Michael –

Great list! I have a few HR partners I may hand this too next time they start whining.

I like your blog too – just found it on the carnival. I added it to my blogroll and subscribed.

Michael Wade said...


Thanks for dropping by and spreading the word!

Anonymous said...