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It Takes a General to Win Today’s Talent War

An excerpt from Generalship: HR Leadership in a Time of War
By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

Today, Human Resource Management (HR), in general, and the Talent Acquisition field (TA), in particular are noble professions searching for answers. Why isn’t what we do more valued by the enterprise? Why are our programs and staff the last to be funded and the first to be cut? Why don’t HR and TA have seats at the table where decisions get made? And why, as a consequence, are we and our work marginalized, trivialized and disrespected by so many leaders in so many organizations?

Yes, yes, I know; such issues are not your experience. That’s fine … if it’s true. Unfortunately, however, many of us in the HR/TA professions suffer from the NIMO condition, the Not In My Organization response to any critical statement made about the status of their profession and/or its role in the modern American enterprise. Regardless of the accuracy or justification of the critiques, we leap to the barricades to defend ourselves and our employers against such scurrilous attacks. And for what? Have our efforts in any way enhanced our stature, improved our standing or upgraded our security in the vast majority of companies? In my view, they have not.

Moreover, even if an employer has a fulsome respect for HR and TA, the NIMO response is problematic. Why? Because Chief Executive Officers come and go at warp speed these days, and when they do, the role that HR and/or TA plays in any specific organization can change overnight. In addition, we in these professions are also on the move—voluntarily and otherwise—and when we join a new organization, we often quickly discover that our condition has radically changed. All of a sudden, it is more accurately and ominously described as DIMO … Definitely In My Organization.

The questions raised above, therefore, are important to every HR and TA leader and professional, regardless of their personal situation at the moment. They represent a grave threat to each and all of us. For HR/TA professionals—most of whom are refreshingly optimistic—that reality may be hard to accept. Indeed, barely a month goes by without some author, in an HR publication somewhere, opining that “things are getting better.” And, I suppose, they are. But the pace of that improvement is so glacial it will be the Twenty-Third Century before we see any substantive progress in our profession’s position in the enterprise.

All of which is to say that—as difficult and even unpleasant as it may be—we must address these questions, and we must do so now. That said, I definitely don’t presume to have all of the answers. What I do propose is that we begin from a different place. We must start by adopting an uncommon perspective on what’s causing the questions to be raised in the first place, on the root source of our perpetually diminutive position. Only such a fundamental shift in outlook will empower us to develop the unconventional prescription necessary to change our standing.

You see, I don’t believe that HR’s and TA’s position in the enterprise will ever improve because the CEO suddenly sees the light or because the business case finally becomes clear and compelling to the Chief Financial Officer. No, it will only happen when we stop seeing ourselves as the casualties of decisions beyond our control and, instead, re-imagine ourselves as the agents of influence we seek to be. Said another way, we will never change the views of those outside our professions until we, inside the professions, change our own views about who we are and what we do.

Why is that shift necessary?

Because the world around us has changed. We must adapt or become endangered, or more accurately, irrelevant. As Charles Darwin wrote, “It’s not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent, that survive; it’s the one most responsive to change.” So, that is my uncommon perspective. The only way to change the world view of our professions is to change our professions’ view of their roles in the world.

But what is that new view? How should we reset our vision of the role we play in today’s enterprise? These are the fundamental issues we must address. They are our start point, and they lead directly to my unconventional prescription.

I believe we must now see ourselves as generals, as men and women who lead in combat. We must view ourselves that way so we act as they do. We must begin to demonstrate their unique set of attributes, the personal characteristics required to prevail in even the most daunting and difficult of circumstances. We must be leaders who succeed in a time of war.

What war are we talking about? I think it is best described as a War for Relevancy. It is a conflict that is already being waged on three fronts:
A War for Organizational Security … in a time of domestic and foreign terror and a pandemic;
A War for Trust … in an error of employee cynicism and accelerating disengagement; and
A War for the Best Talent … in an age of skill shortages, declining loyalty and a changing view of work.

Being generals—believing in ourselves as front-line leaders and adapting ourselves to that role—is no easy task. It requires that we find within ourselves the attributes of great battlefield commanders, that we focus on those attributes and deliberately hone them, and, most importantly, that we act with them in each and every challenge we face. In short, we must transform who we are and what we do, for that is the only way we will fend off the attacks on our professions and gain the high ground in today’s and tomorrow’s enterprise.

Food for Thought,

P.S. A limited number of copies of Generalship: HR Leadership in a Time of War are available through TAtech. For more information, contact me at

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.