The Downside of a Seat at the Table: You’re Fired, HR

When HR people say they want a seat at the table, they should understand that comes with some potentially uncomfortable side issues. Example: Marissa Mayer, the new CEO at Yahoo, just fired the SVP of HR at Yahoo. Why? Because that’s what you do when you’re the new CEO and everyone says the culture is messed up.

Let’s go through the culture change stuff going on at Yahoo:

–Free meals for people at HQ and NYC. Check.
–Hire a bunch of people from your previous gig at Google. Check.
–Overhaul the HR shop that’s been on watch through countless reorgs and layoffs that didn’t work. Started it last week. Check.

More from All Things Digital, the publication on the West Coast:

“As I reported earlier today, new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is shaking up the human resources unit at the company. Consider it shook and definitely not stirred: Leaving the company, by mutual agreement, is its longtime head David Windley, several sources said. Also out is his No. 2 exec, several sources said, talent acquisition head Grant Bassett.

“Windley’s tenure has included a huge brain drain at the Silicon Valley Internet giant and a series of layoffs at Yahoo, as well as an ongoing musical-chair series of top leaders. Windley’s leaving comes as exactly no surprise, since Mayer has arrived and taken control of its culture and recruiting, which have basically boiled down to making a Yahoo version of the search giant. Before taking the top job at Yahoo, Mayer worked at Google for her entire career.”

Another leading indicator of a change – Mayer is now reviewing all new hires personally before offers are made. The company has 12,000 employees. Does that sound like a vote of confidence in the HR function to you? Its’ a morality play as old as time itself. It’s doesn’t matter how good Windley is, he had to go.

The Yahoo situation is

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a big, hard-to-untangle mess and while Windley is probably as sharp as Mayer on the people front, the truth remains as advertised – he was there for the downward slide before Mayer showed up. The winners write the history books. The new boss gets to bring in his her own team.

The Downside of a Seat

Want a seat at the table? This is the downside of what it means – you get your HR head handed to you when it doesn’t work out. No glossing over that your previous CEO wasn’t nice to work for, etc. You couldn’t overcome the bad karma. Great HR people transcend the bad karma and protect the culture. Is that even right? I’m not sure – but I know that what just happened at Yahoo, and it what it means in that industry.

HR and talent is as important as any other

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function, maybe more so. And that means even good people get fired when things don’t go well. You want the proverbial seat at the table, right HR pros? Get ready to get fired when the company’s on a downward slide, regardless if you had any control over that.

What about you, HR managers with client group responsibilities in the field? Ready for that? In some ways, news of an HR firing in a Valley journal like All Things Digital is a complement to the profession. Now if we could just see more of this in the local business journals in your city, we’d know that the HR function has truly arrived. But it comes at a cost.

About the Author:

Kris Dunn is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Kinetix, the RPO firm for growth companies. Prior to joining Kinetix he was a VP of People for DAXKO and a VP of HR for SourceMedical. Reprinted from Workforce Management

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