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Use Self Development to Move Ahead in HR

Our next post in our guest blogger series comes from Dwane Lay.  Dwane presents a variety of topics to professional audiences and is the author at He is recognized as the leading authority on the application of Lean tools and techniques in Human Resources, as well as having a wealth of experience in applying business technology to improve HR processes. After a career that included IT, Operations and Quality, he now works on process improvement in HR. This includes strategic planning, Lean projects, process redesign, leveraging technology or simply helping teams admit the things they already know. Dwane holds an MBA from Lindenwood University, as well as having earned a Six Sigma Black Belt and is a certified Senior Professional of Human Resources with HCRI. Don’t miss his session at #HRFL11!

Dwane LayYou’ll rarely meet an HR professional who doesn’t espouse the benefits of employee development.  Highly skilled and developed employees are critical to business success, and it has become a cornerstone of HR practices everywhere.

It raises the question, though, of why so many HR professionals seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to their own development.  I know several HR leaders who don’t spend much, if any, time working with their teams on development.  Or themselves, for that matter.  So why is that?  And what does it mean for the future of HR?

First, the why.  There are a few reasons that usually come up:

  • We’re busy.
  • People are responsible for their own development, and that includes HR.
  • We’re already perfect.  We don’t need to stinking development.  (OK, I made that one up.)

My suspicion, though, is that there is something else going on here.

Development discussions can be tough.  They aren’t always fun, and they sometimes lead down some uncomfortable paths.  As HR professionals, we often have to step in to get managers and employees on the same page, and help make sure they are having meaningful dialogue.  It’s one of the things our partners rarely look forward to, but deep down they are grateful for our help.  We hope.

But who fills this role for HR?  Being in the business of development may help us appreciate it intellectually, but that doesn’t mean it makes it less difficult to accept.  You’re still asking an employee to sit and talk about their shortcomings in their current role or why they aren’t quite right for their next role.  It’s a tough thing to hear, even for the most centered of cats.  And without having someone there to prompt you to have this dialogue, as HR often does for others, that difficult process can be continently forgotten.  Or just ignored.

No one expects a CPA to be reluctant to balance their checkbook.  No one would believe there are automotive mechanics that can’t change their own oil.  But HR professionals who ignore the development of themselves or their teams are more common that we’d like to admit.

So what does it mean for HR?  It depends on your perspective.  If you are a business leader, you run the risk of having an HR partner who is behind on their skills or not addressing their own weaknesses.  It puts you and your business at risk.  And you may never see it coming.

On the other hand, it offers a tremendous advantage to those HR professionals who do care about their development, and take the time to learn.  Read a book.  Network with your peers.  Attend a conference.  Take the time to learn.  Heck, spend a little of your own money to invest in your career and your knowledge.  It’s the contrarian view, I suppose, which is exactly what it takes to set yourself apart.

The relatively small investment you make can move you to the front of the class, and give you a big advantage in the long run.


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