The 9 Faces of HR: A Disruptor's Guide to Mastering Innovation and Driving Real Change

The 9 Faces of HR: A Disruptor's Guide to Mastering Innovation and Driving Real Change

by Kris Dunn
The 9 Faces of HR: A Disruptor's Guide to Mastering Innovation and Driving Real Change

The 9 Faces of HR: A Disruptor's Guide to Mastering Innovation and Driving Real Change

by Kris Dunn


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Popular blogger and CHRO Kris Dunn presents a hard, but compelling reality: every HR professional on the planet can be classified as one of 9 “Faces” based on your career level and your ability to innovate and drive change. The book opens with a behavioral assessment, so readers can quickly identify their own “HR Face” then reveals career tracks, behavioral markers, ROI, macro-trends driving behavior, and market demand for each face. Which face are you? Which one do you want to be? Whether you’re a solo HR pro trying to make your way in the world or an HR leader trying to build a cohesive HR team, this is your no-BS playbook to empowering your HR career and elevating our profession.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586445737
Publisher: Society For Human Resource Management
Publication date: 06/21/2019
Edition description: None
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 580,770
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kris Dunn is a long-time thought leader with 100+ speaking engagements, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of two industry-leading blogs: The HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent. He is currently Chief Human Resources Officer for Kinetix, a national RPO/recruiting firm based in Atlanta.

Read an Excerpt


Meet Jenn, VP of HR at GridLoad

You were the first to say we were not okay.

Life Starts Now by Three Days Grace

Tuesdays suck.

The relative merits of Tuesday domineered the mind of Jennifer Gottlieb as she looked through the back window of the Mercedes GLS in front of her in standstill traffic. Interstate 75 northwest of Atlanta proper had a growing reputation as a trap for commuters, intensified by the flight of the Atlanta Braves from downtown to the junction of I–75 and I–285 — and the construction that followed.

Tuesdays, thought Jenn (no one called her Jennifer except her mom and one of her HR coordinators who was as old as her mom), were sneaky in their level of suck. Everyone knows that Mondays are generally awful; Wednesdays have the reputation as hump day; and Thursdays and Fridays are close enough to the weekend to put you at ease. Tuesdays though? Sneaky in their level of despair.

Jenn muttered "wealthy old woman car" under her breath as she watched the redhead in front of her put on makeup as they creeped along at five mph. Her younger brother, now a senior at Georgia Tech, loved to typecast people by their cars. He used the phrase to describe their aunt who also drove the GLS. Jenn felt appropriately placed as a 34year old in her BMW.

The commute wasn't always this bad. She used to live inside the perimeter of Atlanta, but her husband convinced her to make the full outside the perimeter move to the suburbs five years ago when they had both been promoted. Woodstock is where they ended up, which Jenn's friends referred to as BFE. It seemed simple enough — time to start a family, and the commute down to the Windy Hill area of 75/285 wasn't bad. Then the Braves moved from the city and all hell broke loose. The family had been put on hold when a subsequent promotion for her husband put him on the road four days a week.

"Ed was here ten minutes ago looking for you."

Damn. Of course, he was. She thanked Denise, one of her HR coordinators who had been with her for the past five years and started walking down the hall to Ed's office. Ed was the CEO at GridLoad, brought in by the private equity firm that took control of the company eight months ago.

As she walked, Jenn thought about the current leadership team (LT). In the eight months Ed had been CEO, he had replaced three of eight LT members, a group in which Jenn served as the VP of HR. The "survivors" — as the remaining five liked to call themselves — served as a support group for each other. Most of them considered Ed to be a complete prick. Jenn was careful never to be heard framing Ed in such terms as the HR leader, but she couldn't disagree.

"Where are we with the openings in software development?" Ed never wasted time on pleasantries. As soon as Jenn was physically in his office, the questions usually started before she sat down. Today's topic was a familiar one — the lag time in recruiting the software developers who were the lifeblood of product development at GridLoad.

Jenn responded to Ed, citing new postings that had been purchased, contingency recruiters who were working on the openings, and a call for referrals her department had made across the company.

Ed seemed less than impressed and asked her to update Rich, the VP of software development, on the status. Sensing the meeting was over by Ed's body language, Jenn rose to walk back to her office and said, "See you at the leadership team update at 1 p.m." Ed mumbled "Yep" as he started to scan his email.

Jenn didn't realize it as she walked down the hall, but she was already dead.

Her career was over at GridLoad. She just didn't know it yet.


