Article: Move beyond bureaucracy in HR to create a high performing credible function

Strategic HR

Move beyond bureaucracy in HR to create a high performing credible function

There is an urgent need to shed bureaucratic reputation of HR for bringing in the new modern HR world that reflects a growth mindset in every respect.
Move beyond bureaucracy in HR to create a high performing credible function

Frequently conjuring up images of bureaucratic weight and obsession in completing piles of paperwork is what people categorize as the core job of an HR function. As a matter of fact, even in this era, other function speaks differently about the so called ‘non-technical department’ of Human Resources which historically has been tagged as a support function for long. Still many leaders do not make the needed effort and stand up for removing this tag which is evidently creating a hindrance amidst a progressive new modern HR world of today. 

The bureaucratic mindset results in unnecessary generalization of the department as a whole. The dichotomy of perception and assumptions versus the reality is clearly seen a matter of debate amongst cross functional teams. Moreover, this is taking decades of true effort to amend the credibility of the unsung heroes, the HR professionals, who often feel discouraged and dismayed trying to become the flag bearer of the much needed change.  

None of us can deny this ruthless fact to a much larger extent. However, on the contrary one cannot either undermine the tumultuous growth mindset of few organizations who are taking enormous measures to establish the new paradigm of a modern HR world that’s moving away from a bureaucratic mindset finally. A future that is paving the way towards a more progressive HR filled with credible and respected leaders, who are moving to own up the boardroom responsibilities with full dedication.  And one of the primary reasons can be credited to the multidimensional mindset shift that is moving beyond bureaucracy in HR, thereby creating a high performing credible function. 

Let us understand this through an example. A global software company’s CEO realized that its performance review process gave it only a superficial understanding of their high performers. Hence, the HR team was asked to deemphasize the existing nine-box calibration grid and radically simplify the employee review system. The HR leader and his team, previously stuck in the bureaucratic process-oriented furrow, now have been able to strategically figure out the correct rationale for what they have been doing for years without thinking. The onus of filling talent gaps for improving performance returns should have been taken up much ahead by the HR team on their own rather than waiting for being instructed by the CEO.

The best HR teams are expected to offer a perspective on emerging gaps much before they arise. A rigorous HR function must be tagged as an ‘adviser with an edge’ who should be able to track and interpret data and assert a point of view much ahead of everyone.

There are two very prominent perennial mental programming challenges that need to be known and addressed in order to understand what works behind the scene that hinders leaders to create a high performing HR culture.

Homeostatic impulse

It is a term that is alternatively used in the mental realm for an unconscious tendency to be drawn irresistibly towards doing what you have always done. The subconscious mind keeps you thinking and acting in a manner consistent with what you have done and said in the past. Homeostatic impulse forces you to confine within your comfort zone. The inability to break free of the tentacles of the past way of doing things is the reason many HR leaders or team members accomplish far less than they are capable of and this holds them back from occupying a prominent seat in boardrooms. 


Another bureaucratic mindset obstacle that comes in the way of HR professionals is related to ‘psychosclerosis’. This refers to the natural tendency to fall in love with one’s own ideas and then vigorously defend it against anything new. It is the hardening of the mind wherein ones attitude becomes non trainable. Such mental programming prohibits the move beyond bureaucracy. 

It is imperative for organizations regardless of its size, to swing the well founded inclination of HR process pendulum away from a bureaucratic mindset. There are many HR leaders who have been quite vocal while trying to make changes in the way HR is viewed as a function in an endeavor to bring back the much needed credibility of the function. Such a shift is must that requires both rigor and restraint from the organization’s side too.

Summing up with a piece of wisdom derived from a short story of ancient Greece period. Many years ago, a traveler was looking for his way to reach to Mount Olympus. He met an old man who happened to be Socrates and asked him direction. The old man passionately replied to him:

 ‘If you really want to get to Mount Olympus, just make sure that every step you take is in that direction’. 

The moral is quite simple and the relevance is apt here. Organizations and its leaders need to just make sure that every thought and every action that is taken for yourself as a ‘Leader’ must be in the right direction for you as well as your team to bring in a more efficient, respected and credible HR function.

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Topics: Strategic HR, #ChangeTheGame

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