“I’m a business leader first and an HR professional second.”

HR INSIGHT If an HR professional has to explain the actions of his/her department to a business leader, there’s something wrong, Jorge Diaz says. “It means you haven’t developed the right value proposition to make it worth spending time and energy on,” he adds.

When playing soccer, Jorge Diaz believes in being aggressive and taking shots at the goal. His philosophy is, “You’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and he’s learned that this also applies to his role as senior vice president of global human resources for GPS provider Fleetmatics, where Diaz’s aggressive talent-management strategies and alignment with business objectives have made the HR branch play an important role in developing the company’s team. Here, he shares with HE his strategy for winning both on the soccer field and in the HR field.

Voces open quoteThe HR profession has evolved to embody strategic decision-making and leadership. When I started at State Farm Insurance, the company had just converted its personnel department to an HR department. That was going on all over the discipline. Personnel departments were very administrative functions—only there to make sure the systems were in place to hire and maintain people. When I talk to a group of managers now, I always find time to give them some perspective that relates to strategy and their values as leaders of the company. Hiring someone is an investment. You have to consider how to make that investment fruitful. HR can develop that compelling value proposition. That’s one of the reasons I love this profession.

HR professionals need to understand the nature of the business and timing. If you are trying to pursue a talent-management program that’s going to be beneficial to the company, and you present it in the last week of the quarter or month, the business leaders will be distracted, focusing on getting the results they need for the business. They’re not going to give you a lot of time or attention.

I like to make the statement that I’m a business leader first and an HR professional second. It puts me at the table with our business leaders without anyone thinking I have an HR agenda. It helps the people I’m working with realize I have the success of the company at heart. You have to pursue more than your own agenda. You have to keep the values and interests of the business in mind and adopt them as your own. Working for large companies throughout my career, I’ve experienced HR departments that tend to separate themselves from the core business. I’ve known HR professionals who believe their role is to convince “the business” to do this or that. Terms like “HR initiative” rather than “business initiative” makes it seem that what the HR function is trying to do is not aligned with the rest of the business’s objectives. I believe that thinking is flawed fundamentally. If you have to convince a business leader why the HR function is doing something, it means you haven’t developed the right value proposition to make it worth spending time and energy on. Being able to articulate that value proposition is key to an HR professional’s success.

HR professionals also need to realize their value and not feel like they need to apologize for an aggressive talent-management strategy. Organizations run to make a profit. When you’re not part of that core revenue stream the way a salesperson is, sometimes you feel like an expense, like you’re somehow less valuable. You feel like you need to tiptoe around strategy. That’s where delivering a strong value proposition is critical, but you have to be aggressive and sometimes take some risks. I played soccer in high school and continue to play as an adult. I have a soccer-ball paperweight on my desk that says, “You’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” So, I believe sometimes you just have to be aggressive and take chances when you believe in what you’re going after. But you have to believe in it and be able to articulate the value it will create for the business.

Fleetmatics is a fast-paced and absolutely results-oriented culture. In driving the people strategy, we do so with every intention to maintain that results-oriented aspect. We use statements that help define our values, like: “The harder we work, the luckier we get.” We can’t build a reputation on what we’re going to do, it has to be on what we’ve accomplished already. We are a sales organization, but that results-oriented nature and accountability transcends to every other department at Fleetmatics. Deliver on what you promise. Be ambitious. Our goal is to hire results-oriented people that fit with this culture because of their drive and ability to execute on their objectives.

It’s our people—our ability to attract them and our ability to keep them—that make Fleetmatics successful. This is why the HR function is so critical.Voces close quote