Article: In 2018, whom does HR serve?

Employee Engagement

In 2018, whom does HR serve?

The 2018 agenda must focus on a review and reflection, and result in a re-engineered and re-engaged HR function and make everyone his/her own HR Manager
In 2018, whom does HR serve?

HR has many stakeholders. Significant among them are: 

  1. Top Management representing business strategies and priorities;
  2. Employees so they are kept motivated, competent and exhibit right values and culture;
  3. HR function itself so that it is occupied doing right things and things right, professional, and gets valued or given significance;
  4. External world (media, professional bodies, and other agencies) for dissemination of good practices, and employer brand building etc. 


Most HR in the past has served to a large extent the first (the top management) and the last two stakeholders (itself and external world). HR has got a lot of visibility and significance among the top management, HR profession itself and in the external world as indicated by its positioning at the Board level, media coverage and representation in professional bodies and growth in the profession itself. 

Unfortunately, it is yet to establish itself as the most admired function among the employees. It is yet to establish its credibility by serving the main stakeholders it is meant to serve, and that is ‘employees’. The good news is that good CEOs are seen as “HR-driven” or people-driven but not necessarily by their HR teams.

HR has worked hard and made a significant impact in many cases on delivering short-term results. HR policies and priorities that delivered short-term benefits in the recent past relate to:  retention management and attrition studies, recruitment, incentives, pay hikes and performance linked pays, work conditions or great place to work, employee engagement surveys, forced distribution and performance management etc. In a few cases, upgradation of technology and use of HR analytics have also been undertaken. Some progressive organizations have worked on:

  1. Undertaking exercises to create a leadership pipeline through leadership development programs; 
  2. Assessment and development centers to identify high-potentials and future leaders;
  3. Effective performance management programs that have done away with forced distributions and began to treat every employee as a potential contributor; 
  4. 360-degree feedback to enhance self-awareness, prepare development plans to enhance their own managerial and leadership effectiveness; and 
  5. Coaching and mentoring through the organized development of coaching skills and creating a coaching culture.


Organization development and institution building concerns that focus on building lasting organizational culture, building sustainability, intellectual capital building, building people capabilities for long-term sustainability have reduced. The focus was more on adopting the trend of the day than building long-term culture and change. In their impatience to get short-term results, organizations have undertaken some of the above programs as “Quick fix Programs” than as long-term organization development interventions. High attrition in HR professionals in some organizations facilitated experimentation with many of the above and related interventions than sustainable work for organization building.

Multiplicity of consultants used, and interventions undertaken diffused the focus from serving employees to self-serving HR. 

Technology application, HR analytics have emerged as the new agenda items, but people are still learning. HR analytics has phenomenal potential, but we are limiting the same to short-term concerns. For example, application of HR analytics to predict attrition and retention are good initiatives. However, HR analytics is seen in some cases as merely predictive tool of attrition and this restricts the use of HR analytics. HR analytics should be used as an organization development tool that enables employees to self-manage motivation, engagement and happiness at workplace. Technology should move from HR to the hands of employees and from HR managing people to self-management of employees.

For HR to make a better impact, it should move and make a quantum leap to serve its main stakeholder and that is employees.

Administration or employee management should totally disappear from HRD radar. Culture building, and value development should become focus. Individuals should be helped to take more responsibility for their contributions and contribution management should replace performance management. Discussions on forced distribution should disappear and OD should return back.

The 2018 agenda must focus on a review and reflection, and result in a re-engineered and re-engaged HR function. HR should move away from serving the external world to servicing the internal world and focus on strategies that empower employees to engage and enhance their contributions to the place of their work. HR should enhance its own in-house credibility and manage its own attrition and enhance its own engagement. Our approach to technology should change. Common sense cannot be replaced with system, and technology can only be an aid and not a substitute. The main agenda for 2018 for HR is to make everyone his/her own HR Manager. If HR does not do it in a planned way, it will happen by default with little credit to HR! 

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Topics: Employee Engagement

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