Workforce Management recently highlighted the HR function at Owens Corning.

Here are my thoughts:
The best quote (and one that I think transcends HR – it really is a struggle for most departments) is from Owens Corning’s Sr. VP of Human Resources, Joseph High:  

“I have seen HR people get so enamored with the function of HR and they act like that’s the end,” he says. “But it’s just a means to the end. The end is achieving the business results.”  

Without solid business results, HR ceases to exist.  There is no money to pay people if there are no business results.

High mentions that he wants to bring HR back-office costs to zero.  I believe that doing so proves that HR is more than a cost center – it is a business driver.  If HR can prove that the benefits of what they do, outweigh the concrete dollar costs, HR can establish itself as a profit center, rather than a cost center.  Obviously, implementing an Innovation nGen (or, if you’re not into nGenera-speak, an Innovation Engine) helps that – as the capacity for innovation increases, Owens Corning’s HR department can help drive costs down and better quantify the bottom-line dollar results of HR activities. 

High also discusses the role managers play in workforce planning (which we recently addressed on with industry superstar Susan Burns).  He travels 10 days out of the month, and meets with the business and HR leaders to get a solid understanding of where the business areas are headed.  According to High, he is “getting managers to be clear on where they see their markets going and what that means for talent.”  High is putting some of the responsibility for workforce planning on the people who define the need – the business leaders.

Owens Corning expects all employees to be leaders.  To that end, they have established clear, measurable attributes for leadership at all levels of the organization, from executives to front line team members.  As they continue to grow as an organization, Owens Corning refines the attributes to reflect changes in their internal culture, and the external marketplace. 

Further in the article, High is asked about a massive acquisition and a divestiture Owens Corning undertook last year.  High explained the difficulties associated with managing the processes.  He pointed out that the HR team “had to help decide which talent would stay with Owens Corning and which would go. It also included a lot of decisions about how benefits would be handled for people who stayed and for those who left.”  Owens Corning’s HR team rose to the challenge and helped manage a process that significantly increased the worldwide workforce for Owens Corning (from 30% to 50%).  

The article also briefly touches on “environmental” stability, as it related to Owens Corning’s overall business goals.  High says that the overall business purpose of Owens Corning is to “enhance lives and transform solutions,” and environmental stewardship will always be a part of that.  Frankly, I was surprised that there wasn’t more emphasis on this piece, since it’s sort of the “flavor of the week” for today’s companies.

At the end of the article, High is asked to explain how they measure success.  His thoughts?  

” I measure my success by [whether] we are hitting our business objectives and if we are creating stronger talent year over year. Do we have the right people for the right roles when we need them? Having said that, I can have the greatest succession planning ever, but if we don’t make our business results, then I have not met my objectives.”

It’s these types of things that have made Owens Corning one of Fortune Magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” for several years running.

What do you think?  How are you measuring the success of your HR team?  Do you have a strong enough grasp on how your group directly impacts the business?