Thursday, July 30, 2009

HR Director needed, no HR skills required!

WHY GM MATTERSImage by Renegade98 via Flickr

Workforce is reporting a change in top leadership at the new General Motors. According to at least one analyst, the fact that GM appointed a non-HR professional to head the function is a good move for GM.

Possibly not so hot for the HR profession? What do you think?

General Motors head of human resources and longtime executive Katy Barclay is stepping down, the automaker said Thursday, July 30. She will be replaced by Mary Barra, a top executive with an engineering background who worked closely with former GM chief executive Rick Wagoner.

“She is one of the same senior leaders who is responsible for the destruction of the company,” said Rob Kleinbaum, managing director of auto industry consulting firm Rak & Co. “She is responsible for it and should be accountable for it.”

The retirement of Barclay, 53, who has been vice president of global human resources since 1998, was seen as long overdue. According to a 2005 article published in Automotive News (a sister publication of Workforce Management), Barclay said her first automotive job was as a human resources professional at GM in 1978.

” Appointing an engineer with no HR experience as the department’s head suggests the company is looking to infuse it with a greater sense of the manufacturing principles of continual improvement and operational efficiency.

“It’s a positive sign they want to make deep changes in HR and don’t want to draw from the HR community,” Kleinbaum said.

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  1. Whoa.... there is sure to be a flood of resumes here. That Recruiter is gonna need Centrum Silver++

  2. Isn't this a government appointment now? Go figure......

  3. Mixed emotional on this one. I know of one large corporation that has done the same thing - placing non-HR professional in the top HR spot.

    Boeing did the same thing few years ago

    Is it working? With 158,000 employees world wide, honors in diversity such as these (, industry leading work in developing STEM skills and university relations all since the non-HR professional took over are some indications it's working. Do you agree?

  4. @Karla - too bad the job was already filled before the recruiters could have bombarded GM with resumes from Marketing managers, logistics dudes, and former plant managers who all know a lot about HR!

    @Martin - I think HR should be a cabinet post.

    @Russ T. - I think Boeing was in a much better position for doing this. I am also pretty sure that Boeing isn't the only company to do similar things. For some reason, I thought American Express and maybe Home Depot did similar moves in the past, but I am only sort of half-guessing on those two. GM needs new blood, new ideas. I guess one could argue they have little to lose with this move since they nearly went under anyway. On the other hand, I have to believe there a number of highly complex people issues remaining for them to hurdle in the near future, and they might have been better served by selecting an experienced HR change agent. It will be interesting to watch the outcome develop!


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