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The A - B - C Players of HR

"How would you rate my Head of HR?" That was the question I got from a CEO last week, and here is how I answered it. Look, every company has A, B, and C players. In leadership roles and in HR, it looks like this:


'C' Players - Don't Hire them; if you inherit one, fire them ASAP. 

'C' players are the ones who aren't doing the job and, as a result, may even harm the company financially or reputation-wise. The company lacks processes, and the person is highly incompetent. They have no good reputation or relationships within the business. They are not up to date with trends and data and get very uneasy when it comes to change. 


'B' Players - Are the followers of A - Players. Keep them at bay!

'B' players are the followers of A-players. B players are the ones who run processes and know how to do the job and maintain the status quo. They have a traditional mindset about HR and cannot see organisations without traditional practices. They are up to date with trends and what's happening within the industry and follow others (following others means that you are maintaining the status quo). B players are the most misleading because they come across as A players, but in fact, they just follow the lead of A players. They say what everyone else is saying, do what others are doing and jump on every bandwagon. Most of the time, they are extremely well branded, appearing at every conference and magazine cover, getting all the paid awards but when you listen, they say nothing of substance or original and just regurgitate everything they hear and read. They implement social agendas without considering the two major questions 'A' players ask. They also tend to be those who talk about ideas that are not implemented in their organisation. Therefore, their professional integrity is in question. 


'A' Players - Are the individual thinkers. They can think for themselves. 

'A' players are the ones who know how to do the job, and they follow nobody. They are aware of trends, data, and interventions and can analyse them. They ask two questions: Do my people need or want this? Does my business need this? If the answer is no, they abandon the idea and have a rational explanation for it. If the answer is yes, they can adjust interventions based on their unique circumstances. They don't follow trends and practices blindly but scrutinise them and see if they are relevant for their organisation and people. They know you cannot copy-paste "best practices" because every organisation differs. They set HR trends and develop ideas that B players follow (without thinking). But they don’t just come up with ideas; they can implement them, too. That is hard and a must to be an 'A' player. That's why you see VERY few, so the likelihood of having or being one is low. Most of the time, those few 'A' players go under the radar because they are unlikely to parade themselves around. They are quietly working away for their business and people. 


Sometimes, 'A' players are put in an environment that requires a 'B' player and cannot implement suitable interventions. We have also seen cases where 'B' players are hired when an A player is needed. They copy practices unsuitable for their organisation, causing damage by ruining morale or losing money. 


This structure (A-B-C) can be used for every leadership role, so when you hire your next leader, ask yourself: Do I want someone who will maintain the status quo or who will do right by my business and people? If you answer the latter, just make sure that you will allow the person to do what is required because if you are a control freak, just hire a 'B' player. 


PS: Most HR "gurus" you are eager to follow and pay $1500 to see and hear at these big conferences are just 'B' players. They have massive titles like CHRO and all, yet they say what everyone else is saying or the most foolish things ever! Don't fall for them; just listen and ask: Is it something unique? Is it something new? Is it a new perspective or angle from which we have never considered this topic? Does it make any sense, or does it just sound good and serve a current social and/or political agenda but lacks any relevance to the workforce? 


Do that, and you will find yourself filing for a refund after these events. They lack originality and sound like they have swallowed the same corporate pill. 


If you want to change your HR practices, here are 365 things to consider:



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