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What is The Purpose of HR in the contemporary organization?


What is the purpose of HR in the contemporary organziation? Is it to protect from litigation?. Read More


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The Learning Spotlight

The Changing Role of Human Resources


By John Grubbs

What exactly is the role of the human resources function in today’s organization? Have we evolved the function to meet the norms of modern society? Have current societal trends bent the function into something new?

As a human resource professional, I have noticed that too many companies are utilizing this capable and strategic function one of two very different ways.

This creates different perceptions of value within the organization and can be very confusing for other leaders on the management team. We have become undervalued and less significant in one sense, while becoming more strategic and engaged in another.

Unfortunately, the most common purpose for modern HR is to prevent litigation for the organization. HR has become a localized arm of the corporate legal entity that seems to be more focused on risk reduction rather than organizational enhancement. We will mitigate risk at almost all costs while undervaluing the performance of the organization as a whole. In this environment, leaders become paralyzed by the potential for litigation, rather than tactical and strategic with the human asset. Too many front-line leaders feel stripped of any authority to choose, keep or “de-hire” team members due to the inordinate amount of bureaucratic “red tape” required to make a people change. Consequently, leaders are helpless to field the best team members and settle for whatever human resource they receive. It is similar to five card draw in poker. You do the very best with what you get and try to bluff in order to achieve results.

Instead of realizing that risk truly does equal return as we learn in basic economics, we promote mediocrity by inhibiting the changes necessary for better overall performance. At the same time, employees become complacent with underperformance and feel little or no need to perform at a higher level. The threat of being replaced is so remote that it does not factor into daily decisions such as attitude, attendance and productive output.

Conversely, the exceptional organization seems to be more capable of leveraging the HR function for the most benefit. In these organizations, the HR professional is a key member of both strategic planning and tactical execution of the business plan. These professionals are constantly finely tuning the organizational talent to enhance front-line and organizational performance. These organizations are more similar to a professional sports franchise than a traditional for profit enterprise. They are connected to senior management’s every action for both execution and perception of current reality. Talent management becomes the most significant activity for the team.

There is a compelling understanding that traditional results such as profit and share-holder value are a mere by-product of talent rather than the myopic focus of the organization. Long-term results are the fruit of capable talent, while short-term results are merely the reflection of poor or diluted organizational talent. These modern organizations are looking five to ten years into future while the others are looking at who is standing in line at the local employment office.

In reality, many organizations exhibit traits from both descriptions because of the high talent in the human resource field. However, it is impossible to live in both worlds. The balance will always tip in one direction or the other and the effort to move in the other direction is always “uphill”.

The current challenge facing organizations will benefit the talent organization greatly as the recession moves toward recovery. Many organizations are going to be caught in the “musical chairs” event that will accompany pending economic growth. The lack of a clearly defined and implemented “talent strategy” will cripple some organizations as the best and brightest people begin to migrate to more and better opportunity. Think of it this way. Who is going to leave your team when a better and higher paying job comes along? Do not wait, develop and implement your plan today. You have about eight months until the migration begins!

Please share your comments and thoughts: john@gci4training.com