Absolutely No One Grows Up Dreaming of a Career in HR

Personnel? That's for a**holes!

— Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) upon discovering he was being reassigned in Dirty Harry (1976)

Did Jenn grow up dreaming of a career in HR? Probably not. Raise your hand if you grew up dreaming of a career in HR. It's okay, I'll wait.

No one? Of course not. The dirty little secret of HR is that most of us didn't have a master plan to end up managing people's functions and maximizing human capital return on investment (ROI) inside the modern workplace. We grew up with bigger dreams, which is cool because no one grows up dreaming of being a director of account management, a financial analyst, or a marketing manager, either.

Those dreams all suck when you're sixteen.

Instead, the teenage version of ourselves dreamed of being a movie star, a recording artist, or a professional athlete. The freaks among us were entrepreneurial from the time they were five and likely knew they'd own their own business. The rest of us float, usually until we pick a major in college, at which time our career paths and ambitions solidify.

But the choice of HR as a career path happens later than most on average. For all the undergraduate programs in HR, the ubiquitous nature of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the increasing importance of the human capital function, many meaningful HR pros don't solidify a path into HR until they're in the workforce doing other things.

Translation: Many HR pros will tell you they "fell" into HR.

Falling into HR Is the Norm, Not the Exception

Here's a non-comprehensive list of other things people fall into:

[??] Love

[??] Addiction

[??] A bad relationship

[??] Lucky circumstances in life

[??] Debt

[??] Religious cults

[??] A habit of eating a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream at 9 PMnightly.

That list tells you that falling into things can be a blessing and a curse — it's all relative to the outcome. From my experience talking to the talented high performers who make up the world of HR, here's some common ways people fall into HR without a real plan to enter the function that's loved and hated by so many:

[??] I started from the bottom, now I'm here. You are a bootstrapper! Right out of college, these people took entry level roles in our company, usually doing transactions as an HR coordinator, payroll specialist, or similar role. They enjoyed the function and, in many cases, rose to run the whole damn thing. HR pros who find themselves entering the function in this manner have the greatest opportunity for career path growth in HR with small and medium-sized businesses.

[??] I'm a people person. I am good with the damn people. These HR pros were generally present in a company and got identified as someone who was "good with people," and subsequently flipped into the HR function from another department. When looking at this group, "good with people" is a broad designation that can mean they are extroverted, good listeners, or are willing to take large amounts of bulls*** and abuse without exploding. It can also mean they have skills in actually solving other people's problems and maximizing others' performance inside the organization. While the latter designation is preferred, being labeled as "good with people" is rarely that deep.

[??] I'm a corporate paratrooper or a High Potential Employee (HIPO) — I got dropped into the function on an interim basis and never left. Big companies have rotational programs for HIPOs as part of succession strategies, and HR is generally part of that rotation. In some cases, HIPOs are rotated into HR and end up loving it and being highly effective. They either never leave or come back to HR after their rotations are complete. In other circumstances, high performers are parachuted into HR on an interim basis to put out a burning dumpster fire and find their perfect match and stay for the good times.

[??] A friend or mentor who had an opening looked at you and said, "WTF?" From time to time, the path into HR is based on friendship, with a high performing HR leader developing mentoring relationships with young professionals outside the organization and bringing them in when they have the opportunity. This generally involves the HR leader in question selling the non-HR talent on the fact that a career in HR is a good thing. The protégé decides to trust the HR mentor, takes the job, and the rest, as they say, is history.

[??] I was good at a specialty related to HR and ended up running the whole HR show. Feeder groups for HR include some specialties that are considered a distant or related cousin to the HR function — like training or recruiting. This close proximity to the HR function provides a natural exposure and transition point to HR for the professionals in those functions with the chops to handle the chaos that awaits them in the big show.

[??] I failed in another job at our company, and they moved me into HR so they didn't have to fire me. I didn't want to include this one, but no rundown of all the ways people fall into a HR career would be complete without it. HR has a reputation in some company cultures as a backwater, a way station for average people doing average things. This leads to the perception that good people struggling in other areas can be dumped into HR. This seems to be decreasing in frequency, but it's a historic reality of our lives together in HR.

You can probably add to the list of ways that people fall into HR. If you're an HR pro who has an HR degree and has always possessed the clarity that comes with knowing you'd be in HR since you were twelve, Godspeed to you. Don't screw up your dream.

