A Better Human Resources Team

How often have you heard business leaders wishing that their Human Resources team was more strategic? I have heard that several times and felt that on a number of occassions through unsaid words. Leaders wish that HR departments are more strategic in their focus, rather than being overly pre-occupied by administrative and transactional tasks. Leaders, today, want their HR team to create business value, instead of having ‘compliance’, ‘adherence’ and ‘tasks’ as their top KPIs or KRAs.

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But, when it comes to core functions like Finance or Marketing or Sales, leaders do not have the same disillusion. Though leaders are always pushing these teams to deliver more and more, they are not so hopeless about them in most cases. Why? To my mind, there are two key things which undermine the HR departments’ ability to create business value.

  • Diffused Focus: Frankly, most HR teams suffer from a diluted focus. The lack of separation of “administrative” tasks and “strategic” human capital management ensures that HR hours are mostly spent on transactional activities, rather than creating & executing transformational plans. This is even more prevalent in traditional businesses. For HR to act as a business partner, it has to be close to the business and focus on the bigger issues. The admin function should be a separate group, which is aligned to the HR needs of the organization.
  • Lack of incentives: This is a strange observation that many of us may have made. In several good business schools, I have seen that the cream of the class always opts for careers in Finance or Sales / Marketing. HR is usually taken up by people in the 1st and 2nd quartiles of the class. Why? (Note: I am not trying to undermine anyone’s abilities or pedigree here) My hypothesis is that HR careers are less rewarding than a career in the core business functions, thus incentivizing the best people to choose careers in areas other than HR. Companies could look at this situation more strategically and with a long-term view. Leaders do recognize the role of people in the success of their businesses. If companies could make HR careers as rewarding as others, the best minds would be keen to work in the field, since the opportunity costs would be low.

Again, these are hypotheses and may or may not be apply to all cases.

What do you think needs to be done in order to ensure that HR departments can add real business value?

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12 thoughts on “A Better Human Resources Team

  1. nice read. Imho, hr is given pretty lame targets to start with! This is probably due to the enmasse presumption that processes should be the driving factor of a company. The hr agrees, the rest dont.

    Also, i agree on ur hypothesis of the backenchers in b-schools taking up hr… Things need to change.

    Chao…
    Cruisemaniac.

    Like

  2. Thanks for your comments @cruisemaniac
    With regard to your point about HR being given lame targets, it makes for an interesting chicken & egg situation.

    Like

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    Like

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  5. Hello, I just thought I’d post a comment and inform you that your blogs layout is really screwed up on the Firefox browser. Seems to work fine in IE however. Anyhow keep up the great work.

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    • Thanks for your comments!
      Funny thing though – I have had no complaints whatsoever regarding the layout getting messed up in Firefox. Infact, I use firefox all the time.

      Like

  6. Hi Abhishek,

    Nice post.

    In my opinion, lot of our leaders are also responsible for the situation that we are in with regards to the HR departments in the organization.

    As you rightly said diffused focus on the part of HR team is affecting its performance; at the same time diffused focus of the leadership team is also compromising HR’s position.

    While devising organizational strategies, not many leaders would envisage aligning people practices with strategic goals or devising execution plans which leverage organizational culture & capability as key step in the planning & execution process.

    Most of talk around strategic focus of HR and people centricity is just that “talk”.

    The idea is to move beyond talk and focus on execution which keeps people at the centre and works around them.

    In addition to what you said, this shift in focus which takes into account external and internal capabilities would certainly help in making HR’s role more meaningful.

    Regards,
    SG.

    Like

  7. Dear Abhishek,

    Its though provoking article. I feel Current Knowledge Economy, no orgnisation can afford to loose sight of HR Issues. In a Current situation every organization have to attract best talent, Motivate them for the delivery and retain them. If we see most of the Fortune 500 CEO’s KRA ‘S Human Resource is a major Indicator. In this context how HR can say they are not giving importance to HR Department. How much importance HR get is , the way HR responds Pro actively and re actively for the Organizational requirements.

    Indeed from last decade CEO expectations from HR is raised diversified. majorly because of the rapid changes in market space.

    I can give my Organizational example we work in Telecommunication Solutions Space. decade back its ok we take longer time for New Product Development. But now our New Product Development and launch time lines are shortened .That’s have great impact in Organization Design, Organization Processes like Communication, Inter personal skills, Conflict Resolution and Decision making and Leadership.

    On above said areas HR can contribute a great length in Competency Development.

    It have an direct effect on HR System like Talent exhaustion, Talent Development, Compensation and other HR Systems.

    What i feel if HR want a place in Enterprise Building Process they have to raise to the expectations of the Enterprise 2.0

    Shiva

    Like

  8. Nice post Abhishek.

    The issue can be viewed from two perspectives; on the one hand HR practitioners can be blamed for the lack of a strategic push for HR matters. As some lack the vision to see HR from a wholistic perspective and would merely concern themselves with operational matters. Or there is always the excuse that there isn’t time to deal with HR strategic matters. Some others do not possess the capacity to key into the overall strategic vision of their organisations and cannot translate strategic initiatives into operational targets to enhance the overall perception of HR.

    The other perspective being the lack of ‘strategic support’ by business leaders for all HR related matters. As you stated in the post, business leaders readily provide incentives for those members of staff working in Finance or Marketing and leave those in HR to fend for themselves, as they have to struggle to gain relevance. In my opinion, one way of pushing for building a better human resources team would be to give Strategic Human Resources relevance right from the very top of the organisation, from the Board of Directors through to the Senior Executive Management team, and then cascade the relevance down throughout the entire organisation.

    To build a better Human Resources Team, there must be a deliberate and conscious effort by everyone concerned to always push HR matters to the forefront of strategic management discourse.

    Like

  9. Reblogged this on Sofolahan Says.. and commented:
    The issue can be viewed from two perspectives; on the one hand HR practitioners can be blamed for the lack of a strategic push for HR matters. As some lack the vision to see HR from a wholistic perspective and would merely concern themselves with operational matters. Or there is always the excuse that there isn’t time to deal with HR strategic matters. Some others do not possess the capacity to key into the overall strategic vision of their organisations and cannot translate strategic initiatives into operational targets to enhance the overall perception of HR.

    The other perspective being the lack of ‘strategic support’ by business leaders for all HR related matters. As you stated in the post, business leaders readily provide incentives for those members of staff working in Finance or Marketing and leave those in HR to fend for themselves, as they have to struggle to gain relevance. In my opinion, one way of pushing for building a better human resources team would be to give Strategic Human Resources relevance right from the very top of the organisation, from the Board of Directors through to the Senior Executive Management team, and then cascade the relevance down throughout the entire organisation.

    To build a better Human Resources Team, there must be a deliberate and conscious effort by everyone concerned to always push HR matters to the forefront of strategic management discourse.

    Like

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