Being born and raised in North Carolina and now living in Iowa I miss using that term, y’all. It’s like a warm hug backed with a smile.
But, seriously, y’all ... quit picking on HR, Human Resources. Never in the history of organizations has so much been asked of so few and so little offered in the way of resources, training, support, clarity of mission and purpose, authority and autonomy.
I’ve been, well, blessed to work with a few excellent professionals in Human Resources. ( Thank you, Ellen.) They were motivated, caring, smart and talented and delivered effective solutions on very delicate issues that other managers avoided melted ice cream. Full confession here, I was very skeptical of their intrusion into this issue even as I had no solutions. Only desperation moved me to seek their counsel. At the outcome I was so very glad I did seek them out.
HR suffers not from a lack of talented, strong, capable, well-meaning, hard-working, educated and hard-working professionals. They suffer from a lack of position. It’s their position in the org chart. They’re stuck somewhere, off to the side, hanging on by a thread, the ultimate red-headed step child someone’s forced to take ‘cause no one wants them.
The rock and a hard place metaphor should be updated with HR’s position on an org chart. Instead of saying "Yeah, you're stuck between a rock and hard place" you could say:
"Yeah, you talk about your HR spot on the org chart."
The chart reflects the groans of senior management that “Yeah, we need a human resources department” but not knowing what they do or could do if you gave them clear direction, a mandate, some support and authority. Y’d know if you listened to ‘em. My sense is too many executives think of HR as those folks who handle the insurance and 401K signups and when someone’s crying or those canned sexual harassment classes that no one pays attention to anyway.
No. Seriously. HR arrives as a startup’s first sign of bureaucracy. As the employee payroll grows, the org chart grows in complexity and specialization and ... management wants to move on up to the east side, where the talk is about strategy and partnerships and vision and VC money and perks. In their mind, the detritus - policies and regulations, compliance and ... employee ... ewwww, issues - can then be dumped on the desks of HR. Any questions are answered: “We hired you to handle that. We thought you were a professional.”
That leaves HR as meddlers and muddlers, mucking around and no one knows why.
All their skills and strengths and energy and enthusiasm have been reduced into serving as the corporate storage room. Don’t know where something belongs or how to do it? Dump it in HR’s office. That leaves HR buried in all the stuff no one wants to talk about and no authority to get them to talk about it and if you do they resent it cause they don’t know why and they know HR’s been left with no authority to change things but HR keeps trying. Because they’re professionals and dedicated and adults.
Quit pickin’ on HR. Give them a clear mandate, an executive sponsor, authority and autonomy to execute that mandate, communicate that throughout the company consistently - even when it requires you to take a stand and back them up. Hire senior, talented, HR people. Then invite their input at your big important strategic meetings. Wanna know why? Cause they know the organization, stuck as they are handling all the nitty-gritty, squishy details so they’re not a distraction.
On the other hand, HR, y’all gotta stand up for yourself and communicate better what exactly is your value-add to the mission, to everyone’s mission which gets down to answering for every person these three questions:
- HR, what’s in it for me?
- HR, why should I care?
- HR, why should I believe?
You know those answers. Teach them.
Thanks for listening.