Here's a hypothetical for you: two Presidential candidates walk into the interview room for a job in a Sydney HR department. (At separate times, of course, we’re way past group assessments, especially for senior roles.) They present very differently, they communicate very differently and they promise to take your organisation down very different paths indeed.*
The question is, who gets the job? Do you back the steadiness and poise of Ms Clinton? Or does the promise of excitement and unpredictability leaving you plumping for Trump?
Hillary Clinton: the steady hand
Let’s face it, for most HR jobs in Australia, Hillary Clinton would be the frontrunner by the proverbial mile... She says the right thing, she has a stack of prior experience in the field, she’s across the detail and, unlike her rival, she’s unlikely to let out a faux pas that will embarrass your organisation in a major way. She also has a rare combination of strategic and analytical ability. And, she’s giving you a positive picture of your business while telling you your business’s best days are still in front of it.
In short, she’s probably the dream candidate for most senior HR roles. But there are a still a few nagging doubts…
For instance, you’ve heard rumours about the trust factor, especially when it comes to the proper use of company emails. She’s also had a long history of serving organisations, so she’s very much a known quantity - and when that happens there’s always at least a few failures things you can point to.
Clinton’s polish and intellectualism would make her A-grade material for the upper echelons of a corporate role in, say, a global investment bank (or a similarly complex and prestigious organisation). But it may not work so well in an organisation with a culture of calling a spade an [insert expletive] spade - which I know is the space many businesses occupy. And, as any good HR person knows, culture is (almost) everything…
Trump: on the other hand…
That’s exactly where Trump is likely to have one over her. His directness, bluster and, the less-than-politically-correct sound bytes he peppers his interview with will leave you squirming. But you recognise that his complete lack of filter might work well when it comes to addressing the shop floor - something HR managers in ‘grittier’ industries are often called on to do.
He also presents a very clear and simple message about making your business great again, which cuts right through the convoluted mission statement statements and policy documents of so many corporates. That simplicity could speak directly to people, energising them and bringing them together so that they work towards the same goal - again one of the main things that distinguishes a good HR leader.
Besides, everything about Trump says he’s a doer who has no problem whatsoever making decision. And, even though he frequently goes off script, he’s likely to inspire the confidence of many with his energy, enthusiasm and ability to get things done.
Sure, in the interview you probably worry about his propensity to tell you that everything about your business ‘is broke’, as well as his insistence that he’s the only man who can clean it up. But, if that really is the case and your business is close to a shareholder revolt, that kind of bravado might just appeal… He won’t be afraid to take the broom out and clean up any kind of HR-inspired mess.
That’s also when his lack of experience in the HR field might start to look good too. Because, let’s face it, he really doesn’t have any directly relevant runs on the board at all.
But bringing in an outsider can work where you need a complete break from the way things have been done. That said, it’s very rare for a HR director get appointed without direct functional experience.
When it all boils down…
When it all boils down you’re left with two candidates with two very different styles who pledge to take your business in two very directions. You’ve got a very clear choice of which kind of person you want.
In corporate Australia, it would be very hard to go past the steady, analytical temperament of Clinton. But there could be times where the flamboyance and intuition of a Trump might work too.
*Please note, I don't even pretend to look at either Clinton or Trump’s policies here. My analysis is based solely on their work experience, temperament and outlook.
Matthew Mayoh is a HR Recruitment specialist operating in the Sydney market.
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