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Is HR In Trouble? What We Can Do

Originally posted: April 17, 2011 on TrishMcFarlane.com

There is one blog I make sure I don’t miss reading.  It’s Jason Lauritsen’s blog Transforming Business Through Talent. He used to call it Practicing HR which does resonate with me since working in human resources is certainly an art to be practiced and not a science.  Why do I listen to Jason?  Jason is the VP of HR at Union Bank and Trust, so he has the credibility to bring his expert opinion to us so that we can learn to be better leaders ourselves.

Jason just wrote a great article called HR Is In Trouble. He wrote it as a way to prepare for a session he’s co-leading with Steve Browne at the upcoming HRevolution.  I encourage you to read the full article.   Jason says that HR has work to do in order to move the organization down the path.  He starts with the following mission statement:

HR exists to try to compensate for and minimize the effect of poor management and a lack of organizational leadership.

This statement touched a nerve in me and my comment on his blog turned quite long so I’ll share it here.

Jason, I am trying to wrap my mind around what you claim our mission statement should be. You say it’s to, “try to compensate for and minimize the effect of poor management and a lack of organizational leadership.”  While that is certainly one goal that can support the overall role and mission of HR, it is not our mission. I believe the reason that HR exists is something like this:

HR exists to provide expertise in hiring, coaching, and advising leadership in managing the people aspect of the business. We also provide the compliance aspects related to people.

Your idea is certainly what reality is for many of us. I do spend a great deal of time trying to compensate for the skills that managers do not have mastered as it relates to people. This is a way that HR minimizes the effect of poor leadership. However, we do have to accept that a major part of the HR role is to ensure that employees are paid properly, documented properly, administered benefits of all kinds, and that we follow the laws related to employees.

It’s not glamorous work. The problem I see, and I include myself in this, is that once we do those compliance pieces for years we want to do glamorous work. So, we set out to create it. We start morphing our work into a hybrid of HR/marketing/financial/communications and that is ok. We just can’t forget that part of the sole purpose of HR has to remain the compliance piece.

HR cannot change organizations on our own. So, what CAN we do?

  • Get more honest. We have to be able to tell leaders straight up when they are deficient in managing their people.
  • We have to have the confidence in our expertise and tell leaders how we can help them improve on their leadership capabilities.
  • We need to OWN the compliance piece proudly. WE need to be BOLD here. The most senior leadership needs to hear us say, “We have the compliance piece all tied up with a ribbon. We’re experiencing 100% accuracy in processing and tracking information.” Since we’re not there yet, it’s hard to be seen as credible in other areas we want to play in.
  • We need to manage our HR departments better. Look around. We have the same people issues that other departments have. Cut loose the poor performers, create a vision that directly leads to success and then execute.

What do you think?  What can we do in order to demonstrate that HR is not in trouble?  Share your ideas on Jason’s blog or here in the comments.

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