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Your article reminds me of the Eastern philosophy of yin and yang. Yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, which constantly interact, never existing in absolute stasis. While Finance and HR are opposing each other in many respects; they are also rooted together, transform each other, and need each other to exist.

To me, it's more like the Hegelian dialectic: thesis and antithesis, opposing forces constantly evolving, interacting and inevitably resolved by synthesis. The perfect path is always a fine line.

You wrote: 'Could it be that this is a cycle of sorts, and we are about to loop back to our earlier disregard for the value of "the talent"?'

This question presupposes that there are only a few places for the pendulum to swing to: product, customer, employee.

While I accept that there's a repeatable cycle to just about everything in life, I'm not sure that this particular cycle is limited to just these choices.

Admittedly things are a little different in the midst of a serious recession, but the CFO beancounter approach is to regard staff as abstract units -- let's call them human beans.

The problem is that human beans are not like floating randomly in a gas, or products on store shelves, they are autonomous, thinking, rational beans. And an autonomous, rational, thinking bean is going to autonomously, rationally think about working anywhere other than an organisation that treats them like a unit of production.

This is harder for beans with undifferentiated skills than for more talented, knowledge worker beans.

So, ultimately, the CFO approach is simply going to make a company dumber.

Great post, Ann. We conducted a survey last Summer on the need bridge the gap between the CFO and the CTO (Chief Talent Officer).

I said at the time the study was released that business leaders understand HR has the power to transform an organization by taking a strategic view and using technology to implement a measurable employee engagement solution that generates real results. Leaders also understand employee recognition can improve employee engagement and – by extension – their bottom line, shareholder value and customer retention. To get there, it is essential that today’s global companies bridge the current gap between finance and HR, empowering these functions to collaborate on this new strategic imperative and ultimately implement a universal recognition platform that motivates, retains and attracts great talent.

Key findings of the study include:

* Human Resources Must Take a More Strategic Role in the Business
* Employee Recognition Drives Engagement and Therefore Impacts Recognition, Retention, Productivity and the Bottom Line
* Creating a Universal Recognition Platform for Global Companies Is Difficult
* CFOs Are Not Aware of How Much They Are Spending on Recognition Programs
* The CTO and the CFO Must Work Together to Chart the Course for the Future

More on the research is available here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2008/06/bridging-gap-between-finance-and-talent.html

Paul and Jim:

I like the yin and yang, thesis and antithesis analogies - thanks for sharing!

Elizabeth:

Actually, I'm looking at it even more simplistically here - a pendulum which has "employees as assets" on one end, and "employees as costs" on the other. That's the one dimensional pendulum I am referencing - but as you point out, there are a number of other dimensions with their own pendulum effects - each of which may reflect a different cycle. Interesting to consider how these may all interact - I suspect there are some interesting underlying relationships.

Bill:

I agree with you - the days when we could compete with human beans have come and gone.

Thanks all for sharing the thoughts and comments here!

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

http://blog.threestarleadership.com/2009/03/18/31809-midweek-look-at-the-independent-business-blogs.aspx

Wally Bock

Wally:

Thanks - always an honor. Readers, click through to see the whole rundown of the "Midweek Review".

I like your distinction above, Ann. Another way to describe the same dichotomy is "employees as people" at one end of the spectrum and "employees as parts" at the other.

Wally:

Boy, that dichotomy really makes me twitch. I can't really believe, in my heart of hearts, that we can possibly be moving in that direction. But these are strange times...

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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