Some human resources (HR) departments
(sometimes called personnel or a current new
name) really add value to a company. Some
don't. That's no surprise. But what sets
apart the good ones from the bad ones?
Here's one way of looking at it.
Some human resource
departments have maintained an old command
and control mentality, where they see their
jobs as making sure managers and employees
are doing what they are supposed to. Is
everyone on time? Why not? What about sick
leave? Are all the rules being followed?
It's not that these departments are
misguided, because some rules, (e.g...
hiring practices, safety, harassment, etc.)
ARE important and need to be handled
centrally by a company. Or, certain programs
and procedures may best be handled by a
central department because of the need to
coordinate some actions across the entire
company. Problems arise, however, when the
HR departments forgets that it's purpose is
to serve the needs of the company, the
managers and the employees, to help THEM get
the work done.
After all, is your
company's human resources department a
PROFIT CENTER? Of course not. The HR
department doesn't produce anything or sell
anything but it can help the rest of the
company make things or sell things by
smoothing the path on some matters.
What sets apart good HR
departments from bad is that the bad ones
lose their service orientation, and forget
that if they don't help others get their
jobs done, they won't get cooperation from
those they should be helping. The good ones
recognize that while they are obligated to
do some regulation of some processes, that
they can play important leadership roles in
the organization. And that does NOT mean
dictating but balancing off the needs of the
organization with the needs of the managers
What would this look
like? Let's take an example: performance
appraisal. Poor HR departments go about
performance appraisal this way. They devise
a set of rules and forms on their own, then
go forth (if they have executive support)
and TELL managers and employees what they
SHALL do. They tend not to consult, or if
they consult just forget to listen to the
people who have to use these sometimes
monstrous procedures. What happens is that
since HR tends to be somewhat distant from
the users of the system, the process misses.
Managers and employees see the process as
another hoop to jump through, and stall, or
avoid doing what they are supposed to. What
happens is that HR then has to move into the
police or enforcer role, to try to coerce
managers to do what they are supposed to.
That gets everyone frustrated and drives
wedges between HR and the rest of the
The good HR department
goes about it differently. While they
recognize that performance appraisal needs
to be, in some respects, a central
organization process, they also recognize
that if the process isn't responsive to at
least some needs of managers and employees,
it will never succeed. So rather than
dictating the procedures, forms and
minutiae, the smart HR folks create (in
consultation with both managers and
employees), a skeleton outline of the
process. This skeleton outlines the basic
components, but leaves the details to the
managers. So rather than telling managers
they much use the twelve page form provided,
they simply say that managers must document
the performance discussions, and forward
them to HR at least annually. See the
difference? The shift here is from dictating
details to providing a framework and helping
people work within that general framework.
It's a SUPPORTING function, and not a lead
(including the HR staff) by backing off and
recognizing that one can both support and
lead at the same time without dictating. The
bottom line is that the more HR dictates and
plays enforcer, the fewer managers and staff
feels they need to take responsibility for
the functions HR is dictating. The more
dictation the more resistance from the rest
of the company.
So, HR folks. Look to
providing frameworks, rather than details.
Look to serve rather than to command.
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