It doesn’t matter: It’s just HR

When we spend time talking about ourselves, it is time lost talking about the things that matter to our employees, to our leaders and to our organisations.

  • it doesn’t matter where we report, or who reports to us
  • it doesn’t matter what we’re called, or what we’re not
  • it doesn’t matter which part of us are in, or which parts are out

Our obsession with the inconsequential is time we lose from talking about the challenges of the economy, the dilemma of organisational productivity, the challenges of wellbeing and grasping the individual business opportunities that exist.

Employees don’t care whether we are Personnel, HR, People, Talent or bananas. They really don’t. They have zero interest in whether L&D or recruitment are part of HR or not. And whether you’re a manager, advisor, business partner or officer, just doesn’t enter their heads.

There is zero value added through any of these debates or activities. And moreover, the internal focus represents a dangerous tendency to ignore or fail to understand the value drivers within the organisation.

Next time you find yourself talking about yourselves, try to define the value that will be added through the discussion and any resultant change. Try to think about the various stakeholder groups that you have and the evidence that supports there is any kind of problem.

And if you can’t find a compelling reason, a compelling argument or compelling evidence? Then stop wasting everyone’s time and remember why you’re paid and employed – to add value to others, not yourself.

It really doesn’t matter: It’s just HR.

Diagnose, don’t dream

Our ability to influence and to develop the human agenda within organisations depends on our ability to deliver successful solutions in to our businesses. Yet far too often, I see and hear of interventions that start from the solution and not from the diagnosis.

We have the answer before we know the questions.

Part of the reason for this is our eternal fixation with HR best practice and part of it is a need to feel that we are “delivering”. But I also think there is often a fundamental disconnect between our understanding of why we are in an organisation and the real value that we can add.

I’ve written before about the importance of marketing and also thinking about the impact on the end-user. And these have to be underpinned by a robust approach to diagnosis.

What are we trying to achieve?
How do we know that we need to achieve this?
What is the data that informs this?
What would success deliver?

I have a simple belief that in HR our “value add” is to make the organisation perform better. In order to do this we need to observe, sense and understand the areas of tension or friction, we need to relate these to the organisational system that we operate within. Then we need to be clever and creative in finding ways to drive improvement.

The simple benefit of doing this is that we can clearly articulate the need for the specific piece of work that we are doing, we can provide the context within the organisational system and then we can measure the impact. We base the need in the organisation, not in the HR department.

Influence comes from the ability to articulate our value, and that becomes a whole lot easier if we start with the diagnosis and end with the cure rather than just dreaming up need and repeatedly telling people what’s good for them.

Because none of us need that. Do we?

Because you’re worth it. Aren’t you?

The nature of my life is such that the topics of conversation can verge from the sublime to the ridiculous, to the completely unexpected. A case in point is that last week I managed to discuss the array of deviant sexual practices and the financial model of HR services within the same 24 hours.

Go figure.

Whilst I’d love to tell you all about felching spoons and the fetishistic objectification of nuns, I’m not sure that would be the best use of your time, please the internet censors, or be particularly wholesome. That said, if you catch me over a glass of wine or two, who knows what could happen….

But that’s not the point. Or maybe it is. But it’s not THIS point.

Most HR teams are set up as cost centres. They’re overheads. Essentially this means that as a user, you get what you’re given. And you pay for it, whether you like it or not. There are advantages to this. Sometimes we have to do things that people don’t want, or don’t know that they want. Sometimes we need to do things a little bit differently to how people want.

But what if we were profit centres? What if we charged for our services and then other departments could buy them? How would that work? And why are companies increasingly looking at this?

I can immediately see some advantages. Instilling a mindset within the HR team to focus on value generation would be helpful. Allowing managers to define the value they want from the HR team could be insightful. And perhaps most of all, reducing the number of pointless and failed initiatives that drive employees and managers up the wall would be a huge benefit.

Still, it can’t counter the unease I have about the whole idea. Firstly it assumes that procurers are experienced, educated and knowledgable. And that isn’t always the case. Secondly, it creates unnecessary internal markets that detracts attention away from the real purpose of the organisation. Finally, and for me most importantly, it suggests HR is there to serve the budget holders and not all employees. Which worries me.

I think HR can gain all the benefits that are derived from this way of operating, without having to change the financial model and incur the associated down sides. It doesn’t seem to me a huge leap of faith or thinking to do that.

Ask yourself, every day, “Would I pay for my service?”

And if that doesn’t work and if things get really bad. Console yourself that what ever might happen, “we’ll always have fisting”.

Yeah. That.