Keep it simple: Coates CEO

by 16 Oct 2007

HR FUNCTIONS should dispense with jargon and simplify HR activities to remain relevant, according to the CEO of Coates Hire.

Malcolm Jackman, keynote speaker at last month’s 2007 Australian HR Awards in Melbourne, said that while Coates has millions of assets out for hire every day, its people are the most important asset. To get the best out of them, he added, HR must become more management-focused.

“HR needs to lose the attitude, lose the jargon and stop making things look very, very complicated,” Jackman said. “Because at the end of the day, life is relatively simple, people are relatively simple, and we need to stay focused on the simplicity of life. It’s interesting that people don’t necessarily want to be inspired all the time. They just want to be told what to do.”

While HR functions often see themselves as being critical parts of organisations, Jackman’s recent experience of dealing with a bid for Coates from a private equity investor, suggested otherwise, he said.

“As the CEO of a public company, I recently went through a fairly challenging process, which is euphemistically called a ‘strategic review’,” Jackman told a 500-strong crowd of HR professionals art Crown Casino in Melbourne.

“Having had the barbarians of private equity knock on our doors, our board opened the organisation to due diligence in this process, where we went through an exhausting due diligence exercise.”

“The thing that I was absolutely gobsmacked within this process is, of all the hundreds of people that explore this data, of all the people we met and talked with, the number of questions asked about HR, about our personnel policy, about our commitment developing our people, was miniscule.”Jackman said.

“Nobody asked for a meeting with the HR director. Nobody wanted to talk about people. As long as they understood what our employment contract said, they were happy.”

He added that while human capital is a key asset, not all people are equal within Coates. “At the end of the day, it’s the people that face the customer that are the people that count most in an organisation,” Jackman said.

“That’s not to say that the other people inside of the organisation aren’t important, it’s just that their contribution doesn’t actually add to the top line.”

While trade unions are often accused of disrupting organisations and workforces, Jackman said HR can be just as obstructive. “I think at times that HR runs more interference inside the business than the union movement does,” Jackman said.


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