Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

When expertise becomes an enemy of quality service 17 – personnel policies as dynamic and at least ideally, coherently and consistently organized operational systems 5

Posted in career development, HR and personnel, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 22, 2017

This is my seventeenth installment to a series on expertise, and on what an employee or manager needs to bring along with it, if it is to offer real value and either to themselves or to the business they work for (see my supplemental postings section at the end of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 69 and following, for Parts 1-16.)

I have been systematically discussing Human Resources and personnel policies over the course of the last four installments of this series, for a set of issues that are relevant to this series and its overall topic. And I continue that here in this posting, with a goal of addressing a point that I raised without further discussion at the end of Part 16:

• Personnel policy: all personnel policy has to be framed and if need be reframed in terms of realistic information management policy and its operational follow through.

I have already raised the issues of what can and what should be held confidential as personnel-related business intelligence, and particularly in Part 16. And to rephrase a core consideration of that decision as already touched upon in this series, I note that while for most businesses it is crucially important to safeguard compensation and other personnel data related to specific individuals, it is neither necessary nor even possible to safeguard more demographic data of this type. And it is impossible to prevent those who would share their own personal compensation details publically, from doing so – and certainly in an age of online social media where any such disclosures automatically become openly public.

• It is vitally important to at least think through the changing boundaries between “must maintain confidential”, and “would like to” or “should at least ideally” for that.
• And this is a type of review that has to be repeated on an ongoing basis, and as a standardized routine process, and even out of schedule too if compelling emerging events call for that.
• What would constitute compelling events there? One obvious case in point reason would be the passage of new regulatory law related to protection of personal information. But just as importantly, this also has to include case law decisions and how the official interpretation of laws already in place can be changed as that law is enforced in the courts – with the real potential of this moving the lines between what has to be safeguarded and how, and for what can be disclosed. (Note: new laws are essentially always drafted for this type of issue with an awareness of need to comply on the part of information-holding businesses, and an awareness that effective compliance would call for their making changes that take at least a measure of time to complete. But case law reinterpretations do not automatically come with anything like that type of changeover timing accommodation – unless the relevant court rulings just reached are contested in a higher court and lower court rulings are stayed pending that, which cannot automatically, generically be counted upon.)
• And to cite another driving reason for this type of due diligence exercise, when the information management reviews that I write of here are grounded in maintaining best practices in a business for meeting its risk management requirements, one of the more compelling reasons for conducting a thorough systems review there would be the occurrence of an information security breach. There, the issue is one of identifying where intended access goals were missed because the processes and systems set up to meet them failed. (Note: this obviously applies when this breach takes place in the business under consideration here. But it is also important for businesses to keep track of events of this type as they occur elsewhere, insofar as information about beaches in other businesses is made available. That type of occurrence should raise a simple, basic question, and every time. If another business has just lost control over some portion of its sensitive or confidential information stores through a security breach to its systems, does my business have the same information systems vulnerabilities that hackers exploited there too, that they or others could exploit here too?)

And with that stated, I turn this line of discussion back to the main topic of this series, and by raising a basic question that is grounded in the title of this series as a whole. That title reads “when expertise becomes an enemy of quality service ….” The question raised and certainly from a Human Resources perspective is: Human Resources requires skilled professionalism as much as any other functional area of a business does, so what precisely is relevant expertise in this context? And beyond that, what of it has to be held in the HR department itself, so their personnel can at the very least work more effectively with professionals from departments such as Information Technology?

Stepping back from that detail to consider the topic of this posting as a whole:

• It is not just the policies and practices in place that have to be dynamically maintained in as up to date and relevant a manner as possible, as a core business risk management issue. It is the ongoing training and experience requirements of the people who set and who carry out those processes that have to be dynamically maintained too – and as proactively as possible so change can be planned for and carried out before crises happen.
• And this applies to the Human Resources department as much as it does to every other functional area in a business.

Let me take that out of the abstract, with an uncomfortably real example. Most Human Resources Departments, and certainly in large organizations, are led at a senior management and executive level by professionals who have accumulated long-term experience and expertise in that type of department or service – and who have focused more on management than on hands-on execution for a number of years now as they have risen through the ranks and up their tables of organization. That is a good thing, and certainly when it means understanding and managing stable processes that seek to meet stable and ongoing business needs. But for a great many large corporations, their HR leadership and their overall policies governing employee behavior and relevant personnel policy, were caught off-guard by the seemingly sudden emergence of sites that openly gather in and publish shared information about salary and compensation ranges, work conditions and other once secret types of personnel-related business intelligence.

Some businesses, when confronted by this new openness, actively threatened action against any employees who were found to have divulged even just demographic level data about them, when those web sites and social media-based information sharing channels first came out. The Roman emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, derisively nicknamed Caligula (meaning little boot), once famously ordered his Praetorian Guards to attack the surf to make Poseidon back off on an approaching high tide. Attempts to stop social media based release of compensation and workplace information online, proved to be just as difficult to enforce and just as prone to failure as Caligula’s folly, even as businesses did try siccing their counterparts of the Praetorian Guards on their “wayward” employees over this.

Expertise has to be kept current if it is to retain value. And this applies to any changing, evolving field of endeavor and its underlying knowledge base. I have primarily focused in this series on how this and related issues apply to employees and managers who work outside of Human Resources, but this applies there too

I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider the issues that I have been raising here in this series, from an overall business strategy and business development perspective, as businesses face both evolutionary and more predictable, and disruptive and unpredictable change. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 (with this included as a supplemental posting there) and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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