Pragmatic Pete to pontificate a panoply of personnel policy

June 15, 2012 | Phil Fersht

HfS Research Fellow, Pete Ackerson takes a break from gardening to pose for HfS

There's been one dependable, consistent voice in the world of HR operations, quietly plying his trade leading the HR shared service center for a 325,000 employee retailer (Sears), as one of the first employees of the first end-to-end HR outsourcer (Exult), and, more recently, as one of the most respected and in-demand HR specialists for one of the big consulting shops (Deloitte).  And he's managed to do it always with an uncanny ability to speak his mind and never get in any trouble...  so surely a poor fit with HfS then.

And when we got the news that "Pragmatic" Pete Ackerson was "retiring" we just couldn't turn down the chance to have him spend a few hours each week sharing his lifetime of HR experiences with us - in-between tending to his rhododendrons and his vegetable patch (or whatever it is that retired people do).  So... without further ado, here's Pete Ackerson introducing himself as the newest HfS Research Fellow...

Reminders about the dark ages

Phil Fersht has asked me to join his band of analysts, pranksters, and pundits…with an emphasis on the Human Resources field. I thought I’d start off with a reminder of how far we have come and how far we have not moved ahead. As a resident gray hair…and happy to have it…I’ve been through most of the changes over the last X number of years.

Recordkeeping was a manila folder, payroll was calculated in pencil on ledgers and paid in cash, weekly (!), regulations were related to FLSA, policies were more local than national, being good at HR-stuff was how to get promoted, HR executives never made it out of HR. Some of that has changed, but some still remains as it was. If anything significant has changed (other than technologies and regulations), it has been the career path of HR executives. While few HR execs make it to the CEO-level, the competencies and contributions have changed…and for the better.

My experience has included senior HR generalist and specialist roles in a very large corporation, officer- level positions in a start-up HR outsourcing firm, and until recently, a consulting role in a Big-4 professional services firm. All have contributed to my knowledge and competencies…and to the fun I have had in these roles (well, not all the time).

I made a career choice early in my career…I opted to stay in HR roles in an organization that didn’t value HR except as an expeditor of stuff. My last role in the large corporation was being responsible for HR shared services, including payroll for 325,000 employees. I did many things right, but not everything. On the things that didn’t go well…and we all have our stories…I finally got to the point where I could not only learn from them, but also feel free to ensure that others do not go down that path. Teaching turned out to be what I loved to do best, and adding experiences (war stories) to knowledge makes the story more believable to those in your organization and to clients.

While most “HR-types” tend to drive to senior generalist roles (“I am a business partner”), what was of more interest to me was the value HR process and technology can bring to an organization. This interest caused me to focus on the administrative part of HR (back-office)…not to make HR better, but to enhance the value of people to the organization.

What I’m going to focus on with these epistles over the next months is the value, tools, and techniques of HR Shared Services and Business Process Outsourcing. In that I’m an operator at heart, we will not focus on the grand strategy of any of these, but instead look at pragmatic solutions. While I love elegant solutions, I place more value on solutions that work.

One thing we all need to learn about driving value through HR is there is no right answer; there is no single solution to anything. An example of this is tied to the question of internal vs. external delivery of services…which is better…the answer is “yes”. I will spend some time on this topic in the next installment (if Phil lets me continue).

If any of you have any subjects you would like dissected, please let me know. In the meantime, I have some weighty topics, some axes to grind, dragons to slay, and some knowledge to impart to what I hope will be an enthusiastic and kind audience.

Peter Ackerson (click for bio) is Research Fellow, HR Shared Services and Outsourcing, HfS Research.  You can also email him here.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Captives and Shared Services StrategiesGlobal Business Services

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