We have a perception problem in HR the world over. We are often seen as the function internally that is used to “outsource” the hiring and firing of people from the operations side of the business. Some would say doing the dirty work of managers.
Human Resources is supposed to add value to an organization. Sure undertaking tasks that one manager may not do very often can help improve consistency, but it’s about much more than that.
If a manager hires their own people, they have a vested interest in their development and performance. If that activity is “outsourced” from their responsibility it is easy for them to blame a bad hire on HR, and not want to take appropriate action.
If HR wants to be professional, and organizations desire to really value HR then we need to do things differently.
Set the scene and the standards
One area where HR can really deliver is to understand the EXTERNAL market. What people and skills are available, what skills are in short supply. What is the real market place value for certain skills our organization needs. Are those skills considered “talent” for the organization?
Often HR get wrapped up in internal policies and procedure design and implementation– we are often seen as the organizational police. This is not helpful to anyone.
We need to move away from a doing role, to an advisory role. Of course there will be certain administrative activities that it is sensible to centralize in HR, but we are not, and should not be a central administration function. We must not be seen as a cost to an organization, but a value added service.
Understand the language
Look back at your last monthly reports to senior managers. You do publish these don’t you? What is the content? Is it just numbers of people in and out of employment, sickness, attendance on training courses etc?
What about the contribution we make to reducing costs? The level of service we offer for a particular value? The increase in productivity?
Unless we speak the language of finance, marketing and operations, then we as HR will remain an administration function, often seen as a low value function.
Many business people and managers say “people are our greatest asset” – ok so it’s up to us to show that to be the case.
Show them the money
The biggest challenge we have is clearly showing our abilities in this area. So often need to start small. Change in this arena is often slow. This is actually the best way. In many situations we need to show that we do have this type of competence.
Last year for example I was leading a session on Public Private Partnerships for a government ministry in Abuja, Nigeria. In the group were just under 40 people ranging from senior engineers, HR, administrators and of course organization leaders. One of the challenges they faced was the shift from contract – and the “letter” of the contract, to the real development of trust and partnerships across the partners. There was a real opportunity for HR to take the lead, but they could not step out of their administration mindset. The seminar itself was a success, as the opportunity of having to do things differently was exposed.
The neat thing with change is that once you know something it’s impossible to forget it. Sure action may not be taken at the speed people expect, but change will happen. Indeed over the 5 days I saw a real shift in many of their thoughts and attitudes to partnership working.
The HR challenge
The real challenge is for us to start thinking differently. We can start to educate managers and leaders that we can and do understand business and that we can make an active contribution. This we can only do slowly, and alongside our traditional roles. To attempt to stop what we are known for suddenly will just undermine us.
Learn the jargon. Talk the language of your managers. Given them information they can use that adds to achieving THEIR goals.