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The HR Imperative W

hen you’ve been around as long as I have, you’re given the opportunity to

see the turning of many important business, economic and demographic cycles. One such trend—the ris- ing criticality of human resources management—has been approaching for years and is right now upon us and unfolding to become one of our industry’s most pressing challenges. So much so that it is now imperative for CEOs to take notice and, more importantly, take action. Metalcasters have long undervalued

and underfunded the human re- sources function. HR leaders were, and unfortunately often still are, viewed as little more than party organizers, production workforce baby-sitters and organizational crying towels. But we continue to do so at our peril, as the turning of generational and economic cycles has created a new HR imperative. Given the prominence of

unemployment in media coverage and our daily discourse, the fact that there is a shortage of manage- ment and manufacturing talent may seem counterintuitive. But it’s true. Just ask anyone who has tried to hire a maintenance manager, maintenance electrician, HR director, purchasing manager, casting engineer, skilled ma- chinist or patternmaker. Talent is scarce, increasingly expensive and increasingly difficult to attract. For these reasons, metalcasters need to recruit better, pay better and position themselves as more attractive employers. Demographics also play a major

role because the average age of the baby-boom generation is rapidly approaching 65. All CEOs need to do is look around them to see aging office and production workforces. Strong HR leaders and well-funded, highly effective HR programs are essential if metalcasters are to do more and better than merely survive the inevitable large-scale transition from older, experienced workers to


younger employees who need lots of training. Te 20-something Millen- nial generation now comprises the majority of new hires, and many of yesterday’s practices will impede ef- forts to recruit and work with these new candidates (as coworkers or customers). For example, a greater precentage of this generation are so- called minorities; they look different than previous generations and many speak a language other than English at home. Tey will want to work for organizations that are welcoming to them and look and speak like they

Metalcasters have long undervalued and

underfunded the human resources function.

do. Also, this generation is highly socially conscious, and the best and brightest will want to work for and with companies that are similarly committed. To see what I mean, don’t fast forward through the television commercials tonight. Instead, watch as advertisers compete for the hearts and minds of Millennials by trying hard to appear “green,” community- oriented and civic-minded. It is unfortunately true that our

society in general and the workplace specifically have become far more litigious in recent years, to the point where nearly every personnel decision today is fraught with legal implica- tions and potentially harsh conse- quences. Moreover, it seems nearly every employee is part of a protected class and has a labor attorney at his or her ear. It is already true that a well experienced HR leader is essential if

metalcasters are to evade lawsuits and, even if they do dodge legal entangle- ments, avoid paying an arm and a leg each month for ongoing legal advice. All that will become even more true going forward as our industry must deal with an aging, less productive and not-so-inclined-to-retire workforce that somehow needs to make way for the next generation. At a bare minimum, CEOs need to make sure they have a well experi- enced and highly effective HR leader who can provide essential direc- tion on all of the issues which will increasingly vex top management teams. Next, that leader needs to be endowed with appropri- ate organizational influence and authority, which means CEOs need to elevate HR to the same level of importance as market- ing and manufacturing. HR is of critical strategic importance to all metalcasting businesses, large and small, and should be thought of and treated as such by including it among the top management and key decision-making teams. HR also needs to be properly

staffed and funded. In my experience, an effective small company HR depart- ment has two to four staff members covering a wide range of functions including performance management, employee learning and development, establishment of clear and enforceable (and enforced) policies, compensation management, recruiting and onboard- ing, succession planning and separation, environmental, health and safety, and creation and maintenance of the es- sential HR information infrastructure. Tese will be further explored in sub- sequent issues of CEO Journal, as will HR’s role in driving the evolution from old-school thinking (“they’re lucky to have a job”) to the recruiting and Millennial-friendly concept of “creating a great place to work.”

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April 2014 MODERN CASTING | 39

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