Corporate Punch Bag, Corporate Police Force or Something Else?
Get it right and HR is the function that helps unite the organisation creating a harmonious and high performing organisation where people are productive, uncomplaining and mutually supportive.
HR as a Punch Bag
HR can easily get blamed for all the organisation’s failings in the eyes of employees and managers alike. Managers hide behind HR when the going gets tough and take the approach, “it wasn’t my idea, HR wanted it done this way”. A classic example of this is the system of “forced ranking” within appraisal where Managers would be more generous with ratings than the system allows. When employees complain, the explanation given by the Manager is “If I could have, I would have given you a higher rating but HR does not allow it”.
A further example is with grievances and complaints. When HR gets it wrong, HR takes away the responsibility from the management function for the decisions and as result the management team side step the responsibility for the outcome allowing both parties to take a free hit at HR.
HR as a Police Force
HR has the responsibility for establishing policy and ensuring precedent is consistent with policy. In this way, when a breach of policy occurs, the line management team hand over to HR to do the dirty work; take the responsibility for clearing up the mess and applying the necessary sanction.
HR leads the investigation and takes the decisions again releasing responsibility from the line management team. The outcome being that HR is the police force attempting to keep the organisation in line but widely distrusted and disliked.
So, what is the key to this successful approach to HR? It is simple. HR is delivered through the management team not around it. This requires a redefinition of the role of HR and, to some extent, the role of the management team.
There are a few key practices that must be followed
It is a mistake for HR to be internally focused. HR must be connected to the outside world. HR policy and practice must be developed to anticipate socio-economic developments and ensure that the organisation keeps pace with the completion and the rest of society.
HR must lead by example. HR has to be a shining example of the application of the organisation’s values. So, HR practices that touch employees and prospective employees must be consistent with the highest standards expected elsewhere in the organisation. As an example, recruitment practices must not only be thorough and professional but also considerate and a genuinely two-way experience.
HR must lead on the question of Integrity and Equality. As an example, practices for internal promotion must avoid favouritism and bias. Discrimination and undue influence are not always overt. Sometimes they are subtle and hidden but even more damaging for being so. HR must ensure that internal promotion is transparent and based upon true ability.
HR must be flexible and quick to respond. Too often HR is the function which slows things down or introduces bureaucracy when the leadership wants action.
HR must ensure the views of the employees are taken into account in a general sense but particularly when change is being introduced.
Most importantly and overall, the HR function has to hand the responsibility for management to the management team. All decisions affecting a leader’s employees must be taken by the Leader. HR’s role is to advise and support that Leader but not to take over.
These issues and more will be considered in the Glomacs course Human Resource Development and Personnel Management which takes place in Kuala Lumpur in May, Amsterdam in October and London in December. See http://glomacs.com/seminars/human-resources-development-and-personnel-management