In order for HR to be effective in the future their current responsibilities need to be pushed out of HR and moved to the fringes of the organizations. What we currently call HR needs to be a distributed function – not centralized. Most (if not all) of the items on a typical HR practitioner’s to-do list can, and should be handled by the managers who are furthest from the hub of the organization and closest to the action.
That may sound anathema for most HR people but the reality is that HR acting as a central hub in an organization, kills the organization’s ability to be successful.
People Time and Money
The holy trinity of business – people, time and money.
Every business needs all three in various amounts. Those three elements determine how successful you will be.
Have great people – you can get by with less money and time. Have a ton of money – you need less people and less time.
But – if you have less time – you now need more people and more money.
Time reverses the equation.
Business Is Accelerating
We are all subject to time and unless we’re traveling near the speed of light we all experience it the same way. We all feel the pressure of faster, faster. Our bosses want more in less time. Our customers want more in less time. We, individually, want more in less time.
But we can’t change time.
Time is the one resource you can’t save. You can’t hold it. You can’t store it away for future use. Time is the ultimate perishable resource. Time equalizes everyone. Time is the only real constraint on business today.
And managing time as a resource requires different thinking.
Business Is War
Ask any military student and they will tell you that the best plans are those that have a broad, undeniable, clearly-stated mission that is passed down the chain of command until it gets to those that actually have dust on their boots. The military allows for decisions to be made in the moment at the point of attack based on a solid understanding of the strategy and goals of the engagement. Where military problems occur is when those at the point of engagement have to wait for input from the “higher ups.” That stalls the plan and creates failure. We’ve seen examples in recent history as diplomats tried to “manage” a war.
Successful businesses today use people as their weapons of attack. And their front lines are the factory workers, the programmers, the sales and marketing people who are working at the point of engagement. HR needs to enable those employees to make the appropriate decisions regarding people and resources.
In the future, HR will not be effective if most decisions about people need to be passed back up the chain of command before implementation. That wastes time. And time is the enemy. Or more accurately – taking too much time is the enemy.
Great HR Is About Bending Time
HR needs to first and foremost understand that time is a constraint and that “bending time” – reducing the lag between strategy and tactics is the way to enable success. A great HR person will find ways to make time work to their advantage. Think of it this way – if you are using the same processes and procedures as your competitors you both are constrained equally by time. But, if you can speed up your process – in other words – bend time – you now are more agile, more effective, faster and better than your competitors. You have taken a constraint and made it an enabler.
In order to bend time HR needs to relinquish tactical control and push their current list of activities out to the edges. Just as the military pushes decision making out to the troops in the moment, HR needs to push the day-to-day tactics out to the managers and employees closest to the day-to-day decision points.
Train Those At the Point of Engagement to Do 80% of your current job
HR needs to train those at the point of engagement about HR – the rules, the laws, the issues, the risks. HR’s job should be to equip those at the front lines of business to make good decisions in the heat of battle. HR needs to push their traditional work out to the edges where time can be leveraged not wasted.
Many of you will say – “If I push my work out to managers what do I do?”
That’s the beauty of moving more decision-making out to the edges – you now have more time to focus on the strategy and the planning of “human” resources. You are no longer burdened with making decisions for, and getting involved with, managers 2,000 miles away and four levels down in the organization. If you’ve done your job right – they are trained well to do the day-to-day HR work.
You are now freed up to work with your peers (CFOs, CMOs, COOs) to plan human resources that drive business results.
By moving more work to the edges and bending time, gives you more time for your company.
Time is a funny concept. When you bend time by allocating roles and responsibilities everything speeds up – but paradoxically – as you enable faster business processes you ultimately get more time for what is important in Human Resources.