HR wants a remuneration review.

HR wants to improve employee engagement.

HR wants to create a better graduate program.

HR wants to review performance management policies…

Ugh.

My problem with all this?

If it’s only HR wanting it, you may as well not bother.

You’ve got two options in your organisation:

  1. Employ a HR team to manage your legal liability, administration, check pay rates and holidays are by the book, manage recruitment… etc. Or,
  2. Be the kind of leader that prioritises ensuring you cultivate a brilliant place to work that people love and then, employ a HR team to help you and your leadership team achieve that.

If the opening paragraph of this article resonated with you (and you inwardly groaned because it all sounds so bloody familiar) I’m challenging you to consider – what if it’s not the HR team who is getting it wrong? What if it’s you?

The HR function has two primary purposes in my mind:

  • Ensure that the company is meeting its legal obligations, policies, procedures. remuneration etc. This stuff is boring critical but is crucially important for a well-functioning business.
  • Providing the leadership team with the tools, knowledge and advice so they can actualise the workplace they want for their people. This could be the cultivation of a zany, fun, creative workplace. Or a results-driven one. Or a family atmosphere. But the most critical component for me is that they enable the leadership to fulfil their mission.

What often happens instead of the latter is that either, the HR team aren’t set up for success in terms of team/experience, or, the leadership team doesn’t know what work environment they want, or they don’t think the HR team can help deliver it.

How do you figure out what your problem is?

If this is resonating with you and you recognise something has to change, I’d recommend looking at:

Step 1. Consider, where does your HR team report into?

Rather than a blanket ‘you should have a CHRO’ statement – as clearly there isn’t a one-size-fits-all structure that you can pick up and drop in – I’d challenge you to consider what your HR team’s place in the structure says about your priorities.

– Does the HR Director report to the CFO? An operational executive? Safety? What does that say about how important your people strategy is to your business?

– Do you have an HR Manager who is focused on the detail? Or someone the CEO comes to for advice, HR related or not.

– Is your HR function strategic? Has your structure been set up to give them that luxury?

Step 2. Ask yourself the tough questions:

– Are you the problem? Potentially your HR team has the capability to deliver much more than you’re currently allowing them to.

– Have you ever seen HR operate in a truly strategic capacity? If not, ask your network. What business leaders do you know who count their HR leader as one of their first ports of call when considering a strategic business decision?

– Do you really consider establishing the culture of the workplace as a priority? How much thought have you given, how much strategic planning time? How linked do you see the workplace environment to reaching your goals as an organisation?

Step 3: Conduct a HR review:

Two years ago, I completed a piece of research for my Masters on how my organisation’s shared service functions were delivering on what the operational part of the business required (and the concept of organisational drift – thanks Snook). As a part of this work I examined the literature around how shared service teams evaluate their own work, vs those they business partner with. Surprise surprise, we’re often not great at critically reviewing our own work.

Be wary of engaging a random consultant to analyse your team, instead, go with recommendations and someone who has successfully reshaped HR teams for reasons driven by the business. This can’t just be a review of your HR function either – remember, the problem could be bigger than just the team! So, as well as their capability, capacity and ability to deliver to the business, look at their remit, the support and the responsibility given to the team.

Woah! That’s a lot of food for thought. If this is something that you’re keen to talk more about I’d love hear your thoughts.

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