In my experience, there has always been mixed views on what HR should be accountable for.
There are traditional duties that need to be performed up by this group such as recruitment, compensation, benefits, payroll, pension management (for those employees fortunate enough to work for an organization still offering them) training and performance management.
These functions are administrative in nature. They are important to the organization and are mechanistic, disciplinary as well as process related.
HR in most organizations is part of a broader community; and have a strong allegiance to groups of HR professionals who connect with one another to share best practices, learn from “the HR experts” and share their success stories and failures. In this environment HR people learn to improve their skills in practising their discipline to be more effective.
My observation is that in many cases the HR team is more inextricably tied to their profession and other people who practice the same skill set than they are to the organization they serve.
The same can be said of other professionals such as computer programmers, SEO practitioners, content marketers and those in other disciplines who identify strongly with their professional practice.
This is both good and bad.
On the plus side, HR people become better administrative practitioners by learning more about the principles — advocated by the academic and consulting community — governing compensation, training and recruitment.
They get better at conforming to best practices and pushing HR throughout the organization.
On the other hand, they learn little about how to add the unique strategic value their organization requires to survive and grow despite the unpredictable marketplace they face.
The HR team rarely sees their role as creating strategic value for the execution and delivery arms of the organization — business units primarily — where the intent of the strategic game plan is either achieved or not.
Strategic value is created by serving those who get stuff done in the trenches where the competitive battles are fought.
It’s created by probing critical matters such as: — defining the critical few deliverables HR must produce in order to support the strategic goals of the organization — agreeing on the skills and competencies needed to successfully execute the organization’s strategic game plan — defining the critical positions that need to be filled in the short term — declaring the skills no longer required and a plan to deal with the people who now possess these skills — defining how the HR team can help teams in the organization achieve their results more effectively — studying competitors and their people plan to determine how they plan to build competitive advantage — spotting the key individuals in competitor organizations that should be targeted to recruit — planning how traditional HR competencies can be morphed into new approaches that add more strategic value
Without the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time, organizations are incapable of achieving their strategic goals.
HR can provide this vital role, but the HR recruitment philosophy needs to change.
To enhance its ability to deliver more strategic value to an organization they need to bring in people who live in the business units and teach them what the HR discipline is all about rather than hire individuals with only impressive HR credentials.
This tactic signals that HR is first a strategic tool for the organization and second a brotherhood profession.The performance management contract between HR and the organization must also change to reflect how well they have executed their strategic role.
— What new competencies have they brought in to the organization that have made a significant contribution to achieving corporate goals?
— How have they helped the business units achieve THEIR objectives because of the individuals brought on board?
— How is the HR strategy different from their brotherhood; how does it standout from traditional practices?
— How many high potential people do they have in their “recruitment funnel”, poised and waiting to acquire when the time is right?
Most organizations practice traditional HR and they are generally unremarkable.
Those that choose to breakaway from the herd and find a way to make HR a strategic weapon achieve unmatched performance among their peers.
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.
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