HR is typically thought of as a cost center that does not contribute to the bottom line even though they are responsible for hiring and protecting your company’s most important asset-people. Without strong, satisfied and motivated people in place your business will not grow to its potential. The Management Team often view HR as a team of paper pushers who take care of benefits and policies, or are a necessary evil-here to protect the company and limit issues like harassment, lawsuits and push compliance in terms of treatment and policies. The most significant reason this reality exists is because overall industry continues to see HR as a compliance issue. It is a discipline that “asks” to be at the table rather demanding it. It is a discipline that should not spend the time with benefits, payroll and benefits but rather with strategic opportunities.
Human Resources has grown as an industry to include experts in the field of Organizational Development, Change Management, Continuous Process Improvement, as well as those who gain impressive training and enjoy significant tenure in Benefits Administration, Recruiting, Policy Analysis, and Training. Yet more often than not we look for managers with degrees in business administration or MBA’s with a sub specialty in HR or promote people with no experience or background in management at all. The subtle thinking here is that HR continues to be a small subset of core competencies needed to run a company. Our business and the people who drive them are too complex to continue to rely on managers who have simply been promoted within non-management disciplines with employee management tacked on. As industry, all industries, continue to compete for talent, the skills HR professionals bring to the table will represent strategic core competencies, historically known as skills. We have evolved and the language associated with our skills has evolved along with us.
HR is the partner in your business that is the expert on people and human behavior. If they are not, they are the wrong people. Talking about strategy without Human Resources core skills represented at the table is like trying to plan for next year’s budget without this year’s numbers. Metric’s are powerful tools but, as with any kind of measurement, a lack of understanding about their application renders data worthless. Good HR is about observation and analysis behind the scenes, compiling complex data about individual workers as they progress through the workforce.
In a recent study done by the Hay Group “just 40% of employees commended their company on retaining high quality workers. 41% agreed that performance evaluations were fair. 58% rated their job training as favorable. Most said they have few opportunities for advancement-and they didn't know in any case, what was required to move up. Most telling, only half the workers below the manager level believed their companies took a genuine interest in their well-being” (Fast Company, August 2005). What does this really mean? As a manager why do I care about this statistic? Do I think it even applies to me?
The numbers are often scary and the management books talk about solutions that worked really well in the authors companies or consulting projects but what about your company? You have a manager that just doesn’t care. The President knows that turnover is bad but doesn’t ever seem to do anything. Your boss is the Owner’s uncle. Change would be great but it never seems to happen. Where is HR? Are they at the table? HR professionals are confronted with these questions and problems everyday and can build measurable strategies to address turnover, low morale and underperforming employees.
I know it is difficult to measure the tangible results of HR when so much is intangible. The truth is, it is hard because we are not in the habit of evaluating leadership. We are not in the habit of seeing ourselves as a potential barrier to...