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Sometimes when I tell that I work in a HR, the immediate reaction is “ah, you are the ones that creates all the procedures and norms” or “so you must be very good solving complaints and conflicts“.  We are in HR, seen as the “paperwork pushers” or the “innovation killers“.  When I hear these, I must admit that hurts. I can understand the frustration, of manager when they wait for that position to be filled, or when they hate to fill performance review forms, but a part of me react and want to say something in defense.

I have been in many different companies and also as a consultant in HR, in Chile and the US, and I can tell that the same things happen again and again. HR is not sitting at the strategic table, when it should. Business performance depends more and more in their capacity to attract, build, maintain, and identify talent in all its forms. But how?

I identified some aspects that are unique to HR, that it has to be considered in every company, when judging HR performance. This are stones that every HR department has to deal with and sometimes impeding it from doing a more strategical work.

  • HR is too soft, but translate skills into numbers is not so easy . We always talk about satisfaction, employee morale, leadership, talent, values..In general intangible and abstract concepts. One of the challenges will be translate all the HR metrics, in a way that demonstrate how specifically contribute to the  business. For example, how the recruitment of salesman with these specific skill has been applied to the job and increase customer retention. Sound easy, but putting in numbers concepts, is an entire new science.
  • HR is the compliance keeper. Compliance in HR is huge: employee records, clearances, medical records, investigations, etc. HR needs to be in compliance in order to avoid a lawsuit against  or to avoid a penalty due to an audit. If HR house wasn’t in order before, get everything up to date would be titanic. One of the challenges in this matter, is to train all managers, so not every compliance responsibility fall into HR. Also, HR role should be the one who rise the red flag preventing violations.
  • Non Stop Volume. HR needs to deal with massive volume of forms, applications, letters, etc. Since every employee or applicant has its own documentation, the volume is impressive. The challenge in this matter is try to standardize (with software) anything which can be automated. Also cut irrelevant steps in procedures and try to be as light as possible.
  • Managers should be also people managers. One of the common things that happen is that HR needs to oversee how managers are recruiting, evaluating, training, promoting or firing their people, since they are too busy in the business. Wouldn’t be easier if manager could learn, apply and be responsible of its own staff? HR should be the one supporting, mentoring and delivering tools so managers can apply all of these in their daily people management. In addition with this, other managers now will understand better that HR function are not as simple as they seems.
  • HR cant have a populist speech.  There is no one product, service or technique that will guarantee positive outcomes in HR. Just because this, is very difficult to HR become so easy-to-love as marketing or sales, who can speak about a “star” product or service. Also the speech never could be decisive or authoritative, like some presidential candidates. Maintaining neutrality and avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach, while building an engaging message is a very difficult challenge.
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