There Are Eight Million Stories in the Naked City

But it's rarely that clean for the rest of us. Consider the story of how I (Kris Dunn, aka "KD") fell into HR. It's a doozy:

1. I graduated from Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State) and started a career as a young Division I college basketball coach at UAB(University of Alabama–Birmingham), because that's how great HR is born, right? LOL.

2. As a coaching staff member at a Division I program, I probably witnessed nine thousand conflicts with widely accepted people practices in corporate America, even though I wasn't familiar with the terms "people practices," "corporate America," or "HR".

3. After three years in coaching, I decided I was likely to be poor for a long time and exited the coaching game to go back to get my MBA while working overnight in a wireless call center to pay the bills.

4. While working overnight in the call center, a soon to be mentor named Marilyn Brooks (director of HR) figured out I had some potential in random post-shift interactions in the hallways and parking lot. She decided to seek me out for a project evaluating staffing vendors as part of a request for proposal (RFP) process they were going through. I worked on the project overnight and delivered a lot more than was required. Mrs. Brooks was pleased.

5. After getting my MBA, my wife and I relocated back home to Missouri (St. Louis area) where she became a staff prosecutor, and I went to work doing market research for IBM Global.

6. We went through one winter from hell, looked at each other and said, "what the hell are we doing?" Even though we were from the Midwest, five years in the new South had thinned our blood, and we wanted to get back to the Southeast.

7. With LinkedIn not even a glimmer in a venture capitalist's eye at the time, I started calling people I knew (Marilyn Brooks among them), seeking career opportunities that would get me back to warm winters.

8. Marilyn's words: "I don't have anything in what you're doing now, but I do have a HR manager spot. Would you be interested in that? You used to be a coach and there's a lot of coaching in this role."

9. I interviewed and got the job. I was on my way in the world of HR.

Many of you are reading this and shaking your head. Some of you hate me for falling into this opportunity without paying my dues. Bottom line is this — I had a mentor of sorts, did good work to reinforce the mentor's belief in me, and the mentor ended up plugging in a non-traditional protégé into an opening on her HR team.

S**t like this happens all the time in HR. Film at 11.

Look Closely and Hollywood Shows Us How People Fell into HR

There are only a few HR characters coming out of Hollywood. But all you have to do is look closely, and you can tell how they fell into the world of HR. Here are five that come to mind, and their match related to how they fell into our world of people, process, and corporate politics:

[??] Toby Flenderson from The Office — Poor Toby. We smile and cry as HR pros when we watch him fumble through his day. Quick to rely on policy and process and slow to confront anyone directly and aggressively, Toby without question fell into HR by taking a transactional role and finding a place where he could survive. You and I get to deal with the stereotype. Lucky us.

[??] Mary Winetoss, the rules-obsessed head of human resources hell-bent on curtailing the hijinks of office workers planning to throw a wild holiday bash in the 2016 R-rated film Office Christmas Party — Because she is a lesser known Hollywood HR character, you might be tricked based on her early reliance on policy that she's like Toby. That's an incorrect take, because her connection and problem solving with the leaders of her company clearly tells us she fell into the role based on being a "people person."

[??] Dirty Harry in The Enforcer (1976) — The iconic scene in this movie depicts Harry's boss announcing Harry has been demoted to "personnel," which clearly matches our earlier "don't fire them, move them to HR" path. Harry doesn't take the demotion well, pondering the move for two seconds before saying, "Personnel? That's for a**holes!" Thanks, Dirty Harry.

[??] Pam Poovey from Archer (FX) — Many of you don't know Archer, but your kids probably do. Archer is an adult animated sitcom created by Adam Reed for the cable network FX. It follows the exploits of a dysfunctional group of secret agents, with Poovey being the group's director of HR. Ridiculed by her client group, but secretly capable of spy work with no training, Poovey clearly fell into HR by being dropped into our function at some point on an interim basis and finding a comfortable home there.

[??] Ryan Bingham in Up in The Air (2009) — Partial credit here since Bingham (played by George Clooney) is a specialist who lays people off for a living. Still, as you listen to Bingham wax poetic about travel program points and benefits and remain distant from the people he's firing, it's hard to imagine he's not an HIPO who parachuted into the world of HR, got comfortable with the perks, and never left.

My point to all of this? Most of us fell into HR. Some of the stories are funny, some are cautionary tales, and some reinforce stereotypes.

How you got here doesn't matter. To survive in a world of change, you're going to have to connect to the world around you and have more self-awareness of how you're perceived. That's what the rest of this book is about. Let's dig into what the people writing the checks want from HR and what that means for you.


My Life with the Crazy People Who Hate HR

They hate us cause they ain't us.

