Monday, October 13, 2014

The Reason I'm Here

In a recent article about the Human Resources function, 63% reported that one of their top priorities is to prove that they bring value to the organization--"making sure a company's investment in HR is bringing valuable returns". Seems like a waste of effort. "Hey, 3 out of every 5 of us want to show you how much you need me!" To be fair, 3 out of 5 also had a top priority with regard to 'strategic management solutions'. It seems like this latter choice should be there while the former choice could be much lower. Another top priority was financial management, which I take to mean the management of a budget for the department and education/training.

The article reminded me of a conversation a long time ago with an HR professional regarding annual goals. Initially, the conversation started with a proposal that the goals should be 'maintaining the HR processes.' As I started to ask why particular processes were important, the HR manager told me what was important about them. "Okay," I replied, "and what happens if you're successful in maintaining those processes...or, better yet, improve the processes?"

"The processes get better and we save money" was the answer.

"Great! What if I stop doing those things entirely, dismantle the department, and save all kinds of money? Not that I would, but let's take the savings to an extreme."

After the quelling of her fear and confusion, she replied, "Things would get worse."

"In what way?"

After some thoughtful minutes, she told me. I thanked her. I then asked, "So if we improve the processes, what sorts of results will we see in the organization? How is your department bringing strategic value to the organization?"

Then the conversation turned to metrics regarding quality of new employees, learning curves during the first 90 days, reduced turnover and hiring expenses, overall work team effectiveness and productivity, reduced communication barriers between people and departments, improved customer service and product/service delivery, knowledge transfer and retention of expertise, etc. If HR is effective, then the rest of the organization will be effective in bringing value to the market. There's no need to justify HR's existence unless it's strictly inwardly focused--like growing an education budget line item, which we all know is only 20% useful (because most education/training is wasted).

Maybe this is what the survey results were getting at. I'm not sure. I am sure that when HR focuses on what's good for the overall organization, they will find ways to improve their own processes to facilitate the company's ability to dominate a market with its competitive advantage--a culture of collaboration built on internal trust and respect.

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