The primary role of HR is NOT to be a people-facing function
In my earlier post on HR I had promised a more detailed note on the role of HR and, as I read the Economic Times article on HR, I was once again reminded of the dissonance between HR and employees, and the unfairness of it all inspired me to immediately put this down.
The primary role of HR is NOT to be a people-facing function. There. Let’s start with that.
Just like any other function, HR brings a core competence to the business, which the business must recognize and leverage. The primary problems are:
1. Business is unclear what to expect from HR. As a result HR gets neither credit nor necessary empowerment. And ends up with a lot of blame, because the function with fuzzy, unaccountable goals always gets in trouble. Look at any organization that has a great HR track record and you will realize that in those organizations, Business GETS IT. They GET what HR must deliver.
2. Quality of HR Talent. Trained on and brought up on fuzzy expectations/norms, the HR Talent world is woefully thin. And since most HR professionals themselves are unable to clearly articulate/educate for the business, what they bring to the table. The cycle continues.
The role of being people facing, of looking after employees’ best interests, of ensuring employees are treated fairly, managed well, appraised effectively and rewarded financially and non-financially belongs to each manager and each function head, and finally the CEO.
HR’s job is to ensure the following:
1. Raw Material supply: Just like an SCM function is responsible for sourcing and bringing raw material in. So also the HR team is expected to help the business bring in the talent and staffing required to run the business appropriately. This is a partnered role, where HR will ensure that key processes are in place, but the final outcome depends on the final interview and assessment conducted by the business i.e. supervisor/function head. It is the role of HR to ensure that there is a well developed capability across the organization to interview effectively and that assessments are consistent across various interviewers. It is HR’s job to ensure that the cost of hiring is within established benchmarks/goals.
2. From Raw Material to Finished Goods or Ready goods for the next process: Once the SCM function has brought in the goods. They are handed over to manufacturing to be processed. Similarly, the goal of effective performance management is to ensure that each employee receives input that enables her to perform at her best, and to grow and develop in resonance with the organizations values and culture. Once again, the primary role belongs to the manager of the employee. HR’s job, is to ensure that there is a clear, well-defined, proven process. And that the manager is effectively competent in the process and skills required to do the above. It is also HR’s job to provide MIS on the health of the process and the health of the talent across the organization.
3. Quality Check and Quality Assurance: From time to time, HR must establish whether the Input-Process-Output is performing as per design and expectations. Hence it must perform the role of Quality Check at key points. And work in the Quality Assurance role, alongside the managers to help them raise their levels of capability.
4. Conscience keeper: In addition to the above, HR plays a vital role in being the conscience of the organization. And for this HR is accountable for Truth-telling. If the organization is going astray from it’s values. If the culture is not supportive of the strategy or if there is a departure from the Mission, HR must speak up. In this role it needs to work closely with the CEO and the Leadership team and must be unflinching in it’s ability to tell the truth.
5. Metrics and other transactional areas: Just like the finance team is accountable for certain core financial processes, so also the HR team is responsible for some things purely HR: keeping compensation benchmarks up-to-date and providing input on how the organization compares. Ensuring consistent and transparent policies are available to employees. And there are a few more.
I would like to hear what you think. Please add to this note, so we can make it more complete.
I would also like you to comment on the capabilities required of HR professionals if the above are indeed their roles.