— Attributed to countless people with irrational confidence

I've been in HR for over twenty years. I'm somewhat of an expert on people who hate HR.

For the youngsters reading this book, I'm sorry. You're full of hope and energy and you're going to do great things. But I'm here to tell you there are people who will try to slap you in the face simply because you're an HR pro.

Those people suck. This chapter is about figuring out who they are and how to deal with them.

Identifying People Who Hate HR

Whether you're a HR leader of a Fortune 500 HR team or a solo practitioner in a company with one hundred employees, you've got people in your company who hate HR.

Hate might be a strong word. They hold your profession in contempt. They view you as a secretary with a policy manual.

No, on second thought, they hate you.

They hate you because they view you as one of several things based on their viewpoint:

[??] A no-talent hack

[??] A blocker impeding them from doing whatever they want to do

[??] Someone who doesn't know as much about people-related issues as they do

[??] The source of more work for them and six new passwords they must remember based on your commitment to "best in breed" HR technology solutions

Maybe you can solve that last one by running a workshop to show people how Chrome can automatically save passwords for future automated use, right?

Wrong. They won't attend your workshop because they loathe you. Let's cover the type of people who hate HR via the following list:

[??] The Control Freak — Sally's a control freak. She's a really smart person, has between ten and twenty years of experience in her non-HR functional areas, and has a hard time giving up control, which is code for the fact she can't collaborate beyond allowing her assistant to order lunch from Chipotle. She'll be damned if she's going to let you hone in on her hiring process for her next departmental hire.


Excerpted from "The 9 Faces of HR"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Kris Dunn.
Excerpted by permission of Society for Human Resource Management.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

Foreword xi

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xv

1 Meet Jenn, VP of HR at GridLoad 1

2 Absolutely No One Grows Up Dreaming of a Career in HR 5

3 My Life with the Crazy People Who Hate HR 13

Bonus: A Special Crazy Boss Story from KD's Diary 21

4 HR Stereotypes and the Evolution of HR Saying "Yes" 25

Bonus: "God's Plan" from Drake Is Telling You How to Do HR 33

5 HR's Big Innovation Problem 37

Bonus: Jedi Mind Tricks from "Equality Matters as Much as Diversity" 43

6 How the 9 Face of HR Model Works 49

7 The Great BS Artists Who Gave Us the 9-Box Grid and Performance vs. Potential 55

8 HR Nerd Alert: The Four Factors that Drive the Ability to Innovate, Add Value, and Drive Change in HR 65

9 Professional Tourette's Is Dangerous (Cognitive Skills) 69

Bonus: Revenue per Employee and the Emerging Title of "HR Capologist" 75

10 Give Me What I Want or I'll Ruin Your Career (Assertiveness) 79

Bonus: He's a Good Guy, Except for the Jihad 85

11 Take this OPS Manual and Shove It (Rules Orientation) 89

Bonus: How Elon Musk Decided if His Assistant Needed a Raise 95

12 May I Show You My Signed Picture of Dale Carnegie? (Detail Orientation) 101

13 Let's Do This: A Tour of the 9 Faces of HR 107

14 The Natural 111

Bonus: We're All Working for the Same Boss, Aren't We? 119

15 The Mentor 121

Bonus: Quiz-How to Tell If You'll Be Running HR at a Great Company in the Next Ten Years 129

16 The Judge 133

Bonus: Lessons from Uber: Sometimes Your HR Job Changes 143

17 The Assassin 149

Bonus: HR Metrics: Stop Measuring You and Start Measuring Them 157

18 The Fixer 161

Bonus: The Five Biggest Lies In HR 169

19 The Cop 173

20 The Rookie 181

Bonus: Does HR Certification or an MBA Make Me More Desirable in HR? 189

21 The Clerk 193

22 The Machine 201

Bonus: AJ.'s "Gaydar" Is Better Than Yours, But That's Probably Going to Go Horribly Wrong 209

23 Your Future Boss Thinks You Suck! 213

24 Staying Alive: Using The 9 Faces of HR to Protect and Build your Career 221

25 Build It and They Will Come: Using the 9 Faces of HR as a CHRO/VP of HR 231

26 C-Level Notes: Using The 9 Faces of HR Model to Find and Select a CHRO/VP of HR 239

27 Career Mobility Inside The 9 Faces of HR Model 245

28 Closing Time 251

Index 253

About the Author 259

Other SHRM Books 261

Books Approved for SHRM Recertification Credits 263

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