Hello HR: An introductory letter to Bersin & Associates’ members


My name is Brenda Kowske, and I fully respect the work you do: managing a workforce is difficult. As I see it, HR’s job is to manage the entirety of the employee lifecycle, starting with the search for a skilled person who is easily motivated to fulfill his or her, and therefore the organization’s goals. After slotting the candidate into their person’s ideal job, HR needs to make sure they are trained and are updated with any new skills or knowledge they need. They need to empower managers to manage employees’ performance through some combination of systems, processes and managerial skill sets. HR needs to know what talent is busy, available, or interested in being available and use this information to plan for business goals.  Last but not least, they need to offer incentives and programs that keep the majority of employees happy, healthy, and employed. And the profession does all this while keeping the peace; we are the diplomats of industry.


No small task. I think back to Fast Company’s article Why We Hate HR and I still shake my head. In it, author Keith Hammonds casually mentioned the HR people were not the brightest bulbs on the string. No, Mr. Hammonds, you are wrong; yes, HR occasionally fails because our professionals lack know-how, but largely not due to an innate stupidity. Rather, HR has the most difficult job in industry, hands down.  The job is complex, dynamic, and sometimes resembles herding cats. Take 10,000 cats, Mr. Hammonds, and herd them in each of 5 countries, get them to all to pick a little bell that suits them and then ring it, and then come talk to us. (Yes, employees are more intelligent and motivated than cats – it’s just an analogy.)


I am clearly an HR sympathizer, although not an HR practitioner per se. I’ve worked as a consultant doing assessment centers, including role plays and interpreting personality tests, and as a trainer and coach. I co-developed a performance management model. Then, namely because I spent a lot of time counteracting the ill effects of the latest fad-of-the-month, I pursued my Ph.D. in human resource development and shifted gears. I started researching issues that matter to HR. I started with leadership and management, some projects in evaluation and analytics, did some work in business ethics, and then moved to employee engagement and performance. And now, I am working for you.


In the months and years to come, I hope to shed light on some of the mysteries shrouding HR operations: What makes a great HR organization? What does a stellar HR leader, business partner or consultant “do” and how do they do it? What kind of tools should HR invest in, and which are a waste of money? How can HR use their own data to make better decisions for the workforce and the business at-large?


In my quest at Bersin & Associates to supply HR with better information, I’m starting with the world of employee engagement. I’m also doing some work on the question of Millennials and their role in the workforce: How different are they, really? And in 2012, we’re going to look at the careers of HR professionals and the skill sets they need to succeed. I’d like to report on the state of HR Analytics. Alongside these topics, I’m open for suggestions. Please comment!


It’s nice to meet you, and I’m looking forward to helping you out in the future.


Best Regards,


Jeff Mike

Jeff Mike leads Bersin by Deloitte’s HR Operations and Service Delivery research He integrates rigorous research approaches with his extensive experience leading HR functions to engage diverse practitioners and to generate actionable knowledge Jeff also teaches HR to business people and business to HR people, formally at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and informally in organizations through his boundary spanning, consultative approach to problem solving and capacity building.

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